Breasts Not Bombs, Berkeley, July 23, 2005
On Saturday, July 23, an impromptu crew of exhibitionists and flashers decided it was a good day to expose their private parts to everyone in Berkeley. In order to avoid possible arrest, they cleverly disguised their public sexual escapade as a political protest. They dubbed the protest "Breasts Not Bombs."
I had no choice but to join them.
We all gathered in People's Park for a pre-march orientation. Turnout was lower than hoped-for -- only about 15 people were willing to get naked for The Cause.
Radical performance artist Sherry Glaser was the primary instigator. She made quite a to-do about unveiling her breasts in front of the crowd. Once she had broken the ice, the rest of us followed suit.
If there's anything better than revolutionary nudity, it's revolutionary transgendered nudity. Most of the participants were readily identifiable as either male or female, but this bearded, breasted, tattooed protester dared to challenge our outmoded gender labels.
Breasts of all sizes were in view as some of the marchers gathered for a pre-protest ritual circle.
It was at this point that I began to notice that "Breasts Not Bombs" was something of a misnomer -- the atmosphere started turning rather penile as men dropped trou right and left. What had I gotten myself into?
On cue, the Bay Area's most notorious nude anarchist showed up as well -- fortunately, this time he had neglected to inflate his scrotum to gargantuan proportions as he had done the last time I met him. Only some minor swelling remained.
The warm-up rituals and political rants dragged on and on -- even the most enthusiastic hu-wo/man started to sag in the heat.
Finally, the parade headed off down to Telegraph Avenue past the mural on the side of Amoeba Records. Professional exhibitonists Debbie Moore and Marty Kent of the X-Plicit Players (whose hangers-on seemed to comprise a substantial percentage of the "Breasts Not Bombs" troupe) strummed guitars and entertained passersby with a rather limp rendition of the Breasts Not Bombs theme song (.5mb mp3 file). I couldn't make out most of the lyrics, except for "Breasts not bombs, Peace not napalm...".
Following close behind them was Mr. Dicks Not Death.
The whole intent of the protest was to "freak out" the "normal people." As if to emphasize the point, the mural we were passing conveniently depicted some "squares" in business suits.
If this whole "let's shock the grownups" attitude seems a bit retro, a throwback to the most embarrassingly childish aspect of the '60s mindset, the mural again served to explain matters. Berkeley is stuck in the '60s; here it is, 2005, and the walls of Berkeley still show images of Kennedy and Johnson and Nixon and the Viet Cong, while the passing singers intone, "Peace not napalm." Who needs a time machine?
Sherry Glaser took up a position at the front, shouting defiant slogans through a bullhorn and exhibiting her stellar fashion sense.
The march continued up Telegraph. Unfortunately, aside from a few people coming over to snap pictures, no one seemed too "freaked out" at our arrival. Berkeley's social scene is an ever-escalating arms race between narcissistic showoffs trying to seize attention through outrageous behavior and smug cosmopolitan sophisticates who take pride in their blasé insouciance about everything. Who will win this battle?
The main drawback to repeatedly inflating your scrotum is that it tends to make your wee-wee look smaller and smaller.
Onward we marched. Sing along with me now: "Breasts not bombs...." Catchy, isn't it?
Many of the signs displayed slogans whose exact meaning eluded me.
There's a reason why societies have laws against men exposing themselves in public. As far as I'm concerned, forcing people to look at your genitals is a form of visual rape. Couching their exhibitionism in "politics," these protesters conveniently sidestepped the idea that their display might offend anyone who isn't a slackjawed hick or an uptight corporate drone. But you just know they're getting a thrill out of this. Politics? Who cares about politics? Look at my dick!
The marchers finally succeeded in eliciting some expressions of shock and horror from the tourists at the intersection of Durant and Telegraph. Much glee all around.
Now here is a pair of political messages that, combined, will really change the world: "Plant Peace in the Middle East" and "Dicks Not Death." Let's take this march to the streets of Tehran! I'm sure the Vice and Virtue Police would smile and wave as we walked past.
The protest was supposed to continue through the U.C. campus to downtown Berkeley, but U.C. police were awaiting us at the entrance to Cal; nudity may be completely acceptable to Berkeley's municipal police, but a few years ago the University of California was forced to adopt more stringent anti-nudity laws after a student dubbed himself "The Naked Guy" and walked around campus nude until they passed new rules to stop him. Rebuffed, we turned around and walked back down Telegraph.
I was thinking the time had come to finally put some clothes on, so I scanned the sidewalk booths for an appropriate shirt to buy. Here's a good one. Cute swastika.
Oooh, nice! I think I'll get one of these.
But then again, this looks like the perfect fashion statement. And only ten bucks. Not bad.
Malcolm and I bade my fellow naked protesters adieu. The march continued down the street until it eventually ran out of steam and petered out.
Then we all went home and put on our clothes.
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