Do you remember?

Sanne Burger

7 February 2021

Remember when you were told that you had to wear a bra
That not wearing a bra was somehow inappropriate
And even more so was to show your nipples?
Remember when you were told that hanging breasts were not sexy
And that wearing a bra would prevent that?
Remember how over time, wearing a bra became normal and how you would feel uncomfortable without it?

Remember how as a little child, you loved to be naked?
Remember how you would take off your clothes and run around, happy as a lamb, until your mum put them on again, saying,
“Honey please, you cannot take your clothes off everywhere!”
Remember how over time, you became used to putting on clothes in the morning, keeping them on all day?

Remember when you were a little kid, full of love and joy
How you would run up to the postman to give him a big hug when he would deliver the mail to your home?
Remember how your mother gently stopped you and explained,
“That’s not what a girl is supposed to do
They will think you are a very silly girl
And we don’t want that, do we?”

Remember your parents taking you on a Sunday stroll in the forest?
You were so happy to see the trees
You would walk up to them, cuddle them and talk to them
You would talk to the birds, the insects, the flowers and the clouds
Until you saw that your parents made fun of you
Remember how quickly you learned that one does not touch trees as if they are living beings
And one does not talk to nature?
Remember that you stopped doing it?
Remember that you forgot about it?

Remember when you became a parent yourself
When you held your first child
And the nurse insisted it had to sleep alone in its crib
A crib with bars
And it had to play alone in the playpen
A playpen with bars
Remember how hard it was to get used to that?

Remember when you took your child to kindergarten for the first time
How terrified they were and didn’t want to go because they couldn’t understand?
Remember how it broke your heart and you had to tear yourself away
Leaving your screaming baby at the doorstep?
Remember how you cried in the car on your way to work
Wishing the world was not such a cruel place?

Remember when women needed to wear skirts and men needed to wear trousers?
If not, ask your mother
She remembers

Remember how you were told to sleep with your hands above the sheets?
You probably don’t but your grandparents do
It was the church, dictating that masturbation was a sin
So that the God-fearing people, who thought that this rule came straight from God himself
Would obey

Remember when men were told to wear a tie?
If not, ask your father
He remembers
Wearing a tie was a fashion statement in the business world
It was considered a status symbol
Of being a successful businessman
Yes, of even being a successful man
Men would proudly tighten their tie
Thinking that they looked impressive
Whilst they could hardly breathe

How can something that resembles a gallows noose, something that literally tightens the throat, be considered a status symbol?
It’s the power of symbolism
Rituals, habits and rules are not practical or logical
They are symbols
They are representations of something else

Wearing a bra is a symbol of decency
You want to show everybody you are not a slut
Wearing a tie seems like a status symbol when really it’s a symbol of slavery
Wearing clothes all day, preferably a uniform or something fashionable (which is the same), is a symbol of adaptation
We have unanimously agreed to hide our bodies

Symbolism is more powerful than biology
It is more powerful than instinct
Religion is symbolism
Tradition is symbolism
Culture is symbolism
God is a symbol
Symbolism drills us into accepting things that go against our nature
Small steps at a time so that we can get accustomed to it

Small steps
Now we are in the process of implementing another small step
Wearing a mouth cap
Possibly, in a few years, not wearing a mouth cap might be considered equally as inappropriate as not wearing a bra
Or as not wearing any clothes
Or as putting your hands under the sheets
Or as not going to church on Sunday
Or as not reporting the neighbours if they were breaking the law
Like sneezing and not getting tested

We live in a metaphysical world made up of symbols and archetypes
We are deeply devoted to symbols
The logic or practicality of a symbol does not matter much
What counts is what it represents

Face mask
So what does a face mask represent?
What does it symbolise?
What it does practically is cover your mouth
Your lips, your teeth and your tongue
Therefore, some people call it a muzzle
One meaning is obvious: You are not allowed to speak
Instead, you have to listen
Also, you are not allowed to kiss
This means that you have to hide your affection
Your attractiveness
Your sensuality
Thirdly, you are not allowed to show your teeth
This means that you are not allowed to show your strength
Your power
Or your territory
And last but not least, you are not allowed to laugh
People shouldn’t see how happy you are

Hide, not only your body but also your truth
Hide, not only your joy but also your power
Hide, not only your sexuality but also your sensuality

Will this become the new normal?
Will we teach this to our children?

Remember, in certain cultures, genital mutilation is still a tradition
True, this is not our tradition
But are we really that different?

Remember how in the Middle Ages, witches were burnt at the stake and the whole village would gather to cheer?
If not, ask your ancestors
They remember
True, this is a long time ago
But have we really changed?
Has human nature changed?
Have you changed?

©Sanne Burger

Art: Gustav Klimt


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