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Neo-Talibanism in the Upper Valley

Burqa.jpgMaybe it was a slow day, but last week the Valley News reached a new dimension of silliness in a piece by staff writer Susan Boutwell that laments the upsurge (sorry) in the amount of exposed bosom in modern female attire. [Full disclosure: Ms. Boutwell has interviewed me, quite capably and accurately, in the past regarding my opinion of matters relating to Dartmouth.]

With all the assurance of a thoroughly modern mullah, Ms. Boutwell attempts to lay down the law as to when and where women young and old can reveal cleavage. The opera: OK. The international political arena: Not Serious. The American workplace: NO WAY. She even quotes a modestly attired business etiquette expert to support her position. (Are there studies on this kind of thing? … “36.2% of aerospace contracts were lost due to excessively revealing clothing on the part of the bidding executives…”)

Regrettably, Ms. Boutwell seems uninformed by history, wherein any change in female attire has inevitably brought out legions of blue-haired ladies to lament the decline of morality and the objectification of women (I promise that I won’t ever use that term again). Exposing ankles a century ago was a scandal (hence the phrase: a well-turned ankle), and flappers gave folks the vapors in the 1920’s when they flashed their knees. Midriffs (there’s an old word that you don’t see anymore) were shocking around sixty years ago with the arrival of the bikini, and now Susan laments that women are debasing themselves in yet another way. Are you shocked, shocked, too? I hope not.

At least we won’t see topless sunbathing on the Green anytime soon. Hanover’s ever active town police would act pronto to enforce New Hampshire’s statutory dress code that mandates that women modestly attire themselves in bikini tops when they enjoy the sun:

Title LXII of the New Hampshire Criminal Code, Chapter 645: Public Indecency: Indecent Exposure and Lewdness. I. A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if such person ….. performs any other act of gross lewdness under circumstances which he or she should know will likely cause affront or alarm.

Note that the legal standard here is “affront or alarm” and not anything objective. With Ms. Boutwell now being on record that cleavage is an affront to her, perhaps the Valley News can whip up public sentiment to such an extent that décolletage will be re-defined as “lewdness”; then the Hanover Po can force local women to cover up what was once delicately called a “plunging neckline.”

Following that, when public decency has been restored to this new level, then perhaps midriffs, knees and ankles will be next? If so, I’d like to be the East Coast distributor for burkhas.

Photo Above: Dartmouth women from the Class of 2020 dress for success (or sunbathing?)

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