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a silent salute: The audience "claps" at Joke Night during Deaf Awareness week. Click Arts&Life for a link to story. / Photo by Leah Lopshire

Today's word on journalism

December 15, 2008

As part of my own personal "war on Christmas" (which a Utah state senator has offered legislation to outlaw), the WORD celebrates the season by going on hiatus until January. May all out days be merry and bright, and here’s to a safe, healthy and saner New Year. HoHoHo!

Empty Minds: "Of all the people expressing their mental vacuity, none has a better excuse for an empty head than the newspaperman: If he pauses to restock his brain, he invites onrushing deadlines to trample him flat. Broadcasting the contents of empty minds is what most of us do most of the time, and nobody more relentlessly than I."

--Russell Baker, Pulitzer-winning columnist

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Laws against saggy pants are over the top

By Amanda Mears

November 7, 2008 | It's time to crack down on serious issues like drugs, underage drinking and, of course, sagging pants. In February 2008, lawmakers in Riviera Beach, Fla., passed a law banning baggy pants. They are just one of many cities across the southern United States trying to prevent the horrific crime of young men exposing their underwear in public.

Orlando Sen. Gary Siplin, who sponsored the bill, claims the sagging pants trend was made popular by rap artists after being used by prison inmates as a signal they were looking for sex.

Fair enough, seeing as how fashion stemming from inmates has often been the subject of law enforcement scrutiny and for a good reason. However, trouble arises when the gender card is thrown out there. If a man wearing baggy pants sends the message "I'm looking for sex," what does a woman wearing a low-cut shirt or ultra short skirt signify? If the government is going to start regulating fashion trends for having crude underlying messages, how can they possibly draw the line at baggy pants? These questions arise as the decision about how far, exactly, the government can go concerning cracking down on clothing choices without completely ignoring the rights of U.S. citizens.

In some cases, baggy pants are being outlawed simply because the community does not like the look. According to a news article by Lis Wiehl, three towns in Louisiana have banned sagging pants because of "complaints from 'decent families and communities' that believe these belt-less boys are disrespecting their elders, and furthermore, that this behavior represents a lack of parental supervision."

If a presumed lack of parental supervision is cause for the state to step in and play baby-sitter, then I would also like them to patrol the obnoxious teenagers who skate past me at the mall with their wheelie shoes, and the little children in the grocery store who punch bags of chips while their parent is nowhere to be found.

Patrolling who is and is not wearing a belt might sound like a silly story, but it is one with underlying connotations and various repercussions. For instance, the maximum penalty in Riviera Beach for repeat "baggy pant" offenders is 60 days in jail. In Louisiana, violators can face up to six months in jail coupled with a $500 fine for sagging waistlines. This begs the question, don't law enforcement officials have better things to do with their time? Utah rebels better pray that officials don't catch wind of this new rule, or else I know a few middle-schoolers who will be continuing their education in juvenile detention.

The solution for this problem is simple. Let people wear what they want to wear, as long as it does not violate reasonable laws concerning public decency. I know I would much rather see a strip of fabric covering a gap between someone's pants and shirt then the flash of a sparkley thong or butt crack as I walk down the street. So, if lawmakers are itching for some crack-coverage maybe they should first target the overwhelming amount of women who commit this fashion faux pas.

Finally, leave parenting up to parents. The city of Riviera Beach claims that the recent law is aimed at teenagers, but if that is the case, perhaps they should leave it to school districts and parents to decide what children are wearing. Schools have dress codes for a reason, and until it becomes a serious problem, what is wrong with simply handing out detentions for breaking rules inside an educational area, rather than imposing fines and sending offenders to jail.

NW
MS

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