Columns » Penny Post by Andrei Codrescu

The Shadow of Janet Jackson's Nipple


I propose Janet Jackson's nipple for Time magazine's "Man of the Year" cover. Her nipple must have known, long before the rest of us, that the U.S. government was going to go to war against the female breast. When Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the marble breast of Justice covered in her own halls, there was no turning back. Fear of female breasts runs deep throughout American history. Artists, those canaries in the mine, have sounded the first alarm calls as far back as the 1970s. One of them lowered a brassiere from a helicopter and clad briefly the very breasts of Miss Liberty, to the inaudible relief of millions and the bafflement of seagulls. The brassiere snagged on the torch and the light of Liberty flickered for the briefest time. Another artist hung a brassiere across the canyon of Wall Street to celebrate market buoyancy and to advertise to the world a now-forgotten employee who stunned the Street with her exaggerated domes. Those early artistic expressions were also responses to the common charge among decent people that "bra-burning feminists" would soon render America impotent in the world. The fear and discontent of the grumbling masses went unheeded by the entertainment industry, which, for all its vaunted "creativity," found it impossible to release any visual product without breasts in it. The battle against breasts focused finally on the nipple, that single most dangerous area, which suggests, because of its involuntary erectile response, utter disrespect for Church, Family and State. In the past two decades, nipples have been airbrushed, had pasties slapped on them, have been given R-ratings, and have been X-ed out in paintings and statues by people with too much time on their hands and who had been sent directly by God. For the greater part of the last three decades the battles against the nipple have been mere skirmishes taking place on the fringes of society. But with the ascension of John "Tit Basher" Ashcroft, the skirmishes became all-out war. Janet Jackson bravely fired back at Ashcroft with the only weapon at her disposal. Since then, the FCC has gone wild hunting television and radio nipples and nipple-equivalents. Certain PBS station, notably in North Carolina, have banned the showing of the documentary Emma Goldman because the shadow of a nipple sported by an actress crossed the hallowed screen before 9 p.m. Every nipple in this country is in danger: arise, ye nipples, you have nothing to lose but your broadcast license!

Andrei Codrescu's new novel Wakefield is available, signed, for $25+$5 postage from the author, at P.O. Box 25051, Baton Rouge, LA 70894, or at a bookstore near you.

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