“Obscene” is a nebulous, relative, and often accusatory term. It is defined in whichever dictionary pays Google to be the very top search result as “offensive or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency.” In other words: terrible, very bad, no good, gross! Obscenity in the department of gestures, as evidenced by the Obscene Gestures folder at the SVA library Pictures Collection, encompasses more than just the standard middle finger raise. It turns out there are several limb-or-appendage-based signs to demonstrate distaste, anger or a devil-may-care attitude. The category of obscene gestures is culturally and temporally specific, and ranges from spitting to fist-shaking to classic bird-flipping. These gestures and more are not only used by sassy teenagers, as chatty curmudgeons will claim, but also by protesters demonstrating resistance, sports players expressing a certain brand of competitiveness, and even old ladies disagreeing with their neighbours. Below are some of the SFW (safe for work) obscene gestures in the SVA folder. Come and flip through for more.

A crowd of protestors give the finger to something off camera.
A grumpy-looking, dirty man shakes his fist at the camera. A man in a suit looks on.
A woman leans out of her window and gives her neighbor the finger and pokes him with a stick. He holds a flag out of his window.
A hockey goalie spits.
A woman gives the finger.