Usually when you hear about women protesters stripping to get attention for "the cause," they're the hairy-legged, Volvo-driving, Birkenstock type (as one of my psych profs used to say), going topless to stymie loggers from chopping down trees.
The age-old tradition – just think of Lady Godiva going nude to get burdensome taxes lightened – has other practitioners as well.
Most recently, Zambian women have sloughed shirts to protest political corruption in their government. And just this week, "Medical Marijuana Barbie" doffed her top – and everything else – on Oxford St. in London, one of the busiest shopping centers in all of Britain.
According to a press release detailing the stunt, the buxom lady "climbed atop a bus stop to show her support for the worldwide campaign to legalize cannabis and to ask for the release of Colin Davies, medical marijuana patient and inmate of Strangeways Prison in Manchester, UK."
That would all be pretty blas? if it weren't for the next detail:
"The irrepressible MMB, complete with diamond studded tiara, entertained a crowd of thousands as she stripped to loud cheers and applause, revealing a hand-painted marijuana leaf where a fig leaf should be and the slogan 'Medical Marijuana' inscribed on her bum."
That got attention alright, but from the photos accompanying the press release, it's easy to see why the audience was cheering, and it had nothing do with marijuana.
Medical Marijuana Barbie is a character created by Tracy Blevins, comptroller for New York's Medical Marijuana Party, and is the star attraction of Blevins' one-woman "Medical Marijuana Traveling Circus Sideshow," designed to garner support for the legalization of medical pot.
Besides her breasts, the best thing Blevins has going for her cause is a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Texas Houston Medical School. "I get 'em with the Barbie and keep 'em when they hear about the Ph.D.," she told the Palm Beach Post in November 2000.
But does she? Sure, parting with a bra and panties is going to pull some eyes. But what do the gawkers support, legalizing medpot or your bust? Will they become bosom buddies with the cause or simply your bosoms?
Take a different example. Abbie Hoffman was big on guerilla theater in the 1960s, doing anything nutty to get attention for the antiwar, yippy movement. But as Saul Alinsky points out in "Rules for Radicals," antics aren't everything – communication of ideas is – and stunts can get in the way. If the antics are objectionable to the people to whom you intend to communicate, they won't hear the accompanying message. It's that simple.
It may be in England that folks are fine with naked spokeswomen, but that doesn't play well in America, especially among the people who need convincing about legalizing marijuana the most – conservatives.
As someone who supports the legalization of cannabis completely, and not just for medical reasons, I find the antics of people like Blevins annoying. I'm a Christian, socially conservative and much prefer folks stay well-adorned in public. But beyond my scruples, I don't want the legalization movement known for shirtless stunts so much as the merits of legalization, which are many.
It is like the annoyance some Libertarians feel being associated with Art Bell and Howard Stern. Guys like that can bring attention to the party, yes, but they can also make the party look like a pack of kooks.
Likewise, for the sheer shock value in sporting a set of breasts, Blevins runs the risk of making the drug legalization community look like a bunch of, pardon me, boobs.