from the

Defend ABC and Nicolette Sheridan while You Still Can

Sometimes a story comes along that is more than news, more than a soundbyte to be considered briefly before moving on. The recent uproar over a Monday Night Football commercial with a semi-nude Nicolette Sheridan is just such a story.

In case you haven't heard already, the commercial was a cross promotion for ABC's new series Desperate Housewives and Monday Night Football. In it, Nicolette Sheridan playfully attempts to get the attention of Philadelphia Eagles star Terrell Owens by dropping the towel she's wearing and jumping into his arms. Sheridan was shown only from the back, and was never nude anyway. But this, according to the flood of protests received by the FCC, is "pornographic", "offensive" and will possibly earn ABC a $32,500 fine for "obscenity".

ABC backpedalled instantly, apologizing for the spot and saying that it was "inappropriate and unsuitable for our 'Monday Night Football' audience." They were just one of a chorus of voices adding their opinion to the skit, including Michael Powell, chairman of the FCC, who alluded to the fact that Disney owns ABC by saying "I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud."

Indianopolis Colts coach Tony Dungy expressed his disdain for the spot, even going as far as to say it was also racist because Owens is black and Sheridan white. He was most concerned about his teenage sons, however, saying "When we turn on 'Monday Night Football,' you're expecting to see football. I want my boys to watch that. I don't want them to see what they saw."

This is just the latest in a series of sobering events involving censorship, political correctness gone mad, and the mass moralizing hysteria that seems to be gripping the United States. Just last week, 66 television stations were too afraid to air the compelling war drama Saving Private Ryan uncut because of its use of foul language. And no one will soon forget the outrage and $550 000 fine aimed at CBS for their accidental exposure of Janet Jackson's nipple. But this latest incident is perhaps the most frightening of them all.

If we now live in a culture where the mere glimpse of a woman's unclothed back is offensive, where the mere suggestion that a football player might want to spend time with a woman rather than throw a pigskin around a field with other men is considered indecent - we're all in serious trouble. When a man wants his sons to watch the inanity of a bunch of grown men spending their lives playing a game but doesn't 'want them to see what they saw', as though it were footage from a crime scene - as a woman, I feel myself growing angrier and more than a little afraid.

How long will it be before women themselves are branded 'offensive'? Certainly we have the puritanical Right making every assault they can against even the most innocent and joyful sexuality - how long can it be before even the sight of a woman is called obscene and damaging to children?

Does anyone care how Nicolette Sheridan must be feeling right about now? After all, she's responsible for all this 'indecency', right? She let people see her spine, after all. She let people think, even for a moment, even within the confines of a commercial, that a grown man might appreciate her feminity. She served as a reminder to all the so-called red blooded men watching a sport built on testoterone that there are other, more enjoyable uses for that hormone. And she did it all freely, happily, with a good sense of humor. What an outrage.

What lesson are women to take from this latest attack on female beauty, sexuality - on femaleness itself? Should we be getting fitted out for burquas now, in preparation for the time when fanatical religious groups of all faiths decide that the only good woman is an invisible one? Should we all cower away from public attention of any kind - conceal our bodies, refrain from appearing on television or the radio (goodness knows our voices can be sexy, what about all the poor children listening?), lock ourselves away so that kids aren't scarred for life by the sight of us?

This isn't an issue of decency, or virtue, or morality. This isn't the kind of thing that can be dismissed by a cavalier "it isn't women we hate, it's indecency." Hating the sight of a nude, semi-nude or fully clothed woman is hating the sight of a woman, period. Believing that children will be harmed by the sight of a nude woman - forgetting that it was a nude woman who conceived them and a nude woman who bore them - is tantamount to believing that children will be harmed by the sight of a woman, period. Labelling the flirtatious interplay between a grown man and woman (of whatever race, it should go without saying) 'filth' is nothing more than an attempt to label all romantic and sexual chemistry between the sexes 'filth'. And it is these medieval, hysterical ideas that fuelled the flames of the witchhunts and inquisitions and which will reduce us to the Dark Ages again.

There is an object lesson here for anyone who cares to see it. Women are only truly free in societies in which they are not restricted, loathed, distrusted and abused because of their very womanhood. And in societies which view women this way - the ones that cloak their women in suffocating bags, render them rightless, murder them for the slightest violation of a barbaric moral code - it all began with a zealous condemnation of women's beauty. Now it is beginning to happen here.

I, for one, applaud Nicolette Sheridan for being brave and beautiful, fearless and feminine. I would encourage my children to see her commercial. I would gladly take on my parental responsibilty of answering any questions they might have about it, instead of leaving it up to the religious right to decide for them how evil it is. And I will defend with my dying breath the right of any woman to revel in her feminity, and live in peace because of it.

Recommended Action

Send an e-mail to the FCC:

Michael K. Powell, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Powell,

I applaud ABC's recent airing of the playful commercial featuring Nicolette Sheridan and Terrell Owens. I found it an enjoyable example and re-affirmation of our great country's willingness to allow women complete personhood in every way, including sexually and romantically. And I support everyone involved. The FCC's power to impose financial sanction in this case amount to nothing less than censorship of women's rights and freedoms.I ask that you not find that ABC violated any indecency codes, and that you not punish them with fines for merely celebrating what makes men and women attracted to each other. Stop the onslaught of overzealous censorship, religious fundamentalism, and moral imperialism, and make a stand for those of us who value women, their beauty, and the life-affirming interplay between the sexes.

(Feel free to modify and sign it.)

Primary Phone: 888.225.5322
Fax: 202.418.0710
E-Mail: Michael K. Powell

Additional coverage: Must register first with the Washington Post

Related Topics: The FCC

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