Week of October 27, 2004

Pack Mentality
Between the lines: While Malcolm Gay's article about the child who was asked to leave the Cub Scout troop was calculated to generate outrage, one thing became very clear: The leaders of the troop were concerned about the physical safety of the other children [Malcolm Gay, "Get Lost, Kid!" October 20].

It's easy, of course, to present only one side of a story, particularly when the leaders of the Scouts are saying very little. But as someone who works with kids, I can tell you just by their very careful wording that there was a compelling reason to ask that kid to leave, or they wouldn't have done it. Your reporter didn't bother to dig very hard to present that side.

Nobody who works with kids ever likes having to make those tough decisions, but sometimes they have to be made. Your editorial staff ought to hold themselves to higher standards than what you showed with this article.
Wade Hampton Miller
Chugiak, Alaska

Cro-Magnon Scouts: Wow, as the mom of two little boys who have autism, this article just pissed me off. Don't the Boy Scouts use the school as a recruitng ground, and aren't many activities held at the school like they are in most neighborhoods? If so, how can they possibly not have to follow the standards of the Americans With Disabilities Act if they are using publicly funded property?

It's sad that these Cro-Magnons are trying to teach these kids that separation is best when as a society we have come so far in the past twenty years. Some decent lawyer needs to take this case on and smack some sense into the Boy Scouts.
Margaret Keller
University City

All Nude Review
Naked and proud: As a 31-year-old female, I am proud that the Riverfront Times did not put so-called perfect, model-type women on the cover. Why? Because not everyone looks like the half-naked women that are shown in the back of the paper. We all cannot afford plastic surgery.

And I am personally appalled by the woman who "had to explain" to her children that nakedness is "wrong." Do we not come into this world naked? Should we allow society to tell us that there is something wrong with our bodies? We should be proud of our bodies. Porn is wrong to some and I can appreciate that, but the fact that a stupid woman would tell her children that it is wrong to be naked is unacceptable. She also states it is "disgusting." Were these women doing "disgusting" things to one another? Were they being tied up? Posed in degrading poses? No, these women were smiling and lying among other women.

To Chris Orlet of Columbia: I pray to God that you are the most perfectly sculpted man in the form of a true Adonis, because with the ignorant comments you made one can only imagine that you are truly the one perfect human being created in God's image. If you want to look at so-called perfect women, turn to the back and retreat to your bathroom, where I am sure you normally end up (lube in hand) by the time you get to the end of the RFT.

People keep using terms and statements suggesting that these women allowed something to be done to them -- OMG the Riverfront Times has turned into white slavers for the purpose of trying to promote freedom. (Wait, I am still laughing at that one.) To Jasmine McNeely: How was that photo sexist? And before you say these women were allowed to be "treated" in any way, perhaps an interview with those women explaining their feelings would be a good thing.
Zarabeth Friedman
St. Charles

One of fifty-seven: As a co-producer of Peace Out! (which was attended by over 800 people) and one of the women who posed for the giant peace sign on the RFT cover and helped to organize the photo shoot, I stand behind it wholeheartedly. Everyone who participated no doubt has their own perception of the experience and their intention.

From my perspective, was it intended to offend? No. Was it intended to shock? Well, yes. As the causalities mount for both Americans and Iraqis, bold measures are required to promote real conversation about the senseless path on which we are embarked. How can we break through the cacophony of sound bites and increasing claims on people's time and attention? A photo is one way. And I salute the courageous women who bared their bodies and souls to join in this effort.

If I am disappointed by anything, it is that little of the local media, including the RFT, took the time and space to substantially discuss the purpose of the photo, a purpose that goes far beyond our one-night event. Who were these women from such diverse walks of life? Why did they put themselves on the line? What were they trying to say? How did this gesture link up with similar efforts around the world?

But I guess that people still prefer to look at and talk about women, rather than to listen to what they have to say. I hope we can all do better next time.
Joan Lipkin, artistic director
That Uppity Theatre Company
St. Louis

What the hell is wrong with people? What the hell is wrong with people? There was not one thing offensive about the cover. The group of women in the photograph are a host of different ages and body types and is in no way pornographic. It is a work of art, and not something one should feel the need to hide from their children. Besides you're the motherfuckin' Riverfront Times -- if anybody can show a little skin, it's you guys.
Chris Bruemmer
St. Louis

Who among us doesn't love a peace symbol? The peace symbol is the most universal sign of love and tolerance, so I was surprised to find anyone opposed to your cover. The only way it could have been improved was to have both men and women forming it. Seeing that cover got me to attend the event that it was used to promote -- the Peace Out! at COCA. It was an amazingly wonderful display of spirituality and love for all of God's creatures. Everybody should get a tape of it, as it was the greatest event since major protests in the Vietnam era.
Reese Forbes

Well done, ladies! It's hard to believe how many people are so upset about having to look at a few naked ladies. Harder still to comprehend why so many women in particular have taken such affront to such a beautifully chosen form of protest.

I suppose it would have been more agreeable to St. Louis parents (and their children, who have certainly seen much more scarring things on the evening news) if the RFT had run a cover featuring a montage of mutilated Iraqis and American soldiers. No nudity there. And certainly nothing there to indicate love for the rest of humankind or the desire for an end to a senseless war.

To the women in the picture, I'd like to say "Well done, ladies." Way to speak up. Drastic times call for drastic measures. You certainly got people's attention. Isn't that the whole point of protest?
Jon Lumley
Rock Hill

Where's the outrage over the Steamers' balls? For all of those who remain appalled by the Riverfront Times' controversial cover photo of 57 naked women forming the human peace sign, please calm down. One reader, Angela Adams of St. Peters, stated that she had to "explain to my children why naked women are on the front of a newspaper." Her children are five, three and two. I may not be a licensed child psychologist, but believe me, Ms. Adams, at that age I doubt your children are headed down the path of vile thoughts and deeds after having seen that cover. Hell, when in doubt tell them the truth. Tell your young ones that these women were protesting war and how wars kill innocent people and children.

I haven't heard the indignant outrage over the St. Louis Steamers' blatantly sexist ad that has appeared all over town for weeks! And you guys at the RFT, if you run or print something controversial that sparks public condemnation, don't waffle under pressure and state that it was all one big mistake. If it was a mistake, considering it was the front cover, that's an even worse indictment of your organization.
Greg Gibson

Emily got the message: When I saw the October 13 issue, I was thrilled that finally a journalist had the guts to report something real. Imagine the letdown I had a week later, when due to negative feedback the RFT tried to cover its ass and claimed that the photo was an accident. I don't believe that for a second.

Accident or not, the really sad part of the story is that no one got the message. This wasn't an example of public indecency, journalistic sensationalism or pornography. I couldn't believe all the letters comparing this photo to the pornography industry or condemning the women because they were flaunting their bodies for attention. The naked human body is a pure and innocent thing, and in this case a conduit for peace. It only becomes the sexual thing that some people seem to fear in unnatural circumstances.

I would not hesitate to let a child see this picture. It is time for our children to learn to love the human body, not fear it. We need to see the difference between posing nude for Playboy, or even posing nude so someone can sell more papers, and what these women did. They posed naked in the shape of a peace sign to civilly protest current government actions and to promote a message of world peace. To convey their message, they used their own human bodies -- a beautiful gift from God -- and they should be applauded, not shamed.
Emily O'Keefe
St. Louis

Help wanted: Your apology sounded like bullshit. If that really and truly was a "mistake," you need a new editor for the cover layout and proofs. I had no problem with the cover. I thought it was very bold, but don't try and pussyfoot out of your intentions.
Keith A. Dockins
St. Louis

Inept -- or thoughtless liars? I am severely underwhelmed by your statement that the cover picturing nude women was a mistake. Am I to believe that you genuinely made a mistake as to the cover of your newspaper? A mistake? If you cannot get your cover right, what does that say about the content and facts of your paper?

Sadly for this community, your civic duty to present alternative and otherwise neglected news and information has been abused and neglected. Your newspaper, for me, is no longer credible. Either you are completely inept at your job or you lie without the thought of consequence.
Paul Lampe

Inept -- or careful liars? This old conservative wouldn't pop a gasket at this photo on the local paper. As far as I'm concerned, the human body is just fine; we've all got one. Far from hiding my kids from the picture, I would draw their attention to it and use it as the basis for discussion of peaceful protest.

I'm not sure that the various comparisons to pornography are apt; I would say that those publications are covered because of the poses, not due to the mere presence of a nekkid body. There's certainly no prurient intent to this photo.

I was disappointed by your explanation of an inadvertent photo switch that no one caught; certainly it would be hard to make such an obvious mistake. I can't help but think that your editorial staff is more careful than that.
James Payne
Perkinsville, Vermont

Stand up, wouldya? I don't believe your Peace Out! cover was a mistake, and I'm disappointed that you aren't standing up to all of your disappointed "readers." I feel sorry for you and all of the people who were offended by it. I thought it was a beautiful cover and I'm glad you did it. It was not sexual or harmfully sexist like so many ads we see elsewhere, every day.
Rachel Smith
St. Louis

Last week in Malcolm Gay's news story "Get Lost, Kid!" we erroneously referred to Phil Ferguson as dean of the College of Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Ferguson is a professor in the College of Education.

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