Skip

What is old is new again, unfortunately
October 26, 2003 8:04 PM   Subscribe

What is old is new again, unfortunately. Wholesome Wear (boy that name just makes you cringe eh?) makes modern, and even less revealing, duplicates of what your Grandma or Great Grandma used to swim in - for the thoroughly modern Mormon (or other religious zealot wackos who cant accept girls have knees). God hates females in swimsuits, I guess.
posted by Dome-O-Rama (66 comments total)

 
How did all those women get out of the kitchen?
posted by fatbobsmith at 8:10 PM on October 26, 2003


How true....people should be forced to wear revealing bathing suits regardless of their own personal beliefs and opinions.

You know, so people can check out how hot they look in a thong and stuff.
posted by bradth27 at 8:14 PM on October 26, 2003


If folks feel that current swimwear options are immodest, it's nice to see that they have options -- and pretty nice options at that.

I'm not sure where you're getting the Mormon angle, though.
posted by silusGROK at 8:18 PM on October 26, 2003


it looks like the y2k bug has actually struck and "conservatives" think its 1904
posted by MrLint at 8:30 PM on October 26, 2003


You gotta get naked to measure yourself first.

"Measure your body. Do not measure over clothing."

Seems like the company might want to consider offering customers wholesome swimwear measuring-wear too.
posted by emelenjr at 8:34 PM on October 26, 2003


It's really strange that when the Taliban was in power, we heard a lot of hand-wringing about whether a society where women are expected to wear bikinis may actually be more pernicious than one where they are beaten for not wearing burqas, and that any criticism of the latter is imperialistic. But when women opt out of wearing bikinis, all of a sudden it's religious zealotry. The men in Afghanistan wanted women to wear burqas, and the men in the U.S. want women to wear bikinis - conform to what the men in your society want or be considered an uptight "conservative", I guess.
posted by transona5 at 8:37 PM on October 26, 2003


I think the suits are great. In fact, I would wear a swim dress with shorts if it were cut a little better than that. If I'm at the pool, I'm generally bending over in the kiddie pool, pushing a floaty around...and I'd just as soon not have my bottom up for neighborhood perusal.

I generally wear shorts over my suit anyway...it would be great to have a little tank top dress with attached shorts that was made of swimsuit material.

And I'm not a Mormon...but inferring that they are whackos is in bad form. Rule of thumb...attacking other people's religions, bad idea.

Also, what transona5 said.
posted by dejah420 at 8:45 PM on October 26, 2003




Screw this WholesomeWear nonsense. Follow the lead of our Attorney General and show this great land of ours boobies, sweet boobies!
posted by PrinceValium at 8:54 PM on October 26, 2003


MetaFilter: "I see your interior features and they are on the whole pleasing."
posted by rusty at 9:05 PM on October 26, 2003


We are starting to see a lot of swimwear for kids that provides more sun protection, although not so much for adults. The swimsuits for women in the link are hardly fashionable, but much more practical than the postage stamps and string design of most modern swimwear. There is no reason people should not wear skimpy clothing if they wish, but to say that it is religious zealotry to cater to a perceived market for more protective clothing is pretty stupid. Almost as stupid as saying that members of [insert religious group here] are wackos.

MetaFilter: "I see your interior features and they are on the whole pleasing."
Only if the swimsuit is very skimpy.
posted by dg at 9:07 PM on October 26, 2003


If these swim wear fashions are indeed targeted to a Mormon clientele, one clear reason for the cut, length, and unusual knee-length suit-under-suit design could be to cover up the garments that are worn by almost every endowed -- i.e., married at a Temple ceremony -- LDS member, and worn almost all of the time. Reports do mention women usually wear their bras over the special undergarment.

As this shows, garments have short sleeves and below-the-knee legs. Which means that it would be nearly impossible to go to the beach and keep the garments modestly covered as is required by custom without going to the lengths of the suits shown at Wholesome Wear.
posted by Dunvegan at 9:16 PM on October 26, 2003


what's wrong with t-shirts and shorts if women don't want to wear suits? Those outfits look heavy and of non-breathable fabric--a fashion police no-no.

And if it's for religious reasons, I'd advise not going to the beach--there are always going to be tons of skimpily dressed people there, inspiring thoughts of lust or digust, depending.
posted by amberglow at 9:17 PM on October 26, 2003


oop, disgust
posted by amberglow at 9:23 PM on October 26, 2003


girls have knees

*get 'funny' feeling 'down there'*
posted by quonsar at 9:26 PM on October 26, 2003


There are more options now than hey had 10 years ago, lot of "tankinis" and tank top and short suits around and on folks.

Dunvegan, thats some cray crap, but this is crazier:
http://www.luciferlink.org/mugarments.htm
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 9:46 PM on October 26, 2003


God knows there's no hot mormons anyway. Only Pagans wear thongs.
posted by The God Complex at 9:46 PM on October 26, 2003


Excuse my inability to properly form the verb "to be".
posted by The God Complex at 9:50 PM on October 26, 2003


" what's wrong with t-shirts and shorts if women don't want to wear suits?"

Agreed, (long) shorts and a t-shirt are the obvious beach choice if you have a reason to cover knees and shoulders.

But, these Wholesome Wear swim outfits seem to be made of a material used in swimsuits, and would probably be more comfortable to swim in, and may dry out faster than a pair of shorts.
posted by Dunvegan at 9:50 PM on October 26, 2003


Without addressing fashion issues, I can't understand how you'd be able to swim effectively wearing one of those.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 9:59 PM on October 26, 2003


amberglow: what's wrong with t-shirts and shorts if women don't want to wear suits?

These outfits just scream, "LOOK! LOOK HOW RELIGIOUS I CAN BE." The wholesomeWear logo is what? 4 inches across?
I guess you're supposed to swim in these, but something tells me swimming in a long dress-like item probably doesn't work out in practice as it does in theory.

Clearly, our Western polyblend quick drying burqas are far superior to what you can get in the middle-east. Viva technology.
posted by skallas at 10:06 PM on October 26, 2003


tansona5:But when women opt out of wearing bikinis, all of a sudden it's religious zealotry.

deja420:Rule of thumb...attacking other people's religions, bad idea.

So wait, I can't criticize because it might not be religious zealotry and if it was I can't criticize because everyone is entitled to their religious assumptions? Sorry, nothing is above criticism.

How about some hand-wringing over whether or not being raised in a religious atmosphere is immoral brainwashing? Or mentioning that a law requiring women to wear a burqa has nothing in common with what current fashion may say is the proper thing to wear? Notice, law vs. fashion. Hmm, I'll take Madison ave over Sharia law any day of the week. The bikini vs. burqa argument is bunk.
posted by skallas at 10:16 PM on October 26, 2003


I could actually see the short "culotte" suit being practical for like sailing, jet skiiing, or even water skiing where you probably will get wet but want some elemental protection from sun and wind, yet be able to dry fast, etc... it's not terribly hideous for that reason alone.

But the skirt ones... just blech. I almost expect the grils to have Amish bonnets on.
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 10:51 PM on October 26, 2003


what's wrong with t-shirts and shorts if women don't want to wear suits? Those outfits look heavy and of non-breathable fabric--a fashion police no-no.

If your interest is modesty, a wet t-shirt isn't going to cut it. And if its worn over a bathing suit, which it would really need to be to avoid the problems of see-thru cotton, it's ridiculously uncomfortable, because you've got layers of wet clothing all stuck to your body. Blech. That's my current option, a swimsuit with knee-length bike shorts and a t-shirt over top, and I can tell you wholeheartedly and without hesitation that it simply sucks.

These swimsuits have a lycra underpiece and the skirts snap for swimming. I've bookmarked the site for orders for myself and my daughters when we're ready to reopen our pool next year.
posted by Dreama at 10:58 PM on October 26, 2003


Choice is a good thing.

What somebody else wears for swimming - from nothing at all to a gorilla suit - would have to be pretty close to the top of my "couldn't care less" list; ditto on what religion they choose to follow.
posted by taz at 11:30 PM on October 26, 2003


When all the thong-wearers are dead from skin cancer, the wholesome wear women will be laughing all the way to the beach.

If they were a bit more streamlined, I'd be all over these -- I'm tired of having to wear a two-piece made up from two different swimsuits just because no one properly styles for the top-heavy young woman.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:43 PM on October 26, 2003


Wholesome Wear™ has that whiff of religiosity. It wafts off the name. The name bugs me, not the styles. Call it a N/A Protestant fetish about the body and "covering up". Bad, sin, hell fire... all nonsense. In Europe, beachwear is topless, whether you're slim or 150 kg, no matter.

If the skew of WW™ was for the purpose of preventing melanoma [scroll 3/4 way down] due to over exposed skin to the sun, that would be an entirely different story. But it isn't. It is directly targeted at the religious and their mores by the name and copy alone.

I noticed that there isn't a white or cream colour in the bunch. Black and blue will cook you in the hot sun. All that material must weigh plenty when wet, swimming in it [not the culotte] may be like having a concrete block attached to your ankles. How many drownings is this wear responsible for? Marilyn Bell did not swim Lake Ontario in this gear.

Any more active water sport other than just standing in the water and it would definitely tear to pieces. I totally trashed and shredded swimming shorts just tubing this past summer. They were baggy, but it looked like a grizzly bear raked my thighs with both claws after I got tossed off the thing on a huge wake.

As for the burq'a and covering of the head, that is a "new" rule set by the Taliban. It is not women's wear according to the Qu'ran. Why muslim women in N/A wear the headscarf is beyond me. There is no Taliban Law here. What gives?

Skin cancer is for real. I wear long swim shorts and a long sleeved cotton shirt with a wide brimmed hat when outdoors on the beach. If I'm really just swimming, just the shorts [I'm male, for the record]. If I'm boarding, skiing or windsurfing.... a shorty wet suit [I bounce better when I wipe out and feel it less, not to mention the additional buoyancy]

transona5, good point. Karl, Giorgio...hmmmm, all men designing for men which women wear eh? Where are the women swim suit designers? I doubt they're at Wholesome Wear™ somehow.
posted by alicesshoe at 11:44 PM on October 26, 2003


Where's my wholesome wear?

Just goes to show: all that fundamentalist Christians really want is for men to get skin cancer and die.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:47 PM on October 26, 2003


If anyone's curious where a middle ground may exist in the swimsuit market, I'd recommend Orvis and Land's End.


The Wholesome Wear suits also look to me like they have too much fabric. I also agree that they aren't very flattering. I think many of the designs I linked could easily be modified to cover the same body areas but look better. However, I suppose then one could still see the shape of the wearer's body. I'll refrain from expressing any opinion on that.


This past summer I bought one of the Orvis designs and I really love it. I'm usually very uncomfortable wearing swimsuits, but I'm perfectly happy in that one.


posted by halonine at 11:57 PM on October 26, 2003


skallas - I completely agree it's bunk to equate beating women who don't wear burqas with displaying skimpy bikinis on billboards. That's why I'm surprised that both people who think that Afghan women should have the choice to wear bikinis and people who think that American women should have the choice to wear retro skirted bathing costumes with little sleeves are both smeared as closed-minded ignorant conservative Americans.

Of course, reading all the fat threads on Metafilter, it's hard to imagine why any woman in this country might feel more comfortable covered up in public. Must be some kind of wacko religious thing.
posted by transona5 at 12:05 AM on October 27, 2003


>people who think that American women should have the choice to wear retro skirted bathing costumes with little sleeves are both smeared as closed-minded ignorant conservative Americans.

Oh please. What's the name of the company again? Read the copy. Its fairly obvious this is a religious enterprise and as such its fair to call it one. I think its pretty obvious Wholesome doesn't mean "retro-fad."
posted by skallas at 12:13 AM on October 27, 2003


They have almost no copy on the site. They refer to some of the outfits as "modest" - that's about it. Someone who buys one of these for a little kid is probably acting out of religious conviction, but there are plenty of reasons a woman might want to wear one of these. Many of the women on this thread seem to think it's something they'd consider. These suits are way too dowdy for my taste, but I haven't bought a swimsuit since the awful high-necked Speedo-ish one-piece I got for my mandatory college swim class a few years ago - I can't seem to find one that's stylish and doesn't look like something Christina Aguilera would wear on the cover of Rolling Stone.

As for them being "Western burqas," they're are about as similar to burqas as a bikini is - that is, not at all. Because either style of swimsuit is worn by choice.
posted by transona5 at 12:29 AM on October 27, 2003


transona5:They refer to some of the outfits as "modest" - that's about it.

Funny how other sites that mention them (without mocking) are almost all Christian sites. Regardless, you're quasi-feminist argument has been exposed. Bikini vs Burqa. Bunk. Ignoring the moral element here and its audience and insisting its just "retro skirted bathing costumes" is pure head-in-the-sand behavior.

Oh, 2 points for the obligatory generalizations about metafilter members and the overweight.

"Of course, reading all the fat threads on Metafilter, it's hard to imagine why any woman in this country might feel more comfortable covered up in public."

"Must be some kind of wacko religious thing."

Sure. Looks. That. Way.

Lastly, by not coming off as too religious they maximize their profits by not appearing to favor any one close-minded ideology over another. A mormon shop where a baptist shops?! Why I never!

Its starting to smell like The Handmaid's Tale in here.
posted by skallas at 1:03 AM on October 27, 2003


Hey, did you know that a lot of conservative religious folks believe that television is a bad influence on society? You probably never realized what a right-wing fundamentalist plot Adbusters' Television Turn-Off Week is.

I've pointed out several times (not that it wasn't obvious to begin with) that I mentioned the comparing-bikinis-to-burqas argument only because I believe that it's a fallacious bit of sophistry, but you continue to attack it as "my" argument. That's all I have to say on that.
posted by transona5 at 1:25 AM on October 27, 2003


>You probably never realized what a right-wing fundamentalist plot Adbusters' Television Turn-Off Week is.

You're scraping the bottom of the rhetorical barrel here. Show me a bunch of links, like I did, that connects the two. Oh right, you don't have them now do you?

Head. In. The. Sand. transona5, you can play the role of the pedant contrarian all you like, but expect to be called out on your more outrageous statements.

"retro skirted bathing costumes" Indeed!
posted by skallas at 1:52 AM on October 27, 2003


Strong correlation vs. weak correlation. Its fairly obvious that clothing and sexuality as a means of control are staples of Xtianity and other religions. Thus Wholesome Wear falls more into mentalities like this as opposed to a typical fashion fad. Wholesome is a very moral/religious word, unlike a brand name or line of clothing without a value-judgement word attached.

AdBusters' social criticisms are all anti-consumber and I did find a nice Christian piece that praised turn-off week. Why you ask?


"Any Christian can tell you that the level of TV sex and violence keeps growing."


Back to square one I'm afaird: controlling sexuality. Weak correlation especially when you ask why they would pair-up with AdBusters.
posted by skallas at 2:06 AM on October 27, 2003


Why muslim women in N/A wear the headscarf is beyond me.

Because they choose to. Because it symbolizes something of importance to them in their relationship with themselves, their community and their god. Because they are free to make that choice, just like the Christian and Jewish women who cover their hair in public.

I think the better question is this -- why does it matter to anyone if someone else covers their head or wears a modest bathing suit or does something else which suits their needs, whatever that may be. It can't possibly hurt anyone if hundreds or thousands of women start hitting the beaches and pools in Wholesome Wear suits, or if every Moslem woman in the west starting wearing burqua by choice. What is the impetus for complaining about what other people choose to put onto their bodies?
posted by Dreama at 2:11 AM on October 27, 2003


I think skallas is probably correct that the proprietors of the site are some form of radical (considering the status quo, it wouldn't make sense to call them conservative) Christian.

I think various people are saying that skallas attributes this property to customers of (ugh) WholesomeWear, and this is probably incorrect. Somebody could certainly purchase their swimwear with secular motives in mind, and that wouldn't contradict the initial post at all.

Finally, none of that changes the fact the initial post does actually broadside Mormons out of the blue, and does so in an incredibly smug, irritating tone of voice. A tone which has persisted throughout the thread. I wouldn't be too hard on the lad unless he's 25+, it takes most people a long while to grow out of the tendancy to make snap judgements, assume they're right, and call everyone else idiots.

On preview: that "by choice" is the important bit, Dreama. The kind of attitude that makes swimwear to cover our shameful bodies tends to like to make laws to that effect if allowed. And if you were so inclined, you could make an argument that there's something wrong (or even... immoral!) about any organization with rules like that. skallas even sort of does one by implication when he says that it's "obvious" that Christianity seeks to control through yadda yadda.

So, yeah. It doesn't matter if Jane Doe chooses to wear a hideous burlap sack, but I'd say that on some level it does matter if she chooses that because her family, church, and friends will all be really nasty to her if she doesn't.
posted by kavasa at 2:28 AM on October 27, 2003


skallas, I don't understand your anger. So what if the manufacturers are any particular religion?
posted by taz at 2:41 AM on October 27, 2003


Dreama, is it really 'by choice?' Parents buy these for their kids, kids go to church/sunday school, kids grow up to be the next-gen Xtian weirdos. Yes, there's a larger issue on religion in society and how one can raise a child, but lets not pretend this is like buying a toaster-oven or some other dull adult buying decision. If someone wants to dress their kids like turn-of-the century beachgoers, then enjoy, but don't think they're above criticism or that others will ignore the obvious dare I say: religious fashion statement. Many modern people, as evident from this thread and the web, will see this as a social step backwards and its understandable if they don't like it.
posted by skallas at 2:41 AM on October 27, 2003


Hmmm... I find some of those costumes highly attractive. Moreso than the incredibly high-cut Brazilian-line costs and bikinis that most girls seem to wear these days. There's definitely something in the fact that what you don't see is much more enticing than what you do...
posted by benzo8 at 2:44 AM on October 27, 2003


SkallasFilter: Exposing the Jesus Within.

Putz.
posted by Dagobert at 2:54 AM on October 27, 2003


I wish something like this WERE more mainstream- trust me, you wouldn't WANT to see me in a bikini. And good bod or bad bod-there are actually many of us females who are not comfortable with all the flesh showing in a typical suit.

Now, are any of these chlorine resistant? The pool where I take my water aerobics class is really hard on swimsuits. Seriously.
posted by konolia at 3:04 AM on October 27, 2003


i admit that it makes me uncomfortable when i see a woman or female child wearing the burqa in north america... from my personal and professional (3 years as a social worker before i burned out) experience i know that too many of these females are not being given a choice and are indeed being treated as violently and oppressively as they were in their homeland.

as for those wholesome bathing suits, the connection to the mormons is pretty easy to understand; they're built just like the special mormon underwear... to completely hide any indication that there's an anatomically correct human being beneath.

at any rate there is no reason to wear something that unattractive in the name of modesty when there are already flattering alternatives to thongs etc. all the stores carry tankini's, suits with shorts style bottoms, and cute cover up dresses. i look spectacular in a bikini but i'm also a freckled red head with all the skin colouring of an ice cube, so i dress very modestly on the beach to avoid instantly going up in flames... but i still don't look like i'm wearing all my clothes at once for crying out loud. the thing is, there's modesty - which i have no problem with and frankly prefer, in myself and others - and then there's a perverse aversion to, or fear of the natural female form. that's just not something worth promoting, especially under the guise of modesty without shame or what god wants.

konolia, check halonine's links... a lot of those suits are really nice.
posted by t r a c y at 3:37 AM on October 27, 2003


skallas, a parent insisting that a child wear the more normal bikini-style outfit could be just as chilling to the kid's feelings and preferences as parents insisting that they wear outfits like this. Parents make lots of mistakes, chief among them usually being ignoring the fact that their children actually have native preferences depending on their individual personalities.

It's really unfair to bring in the emotional argument about forcing children to wear these outfits; this logic could be (and often is) set up as an attack on just about anything, and using that construction here is actually quite like arguments for regulating content on the internet, television, literature, etc.
posted by taz at 3:38 AM on October 27, 2003


wholesome
posted by quonsar at 3:55 AM on October 27, 2003


why does it matter to anyone if someone else covers their head or wears a modest bathing suit

I'll venture to say that it's good when someone wears ridiculous clothing that advertises their religious affiliation. It tells me from far away that the person has an imaginary friend who bosses them around and I should keep my distance.

I might not keep my distance, actually, if the woman was in one of those suits. I'd ask her if she wanted to get a lime phosphate and then go to the moving daguerrotype.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:57 AM on October 27, 2003


then go to the moving daguerrotype.

you're just a whore for the MDAA. :-)
posted by quonsar at 4:08 AM on October 27, 2003


I would like to see konolia in a topless thong. In fact, I'd very much like to see completely nude, like her god sculpted her. I was raised in (non-mandatory) nudism and feel completely at ease among naked bodies of any sort, shape or form. Grotesque is a human adjective, not a godly one, if I understand correctly. (So is lustful, by the way). Funny how where I find grace in your hypothetical god's work, you are completely freaked out by it. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
posted by magullo at 4:43 AM on October 27, 2003


Putz.

Name-calling is such an effective debating technique....

I think it's fantastic that people have options in swimwear, casual wear, dinner wear and s&m wear. But to think that there isn't a religious component to the site is IMO naive.

Also, religion should be up for debate like anything else. Zod knows that my atheistic beliefs and way of life are fair game for the born-agains to criticize.
posted by jpoulos at 5:44 AM on October 27, 2003


Thanks, halonine, for the swimsuit links. Personally, I don't like to run around with my butt hanging out of a swimsuit -- mainly because as a very fair size 12 there would be a lot of butt hanging out there to burn in a matter of minutes. I am by nature a fairly modest person at the pool/beach -- that's my personal comfort level, and not any particular religious conviction. To me, the "Wholesome Wear" has way too much fabric, and looks to me like it would be uncomfortable and hard to swim in.

To address the other "modest links", if a person chooses to dress "modestly", and it is important to them, it's their choice. I agree that not all women/children have that choice within their individual families, but that it is imposed on them by their environment. That being said, I don't see the value in condemning the matter wholesale. That is a far larger topic of discussion that gets into social mores, religious "laws", and subculture identification, and one which I don't think will ever be "resolved" to everyone's satisfaction. I personally don't feel comfortable laying a judgement down on someone else's values.
posted by greengrl at 5:47 AM on October 27, 2003


"Why muslim women in N/A wear the headscarf is beyond me." -alicesshoe
"Because they choose to....just like the Christian and Jewish women who cover their hair in public." -Dreama


The Christian and Jewish women whom are orthodox, you may specify, because there aren't any Jewish women I know of that follow that example. I believe they would be in a majority. They definitely are not orthodox.

I don't think it matters what one wears by choice, if it really is by choice. I'm just curious, it's not meant as a criticism, how much "by choice" they are doing this. kavasa and t r a c y mention this also, rightfully so. Parents and peers have a large affect on "choice" and I shall include what is gleaned and influenced from television. A young mind will want to mimic a star's dress by choice or what they see on the cover of a fashion magazine, as well as adults. The child may insist that is what they want to wear, but they are easily influenced, no? Dare I include adults? You bet, from car choice to....name it.

Adults are also influenced by youth's wear which are tweaked and imitated [at a much higher priced in high end fashion shops]. All this to regain that feeling of youth? Possibly.

There is no doubt in my mind how much learned behaviour determines how one feels about their bodies. Brought up in a household of women, no one ever covered up, except grandmother and she was born in 1905, right up to my teens till I moved out. I'd say I'm in a minority.
posted by alicesshoe at 7:24 AM on October 27, 2003


Buy what you want, wear what you like, do what you will, and be prepared to be both ridiculed and lauded. It's the American way.
posted by rushmc at 8:18 AM on October 27, 2003


Projections.

(I hope the length of this essay is acceptable, if not, please remove.)

Back in college in 1971 I conducted an experiment on the first day of sophomore classes. I constructed a head-to-toe "black bag" (i.e., a 5' 9" "pillowcase" of heavy black fabric, with a rectangular insert of thin black gauze over the eyes to see through. Slits in the side seams allowed my arms to be free, yet covered with opera-length black gloves. Knee-length black shoe-styled boots completed the coverage.

I was a communications major with a psych minor taking my first elective creative writing class that year at Michigan State University. My idea wat that the experiment would give me a blanket topic to write about in all three disciplines.

I was actually unacquainted then at 16 with burqas worn as Islamic wear, only to be introduced to the custom via research after my experiment. I simply wanted to examine first-hand how people treat someone who had no physical cues to respond to, and then write about the excercise.

Although apprehensive as to the possible public response, I was surprised that I garnered far more reaction than I had expected.

I had also decided to not speak during my experiment, so as to minimize my influence on reactions...and also so when I returned to classes the next day (claiming that I had difficulty in registering -- common in those days for students who were receiving financial aid and had extra paperwork first day) no one would recognize my voice and make the connection between me and the black bag.

I and my husband both sat out first day classes, and we arrived the second day together, which was pretty effective at breaking any conjecture I was the "black bag person."

Cut to the "projection" syndrome:

First class, Communications 101

The class murmured quite loudly when I entered the classroom with my covering, arms wrapped around my books. I took a seat in the back.

The professor brought the class to order. Seemed to go into their usual spiel regarding the aims of the course, what would be expected of students regarding work and attendance, then carefully wove a short discourse about communications and tolerance into his lecture. At one point he made a strong yet subtle point about no student interfering with any other student's ability to study based on physical or ethnic factors.

Upon finishing his remarks he made a very matter-of-fact point of coming directly to me in the back of the room and speaking to me kindly, asked me if I required any assistance regarding meeting the requirements of his class, and if so to please let him know. Not speaking, I used a notepad to write to him a thank you, and let him know I'd call on him for help if I required it.

After this the Comm 101 students settled down completely and focused on the class. Most seemed to have demonstrably now accepted me as simply a human being, and went on about their own first day business.

I gathered my books when class ended and as I moved to the next classroom in the same building, several students followed me in a distanced, but protective manner.

Second class: Creative Writing 101

Here we had the flip side reaction. The professor immediately began to "crack wise" when I entered the classroom and sat in the back. He invited the other students to speculate on "the baggage in the back." Snide, hurtful, and downright inciteful comments were encouraged by the professor if the comments were sufficiently creative and clever. The entire class was focused on "riffing" on the "funeral floursack."

I vividly remember how many were craining around in their seats to hurl rather vicious remarks back my way. One fellow actually placed himself a few inches in front of me and delivered a caustic monologue, like a proto-Andrew Dice Clay, trying to provoke me into speaking or removing the bag. The prof smiled at the "creative cleverness" of his sudents and piled-on.

At the end of this class, I was confronted by some of the Creative Writing class students in the hall. This caused others students to notice and some of those joined in the provacative atmosphere.

Several large males pushed me around a little, demanding I remove the bag or talk and defend my self. Because my hands are a size 6+ glove, and my feet are a AAAA size it was fairly obvious I was probably a female. But shove hard they did.

The creative writing prof came into the hallway, joining in the carnival scene, and that seemed to lend a boost authority to the students that chose to torment the bag.

I finally had to break and run away from their hectoring as it had become loud, physical, and frightening. Several of them actually ran after me and chased me for several blocks.

Running. I fell. I tore a hole in the bag at the knee. I lost a textbook. I tore my bag covering and brused my knee. I scrambled back up, running. Those giving chase finally fell away.

I had asked my husband to be ready with the car in a secluded parking lot about a quarter of a mile away on campus. I made my way through a stand of trees, circled, found the lot, and nearly dove into the car, soaked in a fear-sweat.

What did I learn? Just that supporting intolerance assists those who fear what is different...and authority figures that do so throw gasoline on violence towards those different from ourselves.

Being mixed-minority, I was used to some societal exclusions, and I had even travelled as an astonished child through a "Jim Crow" south once upon a time. But nothing had prepared me for the reaction to the black bag.

I was able to ask a lot of questions about the "bag" the next day by feigning ignorance of the event, and saying it was too bad I missed that first day and a chance to see for myself.

I reveled my identity during finals. In Communications I wrote my experience up as the requisite final exam study. In Creative Writing I wrote my short story (our final exam) on the experience.

The Creative Writing prof had my husband and I out to a bar to give us his assessment of our stories, and our final grade. He drank and railed on that he was so haunted and ashamed of his behavour toward the black bag on that first day of classes, and the bags subsequent disappearance, that he was going to write a novel about his anguish...and that I had now spoiled it by solving the mystery that had plagued him. He reluctantly gave me a good grade for the story, but was quite angry, overall.

All that to say this: I felt that it wasn't me people were reacting to, because I couldn't be seen, and did not speak or interact with others. My attire was surely my private business. I was in a relatively liberal environment. And yet, there were either strong reactions of protective or confrontational behaviour dependent on the prevailing "microculture" of two very different authority figures and their classrooms.

What people reacted to was the consent of authority, and something in themselves projected their own fears onto that unaggressive and silent dark figure.

Finally, back on topic: I think the Wholesome Wear suits are neither here nor there, except as a choice for the wearer. From the black bag experiment I saw intolerence towards a body covering. So, I strongly support all fashion or personal convention from burqa to bikini to body manipulation to bareness.

I support choice of personal prerogative in a free society. I support others freedom of choice and am grateful for my own freedom.

Long-story-short: Choice is good.
posted by Dunvegan at 8:28 AM on October 27, 2003 [5 favorites]


I don't know what sort of Mormon would be swimming in the cursed seas anyway, that's the dominion of Satan!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:04 AM on October 27, 2003


Wonderful essay, dunvegan.

Thank you.
posted by silusGROK at 9:16 AM on October 27, 2003


Wow.
That's completely awesome that this thread spawned that essay. Thanks. :)
posted by kavasa at 12:09 PM on October 27, 2003


The problem I see with WholesomeWear is it's implied suggestion that skimpier outfits are in some way tainted or immoral. That smacks of religious intolerance and reminds me of the whole burqa thing.
posted by Fantt at 12:14 PM on October 27, 2003


Dunvegan: Thanks for redeeming a truly lousy post ("religious zealot wackos"—when will these junior-league Nietzsches grow up?) with your comment, one of the more interesting things I've read on MetaFilter lately. You should write about it at greater length; I'll bet somebody would publish it. Fascinating.

Fantt: "Implied suggestions" are usually in the eye of the beholder. These garments are being sold to people who want to buy such garments. I don't see any problem with that.

is it really 'by choice?'

Yes.
posted by languagehat at 12:43 PM on October 27, 2003


What people reacted to was the consent of authority

Timely, and frightening.
posted by rushmc at 12:44 PM on October 27, 2003


The Creative Writing prof had my husband and I out to a bar to give us his assessment of our stories, and our final grade. He drank and railed on that he was so haunted and ashamed of his behavour toward the black bag on that first day of classes, and the bags subsequent disappearance, that he was going to write a novel about his anguish...and that I had now spoiled it by solving the mystery that had plagued him.

Ha! All my stereotypes about creative writing classes are entertainingly reaffirmed. Thanks Dunvegan, you saved the thread.
posted by furiousthought at 1:48 PM on October 27, 2003


[quote]All my stereotypes about creative writing classes are entertainingly reaffirmed.[/quote]

That bit actually blew me away. I mean yeah I took a workshop junior year because hey! three intermediate credits and so on. It was entertaining, but the assembly-line quality of the the writing thus produced was off-putting. I certainly had no stereotypes like that though - I mean that read like something from a flipping Chick tract ("I COULD HAVE YOU ARRESTED FOR DOUBTING DARWIN!!").
posted by kavasa at 2:04 PM on October 27, 2003


...dear god.
Far too much time on messageboards.
posted by kavasa at 2:05 PM on October 27, 2003


Wonderful piece Dunvegan. Glad you dropped by.

I question how free is this society we live in today?
posted by alicesshoe at 3:46 PM on October 27, 2003


I'm with Dreama...forget the religious undertones, these suits are perfect for women who like to swim, but on whom gravity has taken its toll. This beats wrapping my home-made skirt around my swimsuit.
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:45 PM on October 27, 2003


You're welcome, greengrl!


I question how free is this society we live in today?


Less than we think, I think. This is a minor example in the scheme of things, but consider the feasibility of a woman going out in public (in America) with prominent hair on her legs, underarms, or upper lip. What would be a typical co-worker's thoughts upon seeing dark, fully-grown leg hair between a woman's trouser leg and shoe? And upon seeing dark, fully-grown leg hair between the trouser leg and shoe of the male VP? How about their thoughts during a one-on-one conversation should that woman have let her lip hair grow out? Assume it comes in very dark and grows to about a centimeter long. Now given all these considerations, is it more in this person's best interest to concede to the local convention and shave, or to grow hair they don't feel any native need to eliminate and thus risk and need to counteract possible subtle professional discrimination?


posted by halonine at 3:37 AM on October 28, 2003


great links halo, thanks! and Dunvegan, you're a much stronger woman than I...because I'm fairly sure I would have hurt somebody in that same situation. Good on you. Thanks for sharing.
posted by dejah420 at 11:49 AM on October 28, 2003


« Older World's Best Bars   |   The Death of Indymedia Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post