An interesting thing about Blogger™ is that it provides a certain level of reporting back to you regarding the audience, search terms, how readers find your blog, etc.
A while back, I posted a piece titled American Voyeurism and the Amish, in which I expounded on some terms and concepts recommended by The New York Times television critic Neil Ginzlinger regarding the recent PBS special on the Amish. In his piece, he made three points – the American obsession with the different or the other, America’s mostly superficial knowledge of their fellow Americans, and what he felt to be the carefully managed public image of the Amish (though I had pondered if it was not rather the American public that was in fact manipulating the image of the Amish for their own social psychological needs).
So my Blogger™ reports tell me that most people access the blog via various international Google™ searches, other blog sites and then Facebook™.
Most search terms revolve around people looking for photographs and information on Russian Mennonites, Ruβländer Mennoniten, etc. Interestingly, most searchers in this vein seemingly combine the two terms – Russian Mennonites, indicating that there is a strong ethnic identity revolving around that historical experience and evolving under the name Russian Mennonite. Russian Mennonites also apparently do like their horses – and pictures of horses.
The second largest group of searchers is seemingly looking for family history or genealogical information.
Finally, it is really mostly the French, the British and the Germans who seem to be more interested in the Postmodern aspect of the blog and Eastern Europeans in the Baltics, Russia and Romania who seemingly keep up with the news-based essays.
Back to topic, the two posts with an Amish bent – The Sheepish Identity of the Amish and the aforementioned voyeurism piece, are the most popular reads for the Amish label.
Somewhat disturbingly, a large number of search terms leading to the Gentzlinger essay topic combine the terms “voyeur,” “Amish”, “Amish girl”, and “erotic”, or somesuch very similar. There has yet to be a search term relating to “PBS special” or “Amish Grace” or many of the less loaded terms. Regrettably, I am not able to generate a permanent report or record of these terms.
I find this interesting for a couple of reasons. First, I did mention the fact that there seems to be a sort of Amish or plain clothes fetish. The prevalence of the search terms relating to this fetish is truly a bit eye opening and disturbing (hence the feeling of wanting to wag my finger at the reader and say “Shame on you!”
Secondly, there really is a sense of public objectification of the Amish and the Amish lifestyle manifesting itself through these search terms. This objectification demonstrates the potential failure of the American identity to fully compensate for a sense of otherness or to demonstrate an historic elasticity as to the factual diversity of the American experience. Also, it might indicate to a certain extent that the Amish have failed to establish personal ties and an identity to which the general public relates. While the voyeuristic attitude is probably quite small and an insignificant minority, there is a small danger that objectification plus voyeurism might often result in either an attitude of paternalistic interference such as might be occurring with Federal justice approaches to the Amish trials currently under way, or in a sense of victimization – such as had been the initial concern with the Schoolhouse Shootings.
In the worst case scenario (and there is no reason to believe that such is the case now), my perception from various readings is that there seems to be a link between certain attitudes of objectification leading to a feeling of release from basic or personal moral boundaries or impulses that would otherwise prevent a person or group from being targeted for certain crimes. I am thinking of the bullying of a special needs person, certain reported attitudes towards rape in certain cultures or a false sense of privilege vis-à-vis the rights and property of another.
Regardless, objectification robs individuals of their inherent rights, dignity and equality – even if this happens only theoretically or to a limited extent – it represents a less than acceptable attitude that must be addressed and prevented in terms of legal and social justice and in terms of personal and religious morality.
While there is in fact no “fetish material” available on my site, I am a bit disturbed that people are looking for it on the web. When individuals meet Amish women, they should be approaching them as equal, personable individuals, not as fetish objects, personally or socially.
In closing, a couple of other surprising search terms that I have found include strings for “gay” “Mennonite” and “gay” “Amish”, seemingly from university settings and Latin America. While one would expect social and identity norms of assimilated Mennonite groups in the United States and Canada to reflect the social realities and identities of the larger society, it is a bit interesting to see indications of alternative social identities manifest in Mennonite universities and the less assimilated Mennonite communities of South and Central America.
I wish it would be easier to draw these identities and attitudes out with a general survey or census as one would do with research groups in Canada or the USA.
Regardless, we are seemingly a much more complex society than is at first apparent or generally assumed. The trick is to avoid being objectified by our ethnicity into social fetishes that prevent our ability to relate to others or to be known of them.
American Voyeurism and the Amish
Discuss:Does Marv Kohlbeck's recent article in the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune represent a personal understanding or social objectification? How accurate is his perspective? Does this reflect a realistic and polite understanding of Amish individuals and culture or is he forcing them to conform to personal nostalgia?