Evolution and the Thong-Burqa Continuum

By Voss, Katrina | The Humanist, September-October 2010 | Go to article overview

Evolution and the Thong-Burqa Continuum


Voss, Katrina, The Humanist


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

THE "THONG SONG" a rap homage to butt-baring bikinis, was released in 1999, several years after I graduated from an ideologically feminist all-women's college. Still, I can imagine the predictable, feminist reaction it would have caused among my classmates. They would have decried the song as a kind of chest-beating battle cry, a reprehensible demonstration of how men (or "the patriarchy") objectify and humiliate women. In fact, many of my cohorts would have used very fancy sociological language to explain that the patriarchy designed the tether-like thong to represent a leash, collar, or strangulation device, bound tightly around women's genital regions, thus signifying male ownership of the female anatomy.

What they would not have said is that most men just really like butts. They would not have said that a song about an exposed rush is, in truth, a tribute to what many men find pleasing to gaze upon. Most importantly, they would not have tainted their condemnation of thongs or thong songs with any regard for biology, for the very fascinating scientific question of why men enjoy seeing women wear thongs, or why men write songs extolling the virtues of thong wearing.

But the "Thong Song" is over ten years old, and now some fashion reporters tell us the thong is quite passe. In fact, much more au courant, in the bizarre worlds of both fashion and politics, is that other extreme of female dress-the dark, full-body covering robes and headscarves worn by Muslim women, the most extreme version of which is the face-masking burqa. From Matters "Burqa Barbie" to Sex and the City 2's strained approbation of burqa couture and poolside-appropriate "burkinis" this style of dress baffles and beguiles the Western mind. And like its polar opposite of dress (or undress), the burqa begs for a scientific, biological interpretation.

Many feminists have pointed to the burqa as a historical symbol and tool of men's oppression of women. Of course, they are quite correct, and surely most compassionate, rational people regard the compulsory burqa with horror and outrage, whether they understand its deep history or not. According to feminist ideology, however, political and religious history alone are said to explain the burqa, the sexual subjugation that accompanies it, and, generally, male obsession with ownership of the female body. Simply, draconian standards of modesty have been derived from centuries-old religious texts, and forced upon a twenty-first-century population compelled to respect tradition for tradition's sake. With that historical lesson in mind, many of us scratch our heads and wonder why people don't just shake off those rusty shackles and get with the program of modernity and enlightenment. But why just slap a label of "historical oppression" on the burqa, or on the thong for that matter, as my feminist classmates would have done? Why should we assume that political or religious history offers sufficient explanations for our species' behavior? After all, behavioral study of any non-human species falls in the territory of psychologists and biologists. Likewise, biology (and evolution) can help explain what drives our species' behavior, including behavior with regard to the extremes of feminine dress.

Consider that the burqa and the thong (despite its gradual replacement by the retro-chic "boy short") co-exist. What a strange species we are, after all. Thongs and burqas are worn by female members of the same species and, one assumes, at times by the same individual female. But consider the thong and the burqa as a sort of continuum, two extremes of our biological personality. On a deep level they tell us more about male-female dynamics than, say, flutter sleeves or empire waists. After all, most men have probably never heard of flutter sleeves or empire waists--which simply illustrates males' lack of investment in the tedious minutia of female fashion. From a man's point of view, the more important questions are clear: Should I cover her up or expose her natural adornments? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Evolution and the Thong-Burqa Continuum
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.