Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Susan Boyle Reveals Society's Enduring Bigotry

First, read Courtney's post "Susan Boyle Reveals Society's Enduring Bigotry." She begins:

I feel like I may have been the last person on earth to watch the video of 47-year-old Brit Susan Boyle taking all the "Britain's Got Talent" folks by surprise with her beautiful voice. This morning, nearly 40 million people have seen the clip on YouTube. So what gives? Why is this striking such a global chord? Well, from a feminist perspective, there are some really compelling explanations. First of all, Susan Boyle defies just about every one of the "ideal beauty" standards that have such a tight grip on the recording industry.

Now, read Aristotle's ideal beauty:

θηλειω̂ν δὲ ἀρετὴ σώματος μὲν κάλλος καὶ μέγεθος, ψυχη̂ς δὲ σωφροσύνη καὶ φιλεργία ἄνευ ἀνελευθερίας.
A female’s good character really comes from a body with a good large figure, but also from a personality with wise submissiveness and affection for work without preoccupation from freedoms.

--Rhetoric 1361a


John Radcliffe said...

These sorts of attitudes rarely surprise, but frequently annoy.

One British newscast referred to her as "the 47-year-old spinster", which had me asking: would a man have been described as "the 47-year-old bachelor"? I don't think so. Personally, when it comes to buying a CD of a female singer the last thing I'm interested in is what she looks like. I can't hear that when she sings, so why would it be important? On the other hand, what she sounds like when she sings (but not when she speaks) is extremely important.

Similarly, I don't tend to watch musical performances (TV or DVD) unless I'm interested in the musicians' technique. But judging by the importance of the "music video" perhaps I'm in a minority. Of course if I find a female singer "visually attractive", I may watch for that reason; but it doesn't mean I'll conclude she's a great singer.

J. K. Gayle said...

Good points, John, about our English language habits being more likely to let disparagement of a woman slide more than counterpart disparagement of a man. Beauty is, as you suggest, in many different not-necessarily directly-related dimensions. When gender and female gender is the essential(izing) dimension, then there are issues. Last evening, just saw the incredible film "The Soloist" which attends to the "attractive" vs "talented" issues rather well. Thanks again for your comments!