This week there was an office discussion here in the Ugandan press over pictures of Cindy Sanyu posing in a tank top and jeans in front of a quarry to illustrate the story about her shift to television. But we decided not use them.
Why not? Because she was in a tank top, that’s why.
We are also not using the picture of Rihanna in shorts.
We’ve replaced that with a picture of her in white pants.
We do not show women’s bellies or legs in the Sunday Vision.
Now, you and I do not see anything wrong with a chick with a bare belly. We may think it’s hot, or even sexy, but we don’t equate that with immorality. It’s not bad, it’s not necessarily heroic, it’s in the nothing-wrong category.
But that’s just you and I. Uganda is a morally variegated place with several different points of view all converging on the same chick, so what you call “hot”, another person calls “offensive”. That is why we were afraid of using Cindy’s stomach and Rihanna’s legs.
Some people will think it is too explicit, that too much flesh is being bared. It is pornographic to them.
The most slippery thing about sex and conversations about sex is that there is no consensus about anything. Not even that sex is good. There are people who approach the act with guilt and shame and need to be taught to accept it as a natural thing. I have heard the traces of surprise in their voices when they say, “It’s a normal thing. It’s perfectly natural,” as if they themselves were astounded to learn this fact when it was revealed to them.
You, of course, do not feel the same way about it. You all looooove you some sex. I know. You love everything about sex. You love having it, talking about it, being it.
So one side of this society thinks sexual desire is an embarrassing character flaw on our part as humans; the other thinks sex is our whole purpose for living.
And then there are varying degrees in the middle, of course.
I think it’s the same thing with sex that it is with sexiness: There are those who see sexiness as a deliberate attempt to arouse desire indiscriminately and it is whorish and vile and should not be seen on the streets. That is why they want to stone hot chicks. Then there are those who see it as just another thing to be, like being funny, and to them it is no more innocuous to wear a small skirt as it is to wear lipstick.
(Of course if you scroll down through the history of lipstick, you will find that lipstick itself was once considered vile and whorish, too.)
Well, maybe it is not us they are worried about. Maybe it is themselves. They don’t want to be confronted with evidence of sex’s existence so openly. The constituency of readers who still view it as a dirty little secret will be offended to see it out in the open. Though I cannot share the sentiment, I can appreciate that it exists.
And they are less tolerant than we are. We won’t complain if every popstar in the paper is always fully dressed. But they will let it be known if they see something they don’t, (or do) like. And so I capitulate. There will be no photos of Riri’s knees in this section of the press.
This is how we sustain societal order. Ignore the docile party, and placate the the party most likely to cause trouble.
This post is not about Rihanna’s knees. This is about everything.