Posted by Irresponsibility
Another red-letter day for women as a panel of Dutch judges imprison a 13-year-old girl and order her to undergo psychological analysis for having the gall to want to sail around the world singlehanded. Born at sea, Laura Dekker lived on a boat till she was four and has sailed solo across the North Sea. Plenty of (male) teenagers have been feted for daring solo-sailing feats but not Laura Dekker. The Netherlands – notable proponents of women’s freedom to lock themselves in glass-fronted booths and sell their bodies to leering passersby – have suddenly developed a keen paternalistic interest in the mental health of a girl who craves the freedom of the open sea. “She would be confronted with difficult situations that will challenge her mentally and physically,” Judge M Oostendorp declared omininously as part of the ruling that removed Dekker from her father’s care and placed her under the jurisdiction of social services. Does this mean that Judge Oostendorp believe that landlocked 13-year-old girls exisit in a frilly Utopia entirely innocent of phsyical and mental challenges? Even the most amnesiac adult must have an inkling that the cruelties of the schoolyard can be as scary as a force-4 gale.
There is more to it than the overt paternalism, though the ruling serves as a neat reminder to “wayward” girls and enlightened parents that if families don’t enforce sufficient levels of gender oppression the State will do it for them. The malicious undercurrent in the judges’ verdict is this: girls are only suited for certain mental and physical challenges. Nobody orders psychological tests for 13-year-old girls like Kianna, who crave silicone tits, saying: “I don’t like…my breasts…I spend almost 100% of my life thinking about it.” Nor is there a public outcry when childlike teenage girls have titanium pins screwed onto broken bones so they can continue flinging themselves through the brutal routines of gymnastics. These are acceptable mental and phsyical challenges because they reinforce the essential elements of femininity: masochism and performance.
Suffering, subjugated, self-mutilating girls grow up to be passive, approval-seeking women. Objects. Girls like Laura Dekker — whose choice of activities and expression don’t involve standing in front of a mirror and hating what they see, or throwing up between bouts of being bullied by their (male) coaches — threaten to become subjects. The idea sends a shiver through the patriarchy. Mere anarchy, loosed upon the world.
Even if Laura Dekker survives two months of house arrest and a battery of psychological tests designed, undoubtedly, to determine how “normal” (i.e. masochistic and passive) she is, the damage is done. She will spend the rest of her life knowing she will be punished for exhibiting independence or ambition. Other audacious girls will learn to keep quiet, or channel their energy into suitably self-defeating activities like trying to be pretty or popular.
In a fantastically indicative Freudian slip The Times report Laura’s parents are both “round-the-world yachtsmen”. Because, according to the rules of femininity, no female with the gumption to navigate a boat around the world can be a real woman.