Flashing for Beads?

Today is Fat Tuesday the start of Mardi Gras in the good ol’ New Orleans. This occasion is significant in many ways, it marks the day before the start of Lent and is filled with feasting, parades and well, boobies. As I thought back to my childhood, Mardi Gras meant that my grandparents would send me an envelope full of colorful beads that they had collected during their time in Louisiana, how exactly they got them.. well I do not know. Anyway, the point is, Mardi Gras is an excuse for men to nag women, “show me your tits” to give them a five second show, 7th grade style, on Bourbon Street. So of course I wanted to find out, how did this become a tradition at Mardi Gras?

Here is an explanation from the Mardi Gras website:

Answer: As a fifth-generation New Orleanian, let me say this was never and is still not a tradition.  Saying it is “tradition” is like saying that people who get drunk and pass out on Bourbon Street are following tradition as well.

Thankfully, this does not occur everywhere in New Orleans during Mardi Gras — but just on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter area. An area known for its strip joints (where those interested in this sort of thing can see it year round). Let me explain why you may have heard this rumor. Within the last 10 or so years, a few spring-break age tourists visiting our city get drunk after the parades, go to Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, and lose their inhibitions. The others are onlookers. The end result is that certain types of individuals are now attracted to the French Quarter in the evenings after the parades.

That was about the best explanation I could get. Unfortunately, this ten-year-old “tradition” can lead to exploiting women all in the name of 10 cent beads, which I must say are extremely tacky.

During my searching, I also stumbled upon a website that explained flashing as empowering to women? Oh yes, how empowering to show your boobs on command. It’s not women throwing beads to women, I am pretty sure this just another situation where patriarchy is in full-force.

To be sure, as Wilkie points out, Carnival has long provided a forum for women to express and celebrate their sexuality, thereby contesting society’s gender ideologies and hypocritical views of femininity. And, indeed, many flashers do seem to find the ritual empowering, even addictive. “Enticing the men to solicit them becomes a form of sexual control for the women…,” writes Wilkie. “While some women perceive the display of breasts to be merely a transaction to earn beads coveted within the Carnival atmosphere, men may perceive this willingness to mean that the women are symbolically for sale, that their bodies can be purchased. Likewise, women are just as likely to perceive men as easily manipulated into providing bead wealth. Through the control of her body, a woman can exercise sexual control over men.”

I think I could probably write a book on why this quote is so utterly disturbing, but I will forgo that for now. I would really like to know how do women feel about this..?

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