So the ruckus about the bra-tossing incident at a recent concert has settled…or has it? There is an uneasy calm. All the newspapers found the reaction to the incident significant. The head of a state found it a worthy occurrence to get involved with; the general public did not receive that involvement amiably.
Puritans welcomed the hyperbole about meting out penal consequences using a medieval lash: part of a dead stingray; the world press had a field day comparing our seemingly misogynist attitudes to those of Saudi Arabia; fans of Enrique Iglesias were scratching their heads wondering what the fuss was about…and somewhere in Colombo, there were two people who were no doubt taken aback by all the upheaval their actions generated. One an obviously ecstatic young girl who got to share the stage with the admittedly gorgeous Latin singer; and the other – a ‘Tosser’ with great aim! Whether the Tosser was a girl or a boy is still unclear.
A lot of women and in fact, many men in Sri Lanka did not receive the threats of being denied concerts that ‘undermine our culture’ well. Even more galling was that around the same time, kidnap and trial before a kangaroo court by a young female politician was being treated with palpable nonchalance.
Throwing items of clothing at performing artistes is not a new happening; items of clothing are thrown at musicians of all genres. Not all performers are tolerant of the phenomenon. Kiwi legend Dame Kiri Te Kanawa pulled out of a planned concert with Australian pop singer John Farnham after she saw a video of a frenzied woman throwing her panties at Mr Farnham. So what is the reason for this behaviour? The most obvious answer is that throwing one’s smalls at an idol is simply an expression of the attraction fans of all ages often feel for their favourite, drop-dead gorgeous musicians or political stars. Certainly such emotional outpourings have probably been around as long as music has been performed.
Stories of female fans swooning, screaming and fainting at Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley concerts famously exemplify this. Blame the sexual revolution of the late 1960s for women to be liberated enough to ‘sexualise’ their expressions of adoration. Throwing one’s undies seems to be an available, tangible means of doing so. However, there is probably more to this phenomenon – one possibility is that undie throwers see the act as a ‘dare’- something to wear as a badge of honour.
Another reason could be the physical separation of fans and idols that mean the chances of close contact are extremely remote. Transferring something to the star is the only way to achieve anything resembling a physical connection. Viewed this way, underwear throwing isn’t sexual in nature as the chances of undies serving as lustful calling cards are remote. Most of the time, the “man-of-the-moment” will never know which intimate item of clothing belonged to which adoring fan. So, rather than representing “meet me later” text messages, the undies serve as tangible conduits of touch – enabling fans to simulate contact albeit indirectly, with their idols. And why bras and panties are chosen over shirts, shoes or pairs of pants is because their intimate nature makes them the best incantations of the emotional nexus between fans and those they idolise.
Justin Bieber has had many a bra thrown at him
In Sri Lankan society, women are undergoing great personal liberation. This is important for reducing gender bias, smashing the glass ceiling and creating respect for women. Would this same outrage have been prevalent if a man were to toss his smalls at a pop idol? Hardly! Men are never objectified by their chests and garments that cover it, so why women?
Some musicians believe that when a lady tosses an item of clothing towards the stage, they have “made it”. Sri Lankan women deserve more than the puritanical viewpoints that make them objectified routinely over Sri Lankan males.
It is well known that underwear that is thrown on to a stage, is not necessary one that has been removed from a person’s body. Some people actually carry these smalls in their bags to fling at their idols. So rather than make this incident that was probably a dare, a bit of fun, or both, an expression of the erosion of our culture, it is timelier to view it all as a manifestation of frenzied adoration by a still unnamed ‘tosser’. Who knows…the next artiste that intrepidly dares to set foot in Colombo and brave the hugs, bras and chidings about helping to degrade our culture might just throw the bra back!