By Adam Welsch
News out of the Middle East last week held relevance for these pages.Â It seems that in an effort to placate the more conservative elements of its society, the government of the Gaza Strip turned its attention towards dealing with the disruptive force of womenâs intimate apparel.Â Its police instructed owners of stores selling bras, panties, and other types of undies to remove lingerie-clad mannequins from their windows and storefronts, and take down marketing materials showing women wearing the items theyâre trying to sell.Â As experienced readers of this blog know, this isnât the first time that the complexities of womenâs underwear have made news in the Middle East.Â Earlier this year, a movement in Saudi Arabia gained worldwide attention by protesting the convention that prevents women from selling intimates to other women in stores.Â So, just how often has lingerie mixed with current events to make the evening news?Â The answer is more times than you might expect.
The infusion of womenâs unmentionables into politics isnât unique to the Middle East.Â Last December, Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, made headlines while attending a European Union summit on climate change.Â Rather than making news for his stance on whether or not to provide funds to poorer nations coping with the effects of rising temperatures, Mr. Berlusconi was caught allegedly doodling pictures of womenâs underwear and passing the drawings across his table to other attendees.Â Though an Italian government spokesman denied that this took place, others in attendance said that the Prime Ministerâs drawings depicted various intimate silhouettes including Egyptian loin cloths, thongs, French satin panties, and Victorian bloomers.
In 2007, a worldwide campaign was launched to protest the continued authoritarian rule of the military junta in Myanmar (Burma).Â The movement, Panties for Peace, encouraged women across the globe to embarrass the Burmese government by sending their panties to its embassies and missions.Â Why?Â In accordance with certain Southeast Asian cultural beliefs, members of the military regime apparently believe that contact with womenâs undies will drain them of their power.Â Three years later, the junta is still in control and panties, as tools of regime change, appear to have run their course.
Just two weeks ago, womenâs undies found their way into the prominent topic of border security.Â A man was caught at the Mexico City International Airport trying to smuggle eighteen tiny titi monkeys from South America into Mexico, where trafficking in exotic animals is a big problem.Â The monkeys, regarded as endangered species under international law, were stuffed inside socks and secured to the manâs body under a girdle.Â The six-inch monkeys, purchased for about US$30 each in Peru, could have sold for as much as US$1500 a piece in Mexico.
Womenâs underwear not only mixes with news of politics and security, it also finds its way into headlines about the economy.Â For example, sales of bras are used by some economists as informal indicators of overall national economic health.Â The logic runs like this.Â Though bras are staples of most womenâs wardrobes, in tougher economic times women delay their purchases of new ones to replace those that have fallen into less-than-perfect condition.Â This decrease in sales reflects a more widespread conservatism and a fall in consumer spending.Â But as an economy recovers and expands, optimism spreads and women are more likely to begin replacing worn bras and expanding the sizes of their lingerie wardrobes.
Thus, the moral of the story is that the Style section of your favorite publication doesnât have a monopoly on news about intimate apparel.Â The impact of bras, panties, and body shapers on our everyday lives can also be found in the scripts of our favorite TV evening news anchors.CC Image courtesy of tai strietman on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/21949386@N07/ / CC BY 2.0 CC Image courtesy of pierre bÃ©dat [So Out…] on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/pierrebedat// CC BY 2.0