Athena's Mirror Pt 1 Cover-Ups: Exchanging Hides an essay by stephanie pope for
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Athena's Mirror Pt 1

Cover-Ups: Exchanging Hides by stephanie pope

C’est un dur métier d’être belle femme… It’s hard work being a bombshell

"too sexy to fly"
I have begun this next series of essays around the archetype of Athena, Sex, and The City, in part because I am preparing to fly next week and as I am, several stories around the clothing, i.e. the hiding of the female body have made the news. Two of the three images that surface have to do with flying and airport security. The third image has to do with father-daughter psyche that tissues in notions regarding sexual purity, chastity and the scapegoat complex.

Airports are funny places these days. You want to fly. You book your flight. You have your ticket and your ID in your hand.

Kyla Ebbert/ You Tube: Fox News
Thrown off plane; attire deemed, “too sexy”   
  (as seen on Today show with Matt Lauer)

You stand in line. Security nods you on to the metal detector. You stand in line again. You are told to take off certain kinds of clothing and to put that and your toiletries and your laptop, cell phones, and jewelry in several bins. Your things go through one side and you go through another. A ringer goes off. You are waved into another line. This one scans you with x-ray vision. (Don’t laugh.) This really happened to me. It turned out to be my underwire bra, one of three articles of clothing I felt fortunate to still wear. In case you haven’t noticed, going through airport security is going through a strip search.

Kyla Ebbert is more fully attired than I was at the time. I’m sure she felt herself fortunate in a similar way as she tried to board her plane. Kyla, as pictured, actually wears five pieces of clothing, excluding shoes. Having passed such screening, the editorial “you” will collect your things, finish dressing and proceed to your gate like Kyla did. What becomes important to me that I note is how the earlier experience of going through airport security frames the next encounter Kyla has with airport personnel.

Along with Kyla, you and I have lived this. It is part of our brain’s psyche now. That psyche is emplotting new psyche just now framed by the sexualized value-based insistency that declares it had a right to do what it just did to all of us.  It did not have this right. It simply had this power. The incidence is an example of an abuse of power. And that is what you and I witness and why the airline issues an apology to Kyla, lowers its fares and launches a miniskirt campaign in apology to us all. The airline does not say it is wrong. I think they are.

You see, this incidence is unlike the strip search through airport security that we all go through no matter who we are.  In the next encounter Kyla is made an example of; she is sexualized and humiliated. The next emplot-me(a)nt is ‘value’ based behavior and that value is an elephant in the room. This elephant is what a hidden prejudice looks like. This particular sin against our American freedom to live our own life, with our own liberty to pursue it toward our own personal happiness is what we call American freedom. Our physical appearance is “ours”.  It should not be exploited to promote a religious idea.

It is only just now, as you are walking away, if you are a female you, you begin to imagine that moment when you board the plane and the airport clothing Nazi…er…flight attendant scrutinizes ‘you’  regarding your terrifyingly (or is that petrifying?) female-looking ‘look.’ These days, on certain days, being ‘a bombshell’ seems harder and harder to endure. (Okay, now you can laugh!) That is because these days you cannot be too sure of what is talking when this is talking. But, you can be sure as a ‘female’, you are being framed to it.

This may be precisely the point everybody seems to instantly understand in what makes the whole thing so very wrong. I suppose you and I, who can still laugh over such faux pas, are fortunate. Comedy is the best way to invite resolution of our current polemic, allergic and erotic affliction. But what gives? How is airport security in its scrutiny for bomb-making materials getting disoriented in its focus and misguided in its mission? What makes-up this zealous 'reflux'—for reflux or abject body is what this incidence is and is what shows in the national psyche when it comes to securing our airspace. What invites unaccountable suspicion when in its projections regarding issues of national security people in power attempt covering over or hiding something else hiding in that significant space assigned the sex and sexiness female body behaves socially?  

One may guess it is that this mini skirt is too mini. But, when asked what part of her attire was inappropriate for travel, Kyla was told it was her entire outfit. This answer suggests it is not the skirt that accents what is not seen in the photo between the woman’s legs but, heaven forbid, might be flashed  or as many suggest is flashed when she sits down, nor is it the green sweater that can’t help acknowledge the lucky young woman’s ample breasts. It is the sexiness of the entire image which appears under attack.  Or is it her sex?  Or is it the having sex the sexiness suggests? Is it the ease with which all this seems so easily assailable to the eye? Is there a certain mythos filling in the air of plaint’s first claim?

SouthWest Airlines does a good job with their apology to Kyla but she had to raise some Cain of her own to get that. And the way SW “gets” it's own mistake seems to blacken the reputable family eyes of the “LUV” airlines. That is an overt irony. “LUV” is the name by which SW was known during the era of hot-pants and go-go boots. These fashion-conscious ideas of another era also control ideas in presentable dress for women. They are also part of required airline attire. In other words, they are the frame to which behavior is socialized and normed.

The flight attendant of this era some thirty years ago was required to dress a certain way and this way technically could misrepresent her against her own individual sexual will to the favor of the company imago, that image that goes before it into its marketplace. Male and female sexiness has been used to buy and sell everything under the sun and some things mother never told you about. But whether sex sells everything is questionable. Furthermore, the very idea that sex is to sell everything... still is boring the daylights out of a good many people. Objectionably and questionably every sexualized social image is being challenged right now.

Setera QuassimSetera Quassim Setera Quassim in blanketis not so lucky when she tries to maintain quiet as she undergoes similar public embarrassment in criticism of her personal sexiness in dress by airport fashion Nazis. Like Kyla she has had to go public and pose her plight before the national camera. Because she filed no formal complaint no “official” apology will ever be forthcoming.

Setara Quassim  “no-fly” outfit

..................... Setara Quassim  posing in her “scarlet letter”

Now one must give pause and realize a certain specific. These are adult young women mistreated this way. By 'mistreated' I mean treated as if they are denied the primary authority over their sexuality, sexual experiences and sexual preferences. This 'value-based' but unlawful violation to the first-amendment rights of these women is tied to a third idea and image.

This one surfaces in my local newspaper here in Arizona. It also has to do with something regarding young women, sex, the city and cover-ups. Here in Scottsdale the Valley has launched its first “Purity Ball.” The event is billed, according to the article in the Tribune, “A Call To Purity” in dress as a call to chastity. It asks daughters to pledge a cover-up of their bodies as part of a large moral movement that also asks daughters to sign a social contract as a matter of blind, religious obligation and parental pressure. The social promissory exacts sexual abstinence on their part before marriage. No doubt these two kinds of sexualizing instances regarding the covering up or the hiding of the female body are linked to the same value-based religio. Whereas the latter is a high pressure sales pitch to underaged daughters, the former is an unlawful persecution of our adult female citizenry.

And, yes! The editorial “you” (meaning me) suspects something fundamentally unconscious is being asked of these young women, something obedient in place of something thoughtful, something overtly religious in its libidinal hunt having already marked her a “too-sexy”  sex to participate in the celestial imagination unless she hide from her own scrutiny the body she already wears. I am referring to her already “no-fly” earthly outfit—her very own desiring and budding libidinal imagining uniqueness, her value-(de)based yet powerfully valuable space that is both her inward as well as outward sign. This important space of signification is be-coming 'woman'. ‘Her’ marks here that mark totally to which ‘female’ signifies totally. Totally, “O”. It is a space of transparency where "she" sheds and can shed the clothing of sexualized insistencies altogether.

I will be away for a few weeks and will continue to brood. Meanwhile, you can click the link and see this third most interesting image and also read the comments of readers. It is interesting to me for two reasons. The first is the photo’s fairytale mode of presentation. It makes me think of Cinderella.  That fairytale ends for real with the death of Princess Diana. I suspect this can mean the fairytale ending has changed imaginally. The princess may never again live so happily unconscious. Not now. Not ever after 911. The prince is absent, too. In his place is the graying father.

The second thing is how there is another mode of telling going on and it is not fairy tale. It is myth.  It unfolds regarding sexual desire and sexual abstinence a certain attempt through literalized father-daughter relationships to cover-up a tritogenic mythoi operating in the background. It hides in that sense the knowledge of our early and acculturated human animal’s coarse savagery at work within the sexual imaginary and its symbolic function. It also hides this as always already a re-weaving or a mythopoetic space whose capabilities when worked is what shapes that ground between our taboos and real desires. The same images also hide in the other sense as covering over may mean; as in clothing or the “hide” that reveals the existence of itself and this skin made scapegoat within the aegis that operates between Athena and Zeus as law.

related essays

Athene's Mirror, Pt 2

related poetry

the sweeping: Cinderella in your turn see October 3, 2007

White Stocking Tales Poetry Series:

White Stocking Tale
Marquis D'un Sa(i)d, "Every Ting Leaks!"
The Call
What Ofelia Saw
GrandMother Eyes
The Pale Man
One Minus One In D Meter

Writing As
Shell Lacked No Beauty
Zero IN (2006 Pushcart Prize nominee)
Mother Geis
The Felt Sense of Birds

published 10-07-07

Deep Wounds (retired October 29, 2010)

mythopoetics mythopoesis
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