Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 31, 1996 (Evening Edition) Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 16:28

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Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 31, 1996 (Evening Edition) Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 16:28:07 -0700 From: Reply-To:, nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #117 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 7/31/96 (Evening Edition) In This Issue... * Bombast Breaking Before Busty Bra Billboard Battle * First Amendment Violation in ChiTown: Religious Neighborhoods? * Recommended Reading: Behind The Veil. * AACHAT * About This List... ''BRA WARS'' DEFINE RELIGIOUS, CULTURAL DEBATE IN MEXICO The culture war has arrived in Mexico, a nation which has had a long history of difficulty with clerics and religious institutions, as well as political corruption. The ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, has generally maintained a "hands-off" policy toward movies, radio, tv, books and other forms of communications which did not directly threaten its (some say corrupt) political rule. It also kept a distance between government institutions and the powerful Roman Catholic Church, which still possesses enormous cultural influence throughout the country. But in the backlash against bloated bureaucracy and the corruption said to permeate the PRI, voters have turned increasingly to the insurgent PAN or National Action Party. It is the first movement to seriously challenge the monopoly PRI has kept on Mexico for over seven decades; and while it is considered to be an advocate of economic development and free trade, the PAN has nevertheless attracted the support of reactionary Catholics. PAN is becoming increasingly authoritarian in its effort to govern standards of public conduct and personal life; and that prospect has many civil libertarians worried, especially since the party could do well in the national assembly elections slated for next year. There is a backlash taking place in the otherwise relatively open and tolerant culture of Mexico. And nowhere is in more evidence than in the "brassiere battle" which has now gripped the public consciousness. Indeed, provocative ads for bras -- often displayed in huge billboards featuring bosomy models -- have become a metaphor and point of contention over how far government should go in regulating personal behavior, and whether Catholicism and religious prudery are gaining influence in the culture. According to news reports, including the New York Times, the "bra battle" erupted when Playtex ads featuring the "Wonderbra" were displayed on nearly a dozen billboards throughout the country, mostly in Monterrey or Guadalajara. Protest letters poured in to company offices, and public officials suddenly hopped on the bandwagon, demanding that the skimpy displays be either changed or taken down. The company did alter some of the provocative slogans which accompanied the graphics -- "I like what you're thinking" was a favorite -- but the cleavage remained amply displayed. Most of the anti-brassiere rhetoric comes from officials of the National Action Party, who are estimated to govern nearly a third of the country. The Times notes that "The bra dispute has offered Mexicans a peek at the conservative cultural shift that the party and its followers are bringing in places where they gain ground." Says cultural critic Carlos Monsivais: "They (PAN) want to lead us happily back to the 19th century." The signs of backlash are everywhere; and often the reaction is linked to clerics, churches and other religious institutions. In the town of Zapopan where there is a popular shrine to the Virgin Mary, the PAN mayor shut down a risque bar. Over in nearby Guadalajara, where PAN has enjoyed political power since 1994, "a mid-ranking city official scolded secretaries in his office for wearing miniskirts," says the Times, and the Mayor called on women in his office "not to exaggerate in their clothing to be sexually provocative." (sic) PAN has also begun causing problems for creative artists, such as theater producer Ari Tech. His tragicomedy "Four X" happened to include a nude scene; PANista's in Veracrux and Puebla banned the production at first, and only after letters from Tech were published in the local press was there enough of an outcry against the government to prompt authorities to reverse their decision were the productions finally allowed. The ads in Mexico are identical to those used in other countries in Europe and the United States. They feature a popular Zech fashion model, Eva Herzigova. But even though religious and cultural sensibilities of some appear to be offended, the "bra battle" has been good for business according to Playtex sales officials. The heat of the firm's Mexican apparel division, Felipe Rivelles, noted that Mexico was so far the only nation where the ads elicited protests, but that "Store managers just love us. This product is making so much noise, people are going to the store just to look for it." Even PANista leadership may end up being embarrassed by the prudish outcry. The party's president, 33-year-old Felipe Calderon Hinojosa has drafted an open letter with the ponderous title "On the subject of politics, morality and bras," saying that the group's national leadership "has never made any recommendation about the much-publicized underwear ad, nor are we interested in doing so." Hinojosa also accused the Playtex of company of exploiting the controversy "to promote their product without paying a single cent." But in this uplifting and revealing controversy, it appears that the forces of sexualy prudery and their beholden public officials managed to do that supporting role themselves. ******** ''RELIGIOUS NEIGHBORHOODS'' IN AMERICA ? (Editor's note: As humanity approaches the year 2000, the tensions between cultural-religious traditions and an emergent global culture have grown more pronounced. Religious fundamentalism, political nostalgia, cultural orthodoxy -- all are essentially revolts against the impulse of modernism and the inevitable changes which it brings.The more frenetic the pace of change, the more there is evidence of reaction. In this sense, consider the wave of fundamentalist and political orthodoxy which just a few decades ago some were dismissing as an impossibility, an artifact of the past which would be demolished by the existential juggernaut of science, technology and economic development. Who would have thought that cosmopolitan cities like Beirut, or Sarajevo would be reduced to rubble by religious zealots contesting city blocks with mortars and M-16's? Or that Orthodox zealots and secularists would be slugging it out in the streets of Jerusalem on the question of whether or not traffic should be permitted during the "sabbath." Or that in the United States, everyone from Freemen-style militias to street gangs, retreatest cults, racial eschatologists, religious crazies and other ju-ju warriors of the modern era would be hunkering-down to defend "turf" and "autonomous zones"? Or that a litmus test of national leadership would be not the defense of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but the ability to play the role of National Headmaster and Disciplinarian based on a commitment to religious ideology? The following story is more than just another example of how state-church separation in the United States is, increasingly, ommited from public policy debate. It is likewise more than just a report on yet another example of religion in the public square -- similar to prayer in schools, a religious scene in a public park. It is indicative of a wider, more pernicious trend -- the balkanization of culture, the desire to define ourselves in terms of hallucinatory beliefs, and most important of all, the credulous mass-acceptance of utter nonsense.) ******* In the Northwest area of Chicago , Orthodox Jews are asking the city government to permit them to surround a public neighborhood with a black electrical wire in order to create a religious "eruv", or enclosure. The wire would be strung about 35 feet above the street from an expressway atop 30 lampposts, then along a segment of railroad tracks for half-a-dozen additional blocks. The purpose of the "eruv", according to news reports, is to establish a "symbolic enclosure" which permits observant Orthodox Jews to conduct activities outside of their homes that would otherwise be banned on the sabbath. The Chicago Tribune notes that such enclosures have already been established in sections of the city, "without significant objections." AANEWS has also learned that similar "zones" have been created in New York City. A First Amendment Violation? While the proposal has definite religious overtones, objections to the idea currently deal with such vapid problems as "visual clutter." The head of the Edgebrook Community Association opposes the scheme, but he is quick to insist that the position of the group "is not based on religious objections...but on aesthetic ones" according to the Sunday Tribune. The village of Skokie supports the project, noting that it is intended to benefit Orthodox Jews; the Mayor of Skokie told the paper that "We are pleased to accomoddodate the needs of the group within this context." A Catholic woman who also likes the idea said that "They put Christmas lights up. I don't really see the big deal." Thus far, no one seems to have suggested that this religious device -- a wire which is fixed to city-property and will probably be erected at taxpayer expense -- is clearly unconstitutional. (So are those "Christmas" lights and nativity scenes.) The reasons for the "eruv" is likewise ludicrous. One Chicago rabbi told the Tribune: "It's especially good for women because it enables them to go out and carry their children. It enables them to attend synagogue. It allows families to go for a walk and be out of the house. And it can be done legally, Jewishly." The "eruv" wire is really for the benefit of a large Jewish population in Skokie and Lincolnwood, but geography requires that the "line" be run through Edgebook, which "boasts a strong Catholic population and does not have any synagogues." Rabbi Joel Lehrfield of the Lincolnwood Jewish Congregation insisted that "People will find all kinds of reasons (to oppose the "eruv")," but that he is "just a firm believer that we should help other people to live as comfortably as possible. Ironically, the American Jewish Committee -- a national group which often assists to defend state-church separation -- apparently has little to say against the "eruv" idea. The Tribune quoted a New York attorney for the organization who said that opposition against an "eruv" proposal was "the desire to keep out a group that is perceived as quickly coming into the neighborhood and pushing out others." But the president of the Edgewood Community Association reacted differently, expressing his opinion that "When you put a boundary aorund something, it suggests a sense of possession as well..." *** Recommended Reading... STATUS OF WOMEN CHANGING SLOWLY IN SAUDI ARABIA Interested readers may want to explore a story in today's edition of the Christian Science Monitor (a church-affiliated paper which nevertheless is noted for its in-depth coverage of current political events) which discusses the status of women in Saudi Arabia. Titled "Women Live On Own Terms Behind The Veil," the piece by Scott Peterson discusses some of the subtle, but nevertheless real changes taking place in that male-dominated religious culture. Log on at **************** If you are a member of American Atheists, consider joining our on-line, moderated discussion group, aachat. To participate, contact the moderator, Margie Wait, at Be sure to include your name and postal address. ********* AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about American Atheists, send mail to:, and include your name and postal address. Or, check out our cool new web site at You may also post, forward or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to American Atheists and AANEWS. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to: and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please!) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER. *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: * * PO Box 140195 FTP: * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: * * Info on American Atheists:, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************


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