Monday, February 1, 2010

What If Scott Brown Were….

image

There is really nothing remarkable about this photo.   Scott Brown recently ran and won the seat of the now deceased lion of the senate, Teddy Kennedy.   What is interesting about this image, is that it did not become synonymous with what he stood for.   It did not serve as an indicator of his morals.

What I mainly want to ask about this photo is simply this, what if Scott Brown were a man of colour?  How would our understanding of this image change?  Can anyone even imagine for one moment what would have happened, if an image of Obama posed like this had surfaced during the primaries?  Scott Brown was able to display his body and still win an election because White male bodies are not viewed as threatening.  Had Obama posed for the same image, we would have heard commentary regarding his aggressive sexuality.

Whiteness controls social discourse and as such the ability to frame this image as benign is well within its power.  Heterosexual White male sexuality is understood as naturally occurring and because we have so normalized it, Browns picture is not understood as problematic.  Whiteness and masculinity frame our understanding of the image.

This image is further interesting when we consider what would have happened had this been a female politician.  When Hillary Clinton wore a blouse that revealed cleavage the commentary was shaming and yet she clearly revealed far less skin that Brown did.  No woman could be elected for any position if she had posed for a nude photo.

This photo tells us many things about society.  It tells us who controls discourse and what bodies are naturalized. Brown is able to look at this photo with no regrets because he knows that he will always be viewed as more than a body, whereas; a woman or a man of colour will always be reduced to only their physical bodies, no matter what else they have to offer.  Even in his nakedness, Brown is not truly vulnerable because White masculinity works to shield and uplift him.