If you want to show your buttocks in Idaho, put on a ballet


From the Argus Observer in Idaho comes a lovely story about naked hockey players that would have delighted the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, author of Distinction, in which he argues that social difference is legitimized through culture.

As a warm-up to his theme, Bourdieu cites in the introduction to the book  two reviews of nudity on the Parisian stage. The first describes the ‘inviolable purity’ of French ballerinas at the Opéra, even when they appear naked, the second is a ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells (or whatever the French equivalent is)’ review of the musical Hair. Bourdieu’s point is that nudity seems to be OK as long as it happens in the right circles and with the right level of abstraction (i.e. naked sylphs) but loses its legitimacy in a musical like Hair.

So back to Idaho and the Idaho Junior Steelheads hockey team, who have been temporarily banned from using Idaho Ice World as a punishment for playing ‘strip hockey’, losing a garment for every missed shot and so on. One 17-year old got as far as showing his buttocks, which caused a neighbouring ice-rink visitor to complain, and now the police are investigating.

The Argus Observer explains: “The city forbids people from showing their buttocks in public, largely to curb erotic dance parlors. Exemptions include dance, ballet, music or dramatic performances, or artistic displays.”

Now that’s handy, because as part of my research for another project, I’m having to come up with a working definition of ‘ballet’. But now I have at least one which even the police department of Idaho will be happy with: ballet is an art form where you can show your buttocks in public without getting arrested.

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