Editorial: May 2015
Let’s talk about boobs.
I have a pair. I rather like them. I never thought that they were of any great importance to anyone but me, or whomever chooses to appreciate them, let alone be of enough significance to pose a threat to my country. But I am told I’m wrong.
It must be the heat, but the Songkran time of year is when all the trolls seem to put forth ludicrous statements and asinine edicts, many of them worryingly focused on boobs, such as this year’s imposition of an up-to five year jail term for the publication of, wait for it…underboob selfies. Yes, those two half-globes which could, between them, destroy the Thai social fabric. I had no idea that this was a thing, let alone something so widespread and threatening as to be classified as a computer crimes act.
Talking about trolls, the Ministry of Culture (Mini-Cult, as social critic Kaewmala brilliantly coined) has, over the years, been busy handing out guidelines to women on how to dress (no spaghetti straps, ladies), how to behave (no sexy western dancing and gyrating) and how to be a mother (take your family to the temple).
The director of the Mini-Cult’s Moral Promotion Centre (yup, we have one, their job description seems to be Purveyors of Outrage) recently stated that women’s inappropriate attire can invite sexual harassment. How about making a statement to all those potential sexual harassers out there that what women wear should never be construed as an invitation of any kind? If we want to invite you, we will make sure you know it; if not, there’s no invitation. Ever.
Sophomoric statements such as this makes for a great headline, but is generally, and thankfully sensibly, recognised for the hogwash it is. But our moral luminaries don’t stop with just rhetoric. Last year’s Songkran alone saw a transsexual arrested for baring her newly minted breasts to an appreciative crowd (maybe they should ban moobies, they can be truly offensive); a police patrol unit was set up to inform Khao San Road’s female revellers against dressing provocatively; and a runner up for Miss Universe was forced to resign after a photo of her – gasp! – sitting on a man’s lap was shared (wonder if the man lost his job?). Disgustingly, a few years back three young teenagers who were photographed baring their breasts during a Songkran party, were subject to a virtual lynching by the Mini-Cult, whose director demanded Thai society come out and shame them. They were thirteen, fourteen and sixteen!
The rhetoric is always the same. “Minister outraged!” “Disgrace to Thailand’s reputation!” “Thai culture ruined!” “End of the world as we know it!” (Or close enough).
And it’s not just Songkran. Last year, Nok Air released a sexy calendar featuring bikini-clad stewardesses. Citing the disgrace to Thailand’s image, the good minister was so offended he said, “The campaign focuses on the country’s bad reputation regarding sex services, and an image that other organisations have been trying to change.” No mention about the serious issues surrounding the sex industry or the real changes required; the focus was all on perception. Instead of looking at deep-rooted issues, the ministry’s only concern seems to be, “I’m not saying if it’s true or not, but we can’t let them foreigners see us this way”.
It’s time to take off those rose-tinted glasses (yes, I’m being kind) and move on from the passe status quo of the sexes. How about forgetting about reputation and perception and spending some time working on fixing the prevalent gender discrimination in society. There are a whole lot of shades of women between Madonna and whore.
And FFS, leave our boobs alone.
Citylife this month:
We welcome our new deputy editor Dustin Covert who hails from Chicago and joins us this month with his first piece on the exciting Makerspace Studio and all the new possibilities it provides for the curious minds. Good old James Austin Farrell briefly returns to shed light and sunshine with his look at the rising numbers of suicide in Thailand. I interview a fascinatingly colourful woman Joanna MacLean whose extraordinary life, so far, has me most envious. Aydan Stuart gets a free trip to Hong Kong and shows off about it. And interns William Glass and Brian Vedder introduce you to the world’s first renewable energy house right here in Chiang Mai and a coffee shop which comes with a side serving of dharma.