A Revealing Look at Louisiana’s History of Flashing at Mardi Gras
If you were to ask any seasoned Mardi Gras veteran to name ten things you'll see on a Mardi Gras parade route I would hazard to wager that 99% of those lists would contain the word "boobs".
Shocking, we know.
We are also aware that the concept of nudity, public nudity at that, frightens the heck out of some of you. But the practice of raising a shirt to collect some beads is a tradition in Louisiana that goes back a lot further than your views on what is acceptable and not at Mardi Gras.
Now before we go too much further in this conversation, almost every municipality in the state has laws governing what body parts can or cant' be exposed in public. The female breast is one of those that you're not supposed to see in the streets.
This is kind of ironic when you consider that some shirtless men you see at Mardi Gras have the same equipment, at least on the outside, that the girls do, but it's okay for them to get sunburned nipples.
So, how and why did the practice of "flashing for beads at Mardi Gras" get started. Many people believe the practice of earning beads that way got its start in the 1970s. That's when the women's rights movement was really taking hold across the country and many females took exception to the irony I just described. That's the irony of men being able to go shirtless and women being held to a different standard.
But if you're thinking it was the raucous 70s or the "free love" 60s that brought out the "girls" to get the beads at Mardi Gras you'd be wrong. In fact, you'd be wrong by about 60 or 70 years.
The website Bustle reports that the Times-Democrat Newspaper which was published in New Orleans from 1881 to 1914 reported and documented a "degree of immodesty exhibited by nearly all female masqueraders seen on the streets." The newspaper article also reported a lot of intoxicated individuals as well. So, there could have been a connection between the two.
For a lot of us, the idea of "show me something before I throw you something" is not how we Mardi Gras. In fact, most of the locals in New Orleans don't really appreciate the practice of flashing for beads. In communities like Lafayette and Lake Charles, the practice is by far the exception and not the rule.
If we are being honest, it's also creepy. It really puts women, all women who attend Mardi Gras in a precarious position. Because the practice is widely known drunk creeps feel the Mardi Gras holiday is just an excuse to say offensive things to women. It's not. So don't do it. In fact, don't even ask.
One source we spoke to in New Orleans said there are a lot of tourists who believe that the male counterpart to the female lifting the shirt is the dropping of the trousers. That won't get you beads on Bourbon Street. That will get you arrested, really quickly too. Nobody wants to see that n the street and the police have less than zero tolerance for such misguided behavior.
There is a great book I am very familiar with regarding the use and more importantly the misuse of alcohol. It states that alcohol is "cunning, baffling, and powerful". That's the truth. Booze will trick you into doing things that make no sense for beads that cost less than a nickel to make.
That's your Mardi Gras history lesson for now. Maybe in future articles, we can uncover the first use of "dog bones" for drinking and exactly why every Mardi Gras float feels the need to crank their music up to the point of unintelligible distortion as they roll by.
Krewe of Rio Parade 2022