Anásyrma (Ancient Greek: ανάσυρμα), plural: anasýrmata (ανασύρματα), also called anasyrmós (ανασυρμός), is the gesture of lifting the skirt or kilt. It is used in connection with certain religious rituals, eroticism, and lewd jokes, see e.g. Baubo. The term is used in describing corresponding works of art. Anasyrma differs from flashing, a physically similar gesture as an act of exhibitionism, in that an exhibitionist has an implied purpose of his/her own sexual arousal, while anasyrma is done only for the effect on the onlookers.
Anasyrma may be a deliberately provocative self-exposing of one's naked genitals and/or buttocks. The famous example of the latter case is Aphrodite Kallipygos ("Aphrodite of the beautiful buttocks"). In many traditions, this gesture also has an apotropaic character, as a mockery or means to ward off a supernatural enemy, analogous to mooning.
Greek antiquity 
Ritual jesting and intimate exposure were common in the cults of Demeter and Dionysus, and figure in the celebration of the Eleusinian mysteries associated with these divinities. The mythographer Apollodorus says that Iambe's jesting was the reason for the practice of ritual jesting at the Thesmophoria, a festival celebrated in honor of Demeter and Persephone. In other versions of the myth of Demeter, the goddess is received by a woman named Baubo, a crone who makes her laugh by exposing herself, in a ritual gesture called anasyrma ("lifting [of skirts]"). A set of statuettes from Priene, a Greek city on the west coast of Asia Minor, are usually identified as "Baubo" figurines, representing the female body as the face conflated with the lower part of the abdomen. These appeared as counterparts to the phalluses decorated with eyes, mouth, and sometimes legs, that appeared on vase paintings and were made as statuettes.
Terracotta figurines of hermaphrodites in the anasyromenos pose, with female breasts and male genitals exposed, have been found in Athens dating back to the 4th century BCE. Ancient literature suggests that the figurines are of the Cyprian hermaphroditic deity Aphroditus, whose cult was introduced into mainland Greece around the 5th–4th century BCE. The revealed phallus was believed to have apotropaic magical powers, deflecting the evil eye and bestowing good luck. The revealing pose may have been borrowed from much earlier Middle Eastern female deities.
Apotropaic effect of nakedness 
Many historical references suggest that anasyrma had dramatic or supernatural effect - positive or negative. Pliny the Elder wrote that a menstruating woman who uncovers her body can scare away hailstorms, whirlwinds and lightning. If she strips naked and walks around the field, caterpillars, worms and beetles fall off the ears of corn. Even when not menstruating, she can lull a storm out at sea by stripping.
According to folklore, women lifted their skirts to chase off enemies in Ireland and China. A story from The Irish Times (September 23, 1977) reported a potentially violent incident involving several men, which was averted by a woman exposing her genitals to the attackers. According to Balkan folklore, when it rained too much, women would run into the fields and lift their skirts to scare the gods and end the rain. In Jean de La Fontaine's Nouveaux Contes (1674), a demon is repulsed by the sight of a woman lifting her skirt. Associated carvings, called sheela na gigs, were common on medieval churches in northern Europe and the British Isles.
In some nations of Africa, a woman stripping naked and displaying herself is still considered a curse and a means to ward off evil. As women give life, they can take it away. In Nigeria, among other places, women invoked the curse only under the most extreme circumstances, and men who are exposed are considered dead. No one will cook for them, marry them, enter into any kind of contract with them or buy anything from them. The curse extends to foreign men as well, who will go impotent or suffer some great harm.
In Nigeria, during mass protests against the petroleum industry, women displayed themselves in anasyrma. Leymah Gbowee used anasyrma when trying to bring peace during the Second Liberian Civil War.
See also 
- Blackledge, C. (2003). The Story of V: A Natural History of Female Sexuality. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. 12.
- Aileen Ajootian. "Hermaphroditos ανασυρόμενος: Revealing the Body" (PDF). University of Mississippi. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Pliny the Younger. "xxviii. c.23". Natural History.
- "UCLA/article.asp?parentid=117670 UCLA International Institute". UCLA International Institute. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Marina Abramovic. "Balkan Erotic Epic". Artnet. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- "The Ivory Coast Effect" (article). The New Yorker. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-22.
- "The Curse of Nakedness". Imow.org. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- "Naked Ploy Is Latest Threat in Oil Wars". Commondreams.org. 2002-07-31. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- "The Rabble Rousers". Oprah.com. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- Wesleyan.edu - Homeric hymn to Demeter.
- Weber-Lehmann, C. (1997/2000)) "Anasyrma und Götterhochzeit. Ein orientalisches Motiv im nacharchaischen Etrurien", in: Akten des Kolloquiums zum Thema: Der Orient und Etrurien. Zum Phänomen des 'Orientalisierens' im westlichen Mittelmeerraum. Tübingen.
Further reading 
- Hairston, Julia L. (Autumn 2000) "Skirting the Issue: Machiavelli's Caterina Sforza," Renaissance Quarterly. Vol. 53, No. 3., pp. 687–712.
- Marcovich, M. (September 1986) "Demeter, Baubo, Iacchus, and a Redactor," Vigiliae Christianae. Vol. 40, No. 3. pp. 294–301.
- Säflund, Gösta. (1963) Aphrodite Kallipygos, Almqvist & Wiksell, Stockholm, Sweden.
- Stoichita, Victor I.; Anna Maria Coderch. (1999) Goya: The Last Carnival, Reaktion Books. pp. 118. ISBN 1-86189-045-1
- Thomson De Grummond, Nancy. (2006) Etruscan Myth, Sacred History, and Legend, UPenn Museum of Archaeology. ISBN 1-931707-86-3
- Zeitlin, Froma I. (1982) Cultic models of the female: Rites of Dionysos and Demeter, Arethusa. pp. 144–145.