It's that time of year again, when radical feminists and conservative homemakers come together in solidarity. Whatever else our differences might be, this is the season when women, old and young, rich and poor, of all political and ideological stripes can acknowledge our unity and sisterhood as we say, "Oh my gosh, lady, put a damn shirt on!" Yes, it's time for the Sports Illustrated Forgot To Wear a Swimsuit Issue.
Well, sisterhood is nice. But can we get something really straight here? It's true that I don't want to expose my children to this kind of thing. I don't want my sons learning that it's a-ok to ogle half-naked strangers (yes, even consenting, adult naked strangers) like a hungry dog ogles a piece of meat; and I don't want my daughters learning that the main way to succeed in life is to be taut in some places and bouncy in others. And I don't want anyone getting ridiculous, unrealistic expectations of what the human body actually looks like without the benefits of spray tans and air brushes.
Those things are important. But the Swimsuit Issue issue is about more than that. It's about me. Me, the married woman, who likes sex and isn't a prude and doesn't go around advocating for burqas and so on. It's about me not wanting to see a half-naked woman leering at me when I run to the store for bread and baby wipes. I just don't want to see it. And I don't want to have to explain why! I don't want to have to come up with a reason that soft porn doesn't belong in the supermarket next to the breath mints. For crying out loud. It's getting harder and harder to write for a general audience, because it seems like nobody knows anything anymore. Why do we need to go to the manager of the store and politely request that a piece of cardboard be put in front of the magazines that have the most obvious nipples on the cover? Why is this even necessary? And how is it possible that we might not even be listened to? I feel like the guy in the Far Side cartoon, who's painted labels on everything: the house says "the house," the tree says "the tree," the dog says "the dog." And the man is saying, "That should clear up a few things around here!"
Only it won't. Because there's a whole world of wounded, stunted, voluntary slaves following me around, changing the labels. They've changed them, so that on a topless woman panting after fame and money, it says "empowering." On the cover of a book that sells bondage and sadism, it says "fun and exciting." On a man or woman who'd just as soon masturbate as have sex with their spouse, it says "natural and healthy." On someone who cannot go a day without porn, it says "free from the shackles of an outmoded moral code." Free.
Well, last time I wrote a persuasive article, I used the phrase "I beg of you to reconsider." This phrase was translated, by my critics, into "Simcha Fisher demands we do things her way." So the hell with it. I'm not begging or asking. I am demanding. I'm insisting. I'm absolutely requiring you to do something about it the next time you go to the supermarket and see a dirty magazine cover, because this is something you can do. One tiny, stupid little, barely efficacious stand you can make -- one label you can fix. What should you do?
- Complain to the manager. Tell him it upsets you to see topless women in the store, and it makes you want to stop shopping there.
- Write an upbeat letter to the editor commending any store in your area that either doesn't sell dirty magazines, or which at least covers or hides the most offensive ones.
- At very least, be the obnoxious person who turns the magazines around, or who slips Better Homes and Gardens in front of Cosmo. Yeah, it makes a little extra work for the teenage employee who has to straighten the magazine shelves at the end of the day. Boo hoo hoo. They're young and strong; they'll survive somehow.
Whenever I head into a checkout aisle and see that someone has already turned or hidden an offensive cover, I get a little lift -- it's like seeing a secret sign from someone in your underground resistance movement. It's a small reminder that the world has not gone completely insane, and there are a few people left who will call a spade a spade.
Join the resistance! Don't let them get away with this. The Swimsuit Issue, most of the covers of Cosmo, and lots of other genuinely indecent magazines who have wormed their way into the mainstream -- these things are porn. Don't put up with it. Stick your neck out a little bit. We need to clear a few things up around here.