We can trace the use of the middle finger way back to ancient Greece. This is important to know if you are time traveling in the West and cannot speak the local language. This symbol representing the phallus has carried the same meaning through most of Western time and culture. One slight variation on the gesture would be the extention of the thumb, which means in some areas “also up your bum” In Greek theater it was called the katapygon. The gesture was used mostly in comedy when one character would give it to another character to suggest he was known to submit to anal penetration.
For the Romans it carried the Greek meanings as well but was also used in fertility blessings and as a symbol to flashing when accusing someone of a shameful deed. In Medieval times it was a gesture that Knights flashed to opposing armies before a clash.
In 1886, Charles Radbourn was a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters. He was an intimidating pitcher known for throwing pitches that would graze batter’s ears and instill fear. In the team photo for 1886, Charles Radbourn can be seen in the upper left hand corner of the photo flipping off the photographer, marking the first known photograph of this gesture.
During the Korean War, POWs who were forced to pose in propaganda photos for the enemy often used the middle finger, having convinced the North Koreans that the gesture was a “good luck” symbol in Hawaiian.
In most US states the gesture is considered offensive but obscene, meaning it has first Amendment protection.
While in United Arab Emirates it still carries a death by stoning sentence. Travel Warning .
The middle finger gives the individual flipping it a feeling of empowerment even when the odds seem stacked against them. There are so many people that are deserving of the middle finger that I think we should all go out and give the gift of the finger to all who merit it.