模倣子 drama around bralessness

 Original article on bralessness - Memetic Index 


I thought it might be interesting to examine this article from Medium.com in terms of the three-layered narrative model of macromemetics. The Conservative Narrative is established on top of the Radical Narrative, and of course the conservative narrative has its own immunomemeplex (which we think of as being harsh and intolerant), but there is also the Liberal Narrative (1) which we think of as protesting and opposing the Conservative Narrative and pushing for "positive change." I put forward the theory that the Liberal Narrative is in fact just another megaimunomemeplex which serves the Conservative Narrative, justifying and shoring up its departures from the Radical Narrative, and perhaps little else. In other words, it's not doing what we think it is, but in fact much the opposite.

One question is, "So how do we reässert the Radical Narrative?" The answer may be "not through the kind of liberal activism which we've seen so far" and that should be a hopeful message.

Some Definitions and Examples

The Radical Narrative can be thought of as a kind of pre-lapsarian egalitarianism. To be specific, let's focus on feminist issues, and because of this article, memes to do with women's breasts and wearing or not wearing brassieres.

The Radical Narrative holds that people own their own bodies. This means that people can do whatever they want with their bodies, PERIOD, and also that other people are absolutely prohibited from forcing others to do (or not do) anything with their own bodies. In other words, kind of an idyllic dreamland.

The Conservative Narrative, of course, holds that women (somehow) belong to society, the government, or to some male relative. "Belonging" means that society, the government, the police, or said male relative have final say in many or most personal choices that women make. Said "empowered controllers," however, cannot make women do whatever they want--they too are constrained to force women to behave in certain accepted ways (2).

The Conservative Narrative basically holds that all people belong to some master, father, husband, government (or Lord representative), and only imposes restrictions to the exact degree and form of that enslavement. Slavery may in fact be central to the Conservative Narrative.

The Conservative Narrative provides the system of "yes, but" memes that somehow justify doing the awful things needed to construct the hierarchical systems that extract excess value from the working population, mount wars, and basically build civilization. This narrative is full of the kind of "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others" that we're all so used to. Misogyny may be a cornerstone of building a competitive hierarchical society, i.e., removing control from the hands of women.

I'll try to inject some rigor into this at some point.(3)

Now, the Liberal Narrative works ostensibly to oppose the Conservative Narrative, to contradict it, to try to force it to change. The justifications are ostensibly based on memes from the Radical Narrative, eg., that all people are equal, people should be free (where reasonable), everyone's sexuality belongs to them alone and it is their perfect right to share or not share it, and so forth. Again, ostensibly, this "anti-bra" piece purports to support some kind of progressive feminist position, to wit, that women should be able to go out in public (or even just outdoors) without wearing brassieres. 

A Few Theoretical Ideas

One problem with the Liberal Narrative is that it invokes Conservative memeplexes, in the ostensible intent of opposing them, but merely by invoking them, it gives them strength. If you want to eradicate a memeplex, you don't do it by repeatedly making literal appeal to it. This is a basic principle of memetic engineering (4) by the way. You build alternative memeplexes that may be used instead of those you are trying to eradicate and make them more appealing. Also, since addition of memes to a system causes polarization, you design your updated memeplex so that all polarizations favor your new system. This is the "great taste, less filling" approach (5) by the way.

I’m Braless. So What?

* The word "Braless" is a meme, which means it's pretty loaded, and has a lot of other memes dragging along with it. Back in the day, "Put on a tie" was an immunomeme that could be freely deployed at men. It still exists. The head of an important company won't let men fly with him on the company jet if they don't have on a tie. The fact that there are lots of memes like this associated with brassieres, like "you're not wearing a bra!" or "put on a bra!" is significant. As we'll see below, the author (and comments to the original text on Medium.com) make references to how if your breasts "look good", "are perky" and so on, then it's okay to wear a bra. Part of the conservative narrative is that women are trying to get attention, or more to the point, get men excited, by their not wearing brassieres, and another part is that unless you are a very young woman (see Moscow Idaho Toplessness Statute) who is "chest lucky" (see below) your breasts just plain don't look good and it's a question of taste. In other words, it's part of the Conservative Narrative that if your breasts are "objectively attractive" then it's kind of okay, but the real thrust is that if they're not then you should wear a bra, and if you don't then you're saying "Hey! My Breasts are Superior!" (which is what we see below and in the comments) which invites conservative-fired scrutiny. Anyway, let's move on for now.

What exactly is the big deal about it?

Pink crop top, worn braless
All images: Copyright Amanda Sexton
Yellow boob tube, worn braless
My boobs are true feminists. They refuse to be constrained.

* It might be worth mentioning that, given these photos, one might not be blamed for concluding that the author is not only going braless, but also mostly "shirtless" as well. This might tend to draw additional shaming behavior from bystanders and onlookers. This might bring up some interesting memetic points. I have women friends who tell me they never wear bras. I only know because they tell me, even though we have even been roommates and such. It's rather like the contrary of the old joke: Q. How do you know someone is vegetarian? A. They will tell you. When a woman wears what is effectively a "boob tube" (a tube top in the USA) where there are obviously no bra straps or anything and her nipples are poking out (10), yes, her comfort, staying cool if it's a hot summer, and so on, but she's also wearing literally the least amount of clothing possible without being naked, and certainly less than anybody else nearby, and possibly transgressing actual laws or no-entry rules of some shops. The point is that the inventory of immunomemetic responses available starts to grow quite large if all of this bralessness, shirtlessness, lots of skin visible, nipples visible, cleavage visible, lots of bouncing and jiggling going on, nobody else is doing it--it's a lot to work with. Neither the wearer nor the viewer(s) can be unaware. In fact, some bystanders might even be open to attack by fellow bystanders for not reacting in certain ways, e.g., staring, not staring, being scandalized, not being scandalized, etc. My point is that not wearing a bra for any number of personal reasons (uncomfortable, have to go to the 'loo to adjust it all the time, yet another article of clothing to wash, replace, keep in stock, have a couple of favourite ones that always seem to be lost/dirty when you're getting dressed, takes time to put on, the shops never have one you like, your breasts are different sizes, it's expensive, etc.) doesn't have to involve everyone in the tri-county area knowing about it. Having said that, I'm unaware of the details as to how it's possible to not wear a bra without being noticed--my breasts aren't big enough yet to need one, I guess, but I'm working on it!--but apparently it is possible. By overtly transgressing some "norm" (some memeplex within the Conservative Narrative) in a way that's clearly even ostentatiously visible, one is making a choice to enable the memetic cohort to deploy immunomemes attached to that behavior. The irony is that all the "courage" and "unashamedness" involved notwithstanding, the effect is ultimately negative in terms of achieving meaningful social change, and may in fact incur the opposite (11). Why? Deliberately flaunting "social norms" (or, in memetic parlance, deliberately enabling the deployment of immunomemes which are triggered by the behaviour in question) reënforces said immunomemes (bullying memes) and consolidates them, raises them all to the same level in the public consciousness, links them together. And then specifically citing them (tenets of the Conservative Narrative, e.g., "it's immoral," "you'll look bad," "you're desperate for attention") as justification and attacking them only brings them up and connects them together in people's minds ("It's not immoral" now everybody's thinking about it, trying to decide if it is, "My titties look great!" now everybody's sifting through who's tits look good enough to be on display, and "I'm not desperate for attention," Really? No shirt and all that? methinks she doth protest too much, mayhap?), and polarizes everybody along those lines. People who might not have reacted before (to more subtle or occasional norm-flaunting) are now primed to do so, and to be at the throats of others who used to be only mildly inclined in the opposite direction.

* It's unclear whether this article is actually trying to engage in progressivist activism in the first place. Again we make appeal to the memeplex of the Conservative Narrative that holds that women should wear bras because their breasts don't look good. So even if it's not sexual, or maternal (other memeplexes) at least it's a matter of taste or esthetics. Liberal messages tend to get mixed up in exactly this sort of way, making appeals to the Radical Narrative (comfort, body self-identification, economics, etc.) and to the Conservative Narrative (I have perky tits so I get a pass, other women are just jealous). The Liberal Narrative purports to be a clarion call for change, but then turns around and interrogates the memeplexes of the Conservative Narrative, thus reënforcing them. We've polarized the population (memetic cohort) around these ideas such as "saggy women are jealous" (or are they just decent, etc?) and "I've got nice breasts, so I get a pass" (do you? even if you do, please put a bra on... etc.)  Now people who weren't thinking of this bra-no-bra saggy-vs-perky problem are now thinking of it. The memetic fabric is polarized. It is made no easier, probably harder, for other women, perky or saggy, to go without a bra. This is fairly typical of how the Liberal Narrative functions, eg., "those conservative people are stupid!" and the Conservative Narrative is upheld by sheer dint of use. We went from a state of "everybody should wear a bra" but the occasional woman who doesn't won't catch too much flak because of the low level of polarization (6) to a state where ten percent of the people think it's okay (and may be leering at women not wearing bras anyway) and ninety percent who were passively in favor of bra-wearing are now assiduously so, on the look-out for boobs-on-the-loose, and top-of-mind with all of the conservative messages about what women should and should not do, like even showing cleavage, perhaps even beyond those to do with appropriate breast adornment. Not only asking if women should wear brassieres, but maybe now whether they should leave the house unescorted, or drive cars, and so on. This might seem like overstating things, but I am concerned about the mechanism, and this is how I think it works.

* All people are like this. This is the human condition. Macromemetics is the study of how this all works. Our author and everyone depend on everyone else behaving as expected, pretty much all the time, and it's horribly upsetting when they don't (12). If you talk to someone in the local language (in this case English) you respect a reply in that language, and a reasonable one. If I ask someone what time it is, or for a cup of coffee from someone across the counter at a café, I expect a reasonable response and not some diatribe on shark populations in the North Pacific or how Mars exploration is a waste of money, or to be shouted at or dragged off and beaten up in some dark room. We all expect this. Some people think it's bad to wear white after Labor Day. I don't happen to know anybody inured of this memeplex. One recent trend is things like "bralets" which are kind of like what she's wearing in all of these pictures, but lacier and potentially an undergarment. I would say the point is to what extent the memes are injected, not whether one follows them or not. If the penalties for non-conformance are minimal, then what's the big deal? If one is braving the slings and arrows of mild public disapproval for the sake of making it easier for the hordes of women who will follow, then that's something. However, is that what's happening? This is the problem of the Liberal Narrative approach, it stirs up a lot of muck, but ultimately asserts the conservative memeplexes, even making them stronger by dredging up all the available memes (in order to contradict them) and tying them together and anchoring them in people's mind all the more strongly.

* This statement is telling. This is a pithy comment on polarization. Knowing the rules and not following them is just another way of following the rules. If in Moscow Idaho or NYC or Kiev, Ukraine, you know that you will be arrested and jailed for public toplessness, and yet you go topless, you do so in the knowledge that you will probably be arrested and jailed. It doesn't make it more or less pleasant, but it's not a surprise. To a lesser degree, if you know that you will meet with some form of "disapproval" by some public behavior, and do it anyway, what is happening? Is it a "protest"? If you know you're going to get a rise out of people, make them feel "offended" because that is the social "norm" then you are making a deliberate decision to do so. Truly liberating women looks more like taking an action that somehow doesn't offend people, but makes them feel acclimated to what you are doing, and ultimately leads to other women doing the same thing and allows them to have actual material relief, e.g., feeling more comfortable, feeling as good or better about their own looks, and maybe saving money on expensive undergarments they no longer feel constrained to wear. That would be bringing us back towards the Radical Narrative, and without invoking the memes of the Conservative Narrative. I'll try to illuminate other examples, but the Liberal Narrative likes to start off with attacking head-on memeplexes of the Conservative Narrative, which causes polarization. As we see above, invoking conservative memeplexes such as "if you're tits look good, like mine do, then you should be able to go braless" in an effort to turn it on its head, but all the while asserting its strength.

Tight-fitting white vest, worn braless
If my natural, unrestrained figure offends you, tough!

__________________ ______

Summary and Conclusions

This appeal double-dips into the Conservative Narrative and into the Radical Narrative to form a Liberal Narrative, which is ostensibly one of progressive liberation of women. This is a typical use of the Liberal Narrative. Women should be free, should be in control of their own bodies are part of the Radical Narrative. The Conservative Narrative contains such memes as "women's breasts are distracting (to men) and inappropriate", "a brassiere is a minimally appropriate covering (7)" and as the author points out "a woman without a bra is desperate for attention," and also something along the lines of "most women's breasts don't look good without a bra (saggy, not perky)". Dragging these conservative memes out into the open causes polarization. A polarized memetic fabric (8) results in individuals being more attentive to the presence/absence of given memes.

The Conservative Narrative deals with Radical Narrative concepts such as "women should be comfortable and free to choose" with "yes, but" memeplexes that "wrap" and ultimately subvert these radical concepts that accrete into the conservative megamemeplex and drive the society into an altogether different direction, e.g., "women are distracting to men," "women shouldn't be too free, or they will distract men," or even "women are a corrupting influence," and then things like "women should always wear bras," and so on are easily rolled into the growing conservative narrative.

Okay, so along comes the Liberal Narrative. For example, we went through an era where women were expected to wear corsets and other such, and now they are getting away with brassieres, so clearly there was some kind of transition there, which is probably well documented, historically. There were probably all kinds of memes thrown about that resulted in brassieres being somehow okay, and corsets no longer the absolute minimum for female decorum.

Okay, I wanted to propose a possible functioning of the Liberal Narrative in transforming society in terms of this journey from corsets to brassieres to possibly bralettes or rejecting the brassiere altogether. The Conservative Narrative holds that women are evil and corrupting and need to be covered up completely and so on and so forth. They need to wear bras or society will collapse.

A possible Liberal Narrative is that women have to wear bras because most women's breasts don't look good and so a bunch of immunomemes are produced to shame women into wearing bras because they look bad rather than that women are evil and so on. This is almost certainly some kind of mechanism that took place because the original justification for lots of concealing female underwear is that women are evil, or that men are uncontrolable lust-monsters and either way society will collapse and Satan will take over if women do not cover up in a prescribed way.

Okay, so maybe we get more scientific and free-thinking and so people are not so much any longer swayed by argument of women being evil, and so here comes the Liberal Narrative which puts in the idea that yes, women are not evil, but their breasts without bra or corset don't look so good, so they should be shamed for not wearing appropriate underclothes. And so what about women who's breasts DO look good? What about them? We'll then we say that they are desperate for attention, or we could also say that men are sex maniacs and might be overcome with lust if they see a woman without bra.

So this is all nice and liberal and progressive and liberationist, no?

Actually, maybe not so much. The effect of this action of the Liberal Narrative is that the social behavior is exactly the same. In fact, bras and corsets are not so different, by the way. They send the message to every one that woman need to be covered up for no clear reason.  They inhibit breathing by encircling the ribcage with pressure or elastic, which may serve some social purpose. Okay, and women are still wearing them, and face social shaming if they do not. In fact they have twice as much if not more of immunomemetic bullying, since the "women are evil" people are still okay, still free to operate, and now we have the esthetic shamers added on. So we see the effect of the Liberal Narrative is to add more memetic inventory to the Conservative Narrative, and to strengthen and consolidate the immunomemes which were there in the first place.

In the foregoing article we see this very process. We see dragged in memes from the Radical Narrative (the basis for any progressive activist effort) in the form of "women should be free and comfortable" (we didn't really drag in the "women should be equal" on this one) and then drag in the "it's not immoral" and "women with saggy tits are just jealous" from the Conservative Narrative.

The appeals to the Radical Narrative are of course good, but they always face the "yes, but" effect of the weight of Conservative Narrative memeplexes heaped on top of them, which often take the form of question-begging slippery-slope arguments, like, "so we should all go naked?", "we all have to wear clothes," "So there's no reason for anybody to wear underwear anymore?" and "Yes, but women are distracting," "Men will get excited to see it," and so on. 

The second "whammy" is that the author (or anybody who engages in this sort of activism) brings up the Conservative Narrative directly by trotting out things like "saggy-breasted women are just jealous (so I should get a pass since my boobs are perky)." This is the scientific, modern version of "women are evil" by the way, as mentioned above. In other words, she brings up the Conservative Narrative of "you won't look good if you don't wear a bra," and tries to contradict it with "But hey! Check me out! I do look good!" She also brings up the "braless women are desperate for attention." We don't call it "memetic pairing" (9) for nothing. In this case the immunomemes of "you just want attention" and "you'll look bad" team up to defeat the "my tits are great!" and "saggy-breasted women are just jealous" (of how great my tits are) and "I get lots of attention but would do it even if I didn't" (which kind of holds water logically, but is mememtically pretty weak). "Okay, you're tits are spectacular, so obviously you want attention (whammy!)" or in other words, you don't even get a pass for having nice breasts, since the "desperate for attention" memeplex swoops in from the Conservative Narrative to get you. And since it's hard to imagine turn of the Century folks having conversations along the lines of "Oh, I say, her bosoms are quite nice -- I think she should be allowed to go without a corset," I think we can thank the operation of the Liberal Narrative for adding the "perky breasts test" to the bra question.

This second whammy results in polarization. Rather than uniting everyone under some flapping underwire banner, it dredges up a lot of memes from the Conservative Narrative, including some which few were thinking about, i.e., not in active memetic inventory--and now they are--and everybody who is touched by the "campaign" is now forced to decide which side of each they are on, and most people will go with the conservative side (that's why it's called "conservative"--people don't like to change their minds on lots of stuff every time somebody opens their mouth or writes an article).

So effectively all the new memes (if any -- there weren't really any in this case) get rolled into the Conservative Narrative, giving people more ways to keep on doing and saying the same thing.

Hope for Future Activism
It might seem rather grim to say that activism that hinges on creating a Liberal Narrative is doomed. The point is that the Liberal Narrative invariably identifies some wrong or other, and then frames it in terms of some ideal pulled out of the Radical Narrative and points fingers at the aspects of the Conservative Narrative which are at fault, which need to be changed, and so on.

As I argued above, invoking the memes of the Conservative Narrative only makes them stronger. It's like saying to everybody in the memetic cohort, attached to the memetic fabric, and saying, "Here are sa bunch of things that you passively agree or disagree with, and I'm going to rub them in your face and make you say whether you agree or disagree with each of them. And I'm going to put them all on a nice big plate right in front of you, including all the ones that you might not have immediately thought of yourself!"

One basic principle of macromemetic engineering is do not invoke the memes you want to replace. The object is to design new memes, preferably with polarization built in (13). Hence, "consciousness-raising" and "awareness-raising" are counterproductive. They polarize, which creates maybe some investment in the cause célèbre, but also galvanizes the existing conservative resistance. Ultimately the latter is the stronger, and the new memes generated (if any) get folded into the growing Conservative Narrative.

What to do? As every underground movement in history has done, practice your beliefs beneath the level of scrutiny. Don't wear a bra, go out and run your errands in spite of your mental illness (and cry when you get back home), practice your religion at home or in your own church, speak your native language at home, go to work, do your job and don't get fired, do the new process at work or at home yourself and see if you can even do it, and so on. Make a point to yourself and those close to you that your idea can work at all, that liberation is even remotely possible. Deploying the meme and not getting the immunomemetic response is the first step.

If I have to change everybody's mind in a dramatic way in order for me to even attempt what I'm doing, to prove it at even the most basic level, then I'm doomed.

Next you have to identify all the memes that kick in to stop what you want to have people do. Unfortunately our author didn't mention any specific behaviours whereby people attack her when she goes out in her demi-chémise or "boob tube" amongst the hoi-polloi. In some cases you imagine almost needing a confederate, a plant, a sakura, to tee up the memetic exchange you want to see in the world. For instance, "Oh, what a lovely top" replied with "Oh, thank you."

This part can be tough. I've done at least one major project which consisted of people not doing what I want, an entrenched behavior needed to be changed over to another behavior. I'll write this up in a separate piece later. It's relatively easy to change the way people react to what I do. The problem is when people are initiating behavior I want to change, or they are not reacting or not reacting directly (like doing things behind my back).

In short, the trick is always to construct some new memes (13), and inject them into the population. You want new memes to replace the old ones. A snide commend about your nipples sticking out replaced by "Oh, what a nice top" or such. Don't mention or invoke the bad behavior you want to replace. The trick is to offer the new memes as if everybody has already accepted them. If the new memes can be designed to plug into some existing memes, then that's good, too.

What might that look like?
This is kind of passive, not evoking a response from a fellow memetic agent. It might somehow deflect deployments of some immunometic attacks ("you don't have a bra on, do you?" or "I can see your nipples" which nobody would say anyway) but possibly invite others. The "club" bit might be good since it suggests that there is a group of people doing the same thing, that one should be aware of it. In Japan, everything is "a club" (even when it really isn't).

Something more engaging? Give the other person something to work with?

One could even imagine "Hello!" on the back of the shirt, inviting the other person to say "Hello!" and then the wearer turns around and says a friendly "Hello!" back, whereupon the other reads the front of the shirt and can say "How are you?" or failing that, the wearer can say it. This approach has all kinds of  good memetic design properties, tie-in to existing positive conservative memes (invitation to a friendly greeting), handing something pre-programmed to say to the other person when confronted with the potentially awkward situation of facing a woman with a tight shirt and no bra, and finishing up with a positive exchange which replaces the memes associated with feeling uncomfortable about women not wearing bras. The no-bra memes were deployed, and the result was not bad, and positive familiar memes were exchanged, which ties familiar positive memes to the no-bra-wearing memeplex. This could ultimately work to cement a memetic subsystem where when one spots a woman who is obviously not wearing a bra, one is "allowed" to wave and say "Hello!" and the woman is "obliged" to return the greeting. Our author says she enjoys the attention. If this is true, then no-bra activists should be able to hold up their end and make sure to always return greetings like this, and that could potentially get us well on the way to atrophying negative memes (immunomemes) to do with brassiere-eschewing. This is really how memetic engineering works!

Perhaps the name of the game is making new memes and letting the old ones die because the new ones are more appealing, which means they connect to more existing memes and appeal to more people. The Liberal Narrative approach fails in this because it dredges up the Conservative Memes it seeks to remove, it creates new memes that attach to the conservative ones. In the end, it ends up adding to the Conservative Narrative, and liberation is stifled.

In other words, a surgical, focused attack on a specific law, usually just to get it repealed is one thing, but deliberately annoying people simply causes them to deploy the immunomemes (counter-behaviours) and thereby "exercises" those immunomemes, when the right approach for changing social norms is replacing the immunomemes triggered by the behaviour you wish to liberate with other memes which are less harmful. You cannot get rid of memes. They exist because people like them (that's a whole macromemetic theory concept, covered elsewhere). You can just give them something they like better and  allow the other memes to atrophy.

(12) I recommend the film What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? 

for some deliberate exploration of how people react in the face of unexepected social behavior.

(13) This is exemplified in a couple of macromemetic design tricks: polyvariability and pseudomutation. The former means designing multiple memes that accomplish your purpose, so people can choose the one that suits them best, and allows them to feel like they're doing things differently from people with whom they don't identify. Psudomutation specifically means creating multiple memes so that they look like they've mutated. The brain is sensitive to the idea that "lots of other people have obviously already adopted this meme, so I'm safe in doing it, since lots of people will agree (resonate) with me." The brain can recognize that memes are variations of other memes (copied from mind to mind) and this acts as a kind of "timestamp" to indicate both that the meme has been copied a lot (resided in multiple minds), and has also been around a while. An example of polyvariability is the "great taste, less filling" effect. Design pairs or sets of memes that all result in consumers, target minds, doing what you want, even if they do it for different reasons, and even if they violently fight with one another about how their reason is "the best one." Marketing and ad campaigns all use these principles heavily (although they might not employ the terms). The "Left Twix, Right Twix" is another advertising attempt to create an artificial polarization in order to generate more interest. The bottom line is that people like memes that are "secure" (lots of people already doing it) and also memetic environments that have more memes (more ways to exchange memes with others). Volumes could be written about all this (and have in my jumbled collection of macromemetic essays)

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