Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Is putting frosted glass in the windows of public swimming pools:

1: A sensible idea: people are often deterred from participating in sport because they are self-conscious about their bodies.

2: Rather an odd idea: if you don't mind other swimmers seeing you in your swimming trunks, why would you be embarrassed if a passer-by happened to look in through the window.

3: An interesting example of how taboos and voyeurism work: it's inherently threatening to be looked at through a window, even if the other side of the window is a public place which anyone could enter.

4: An example of political correctness gone stark raving mad.


John H said...

Clearly the answer is #4, but there is also an element of social solidarity involved. Those inside the swimming pools are in the same boat (as it were) as you: they have exposed themselves to your gaze as you have exposed yourself to theirs. But those outside looking in break that solidarity by gaining access to your betrunked vulnerability without being exposed to your return scrutiny.

Hmm. Maybe I'm overthinking again, yes...?

Sam Dodsworth said...

#3, obviously. A window puts you on display in a way that just being out in public doesn't. Particularly if the swimming pool has a viewing gallery, as the one I used to go to when I was kid did. The fact that everyone has a camera phone these days may make a difference, too.

Or if I'm wrong and it's #4 then I'd guess that it's to "protect the children".

(As an aside, it occurs to me that paedophile panic probably connects to feminist theories of the male gaze and "lost innocence". I'll have to have a think about that.)

Andrew Rilstone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Rilstone said...

It's 4, of course, and it's about forcing human beings to swim in darkness to appease the Muslin hoard.

The thing about "the gaze" is interesting though: you saw the Daily Mail panic about Google Map? A Concerned Mother was horrified that a (presumably grainy and pixellated) image of her child playing naked in the garden was now available "on the internet" (i.e by people who looked at her front garden on Street View.) She was okay with the actual kid being seen by passing strangers, presumably: it was the idea of a photograph that worried her.

Sam Dodsworth said...

Yeah, one of the Desktop Support guys here had a mini-meltdown about Google Streetview last summer. It was very much in that vein, even though his children weren't visible.

That's one of the things I'm thinking about, although I haven't got very far yet. It starts with "apparently, just looking at children can harm them", and I _think_ it connects to the idea that, under patriarchy, sexuality is something that's bestowed by male desire. And there was an idiot in my gaming group who I remember holding forth on what a terrible, irreversible thing it was for a child to lose its innocence in a way that made think of the virgin/slut dichotomy.

But as I said, I'm still putting this together. It's possible that I've just got the "infantilization of women under patriarchy" thing turned around and pointed the other way.