A couple of weeks ago, I rounded up a few links on policing “imperfect” bodies (women’s bodies in particular). Here are a few more.
Watching the blogosphere coverage of Susan Boyle’s performance on the Britain’s Got Talent television show has been an a thought-provoking and often intensely discomforting experience (as was watching the video itself, though she does indeed have a gorgeous voice and sings with her whole body). Here are blog posts and threads I found particularly spot-on with regards to what’s off about the hype.
1) The Pursuit of Harpyness asks whether Susan Boyle’s performance at Britain’s Got Talent and the freak-show aspect of media coverage surrounding it is “Heartwarming or Heartbreaking?”
2) via radishette: What he said. Nailed it.
3) Courtney Martin writes: “I don’t think the majority of us are really willing to look at the ugly scripts in our heads, the fat discrimination, the self-hate (oh so relate to our merciless judgment of others),” that the popularity of the Susan Boyle video draws out.
And then: I’ve written a lot about how ageism hurts young people, and specifically about the American obsession with teen sexuality. Now here’s a story about Massachusetts attempting to legislate against elder expressions of sexuality. The legislation is ostensibly to protect elders and disabled individuals from exploitation (a laudable goal), but has been carelessly and broadly worded. Not cool adopted state.
*Image (c) ria hills @ flickr.
Thanks for the heads-up on the proposed MA bill. I can’t believe that will pass, but it’s fairly horrifying that its there in the first place.
Agreed, Amanda. As I said in my post, I imagine the intent of the bill comes from basically decent intentions: attempting to protect potentially vulnerable individuals from exploitation.
However, the fact that no one who drafted the bill felt it necessary to make a distinction between consensual and nonconsensual activity seems to me symptomatic of the way our culture really only imagines sexual expression as acceptable when it’s attached to people our culture deems “sexy.”
I feel like the mindset behind writing a bill like this is one of “older folks aren’t sexual, so sexualizing them is an activity that’s necessarily exploitative.” What a sad way to view human sensual/sexual identity!
I heard about the MA bill a week or two ago via the Volokh Conspiracy.
I don’t think, though, that the motivation is to de-sexualise people in their 60s (assuming that all sexual activity of that age must be exploitative), but rather ensures that convictions could be obtained for those who do exploit the elderly. The assumption is that consensual activity would never actually come to the attention of law enforcement officials; however, non-consensual activity would be much, much easier to prosecute.
We know from seeing the dismal results of attempting to prosecute rape cases that it is very difficult (both as a matter of law and in practise) to prove a lack of consent. A law like this will remove that barrier, thus increasing the feasibility of getting a conviction and, of course, making plea bargains much more likely.
Of course, that does not mean that this is the best way to go about ensuring that we live in a society free of sexual exploitation, but the motivating factors, I think, are different.