We wrote about her ‘ruthless performance‘ in Edinburgh and now we hear from Katy Dye herself on society’s persistent fetishised infantilisation of women in Baby Face.
‘She’s so small!’
‘She’s so delicate.’
‘Aw I could just pick you up!’
‘I can fit my hands around your waist.’
All compliments I have received in my life which to some extent make it sound like I live up to the feminine ideal, right? Being able to fit the tick box criteria for feminine beauty standards by being a slight female is perhaps my strongest relationship to creating Baby Face. Because of my life experiences through the body I inhabit, I have always been drawn to explore the infantilisation of women. Having grown up in a culture saturated with pop references to infantile regression in the 90s and early 00s, I became interested in the process of creating this performance to explore where these impulses to infantilise women came from and the different traces it can leave on our bodies.
I have also become really interested in the hypocrisy of this issue. Infantile fetishisation of women is all around us in social media/pop culture/advertising and our own relationships. Yet it is a shameful and taboo subject that few would openly state an attraction towards. I am interested in the double standards placed on this issue, and why in some ways it appears infantilisation is encouraged in society – and yet at the same time condemned. We might know that adult babies and ABDL (adult baby diaper lover) sub culture exists, and this would be condemned as something ‘weird’, and ‘strange’. Yet Ariana Grande appearing like a 9-year-old in her music videos, cradling a dolls house, surrounded by children’s toys is absolutely fine – sexy even. The tension and fascination surrounding infantilisation in our culture is obvious.
I find the moral boundaries of what we are allowed to find attractive and sexy or not in terms of infantilisation of women, fascinating. We are all familiar with images of women in anime, who are the epitome of child women: schoolgirls/little girls/toddler looking girls – but with porn star bodies. Does the depiction of women in anime seem to make child porn less morally abhorrent or even permissible? The mixing of childlike and adult bodies confuses this space. We live in a society which claims to protect children and keep them safe, yet on the other hand the fetishization of childlike women is widely available and sought? The cosmetic industry and social media facial filters which encourage women to have baby soft skin are part of the same soup where women are simultaneously children and adults. The moral ambiguity of asking women to perform both these roles has driven me to create this show where I explore the hypocrisy of what we drink from our culture without questioning.
I have become interested in how we enact the infantilisation of women on an emotional and personal level. For example, I have noticed how I change my voice when speaking to figures of authority. I revert to a soft/high/babyish voice without even noticing it when speaking to a partner, weird right? Perhaps there is a perceived comfort in this non-confrontational Tinkerbell voice. Britney Spears (arguably one of the most infantilised female pop stars of all time), had an incredibly strong and adult singing voice as a child. At 16 years old after securing her record deal and in the creation of her hit single, Hit Me Baby One More Time, she was encouraged to sing in this babyish/nasal quality which was difficult to perform live – and ended up damaging her voice. The infantilisation of the female voice is a subconscious and embodied aspect of infantilisation that we enact day in, day out to our peers, our loved ones and to society as a whole. The marks left on the human body of infantilisation are clear, think back to the common practice of foot-binding which was designed to keep women fragile/delicate and dependent on help and physically disabled them. The process of infantilisation on women’s bodies is as physical as it is performed.
I am interested in the selective nature of how women are infantilised. Imagine iconic images of infantilised women: a girl sensually sucking her thumb, a woman licking a lolly pop, a woman babyishly sucking her fingers and cooing. These are childish images that bear no resemblance to the messy/ugly/smelly reality of childhood. This is something I was really interested in showing in Baby Face: what would the physical reality of being a baby as an adult woman actually be? Pooing, weeing, wailing, kicking, crying, drooling, body limbs out of control. Is this sexy? Is this really what you want?
Baby Face will be touring from February 7 at Glasgow’s Tron Theatre until March 23 at Harlow Playhouse Essex. For more information visit Katy’s website.