Over the years, I’ve come across some very clever protest actions, but here’s one that just beats the pants off all the others.
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It’s an international women’s protest against the brutal military dictatorship in Burma, and it’s called “Panties for Peace.” I kid you not. But while it’s playful, it definitely is not to be laughed at.
Launched by the Lanna Action for Burma Committee, based in Thailand, this creative group learned that the thuggish military men oppressing the people of Burma are not only brutal, but also very, very superstitous. It turns out that one of their phobic beliefs is that they must never, ever come into contact with female undies, because even to touch a pair of knickers would sap them of their strength.
Thus, the Action for Burma group has invited women everywhere to ship their undergarments to Burmese embassies throughout the world as a calculated cultural insult to the ruling junta of General Than Shwe, who is said to be especially superstitous. One group of women sent 140 pairs of their dainties to Burma’s embassy in Geneva, and Burmese embassies in England, Australia, Singapore, and several European countries are also under underwear seige.
Liz Hilton, one of the Action for Burma activists, notes that the junta is famous for its abuse of women, including using rape as a weapon of war, so this protest action “is a way for women around the world to express their outrage.” She adds that she and others are exasperated by the failure of world leaders to do anything effective about the regime’s repression, so delivering scads of scivvies allows ordinary women to send a personal and culturally-powerful message of rejection to the junta.
In case you want to send your own message, the address of Burma’s U.S. embassy is 2300 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008.