This is an open letter to the Eurovision Song Contest, and to Hostess Petra Mede regarding her recent use of a straitjacket joke and the impact such jokes have on the social stigma of mental health. In it, I hope to explain to both her and the staff of the Eurovision Song Contest itself exactly what is wrong with straitjackets. Strong Language Warning.
Dear Eurovision Hostess Petra Mede,
I’m writing in the hopes of educating you on some of the issues those of us with mental illnesses have with the joke you made at our expense during the show. Now since I live in the United States, I did not see your attempt at humor live. Since my website is often mistaken for the nonprofit in the UK that shares the name Mental Health Matters, I tend to get sent news and information about events that happen “across the pond” as they say.
After being informed about your remarks, the other day, I felt the need to explore the events for myself and see just how bad it really was.
Oh Petra. Petra, Petra, Petra. Now I’m not Angry. I’m just very disappointed.
You seem like a very smart young woman, Petra. Why do you feel the need to resort to such a bad joke in the first place, and one that makes fun of an already highly marginalized group of people at that. I mean as long as you were doing that, why not make a joke about the Polish Eurovision entry for his possible Jewish heritage? Or how about the fact that some of the dancers or entries may be black and others are quite possibly gay? I mean, as long as you are going to climb down the ladder a few steps, you may as well go all the way to the bottom of the hole you’ve started digging, right?
I know it must be hard when you’re hosting a show like Eurovision to find things to discuss between acts, and I know they put you on the spot by having some dumbass actually modeling the straitjacket next to you, but really?
If you’re a really crazy fan, I strongly recommend the Eurovision Straitjacket. You know what they say. Crazy is the new Black.
Excuse me while I add my own statement here. You know what else they say? Petra is the new “Ignorant.”
Educate yourself about Mental Illness.
But exactly what is wrong with straitjackets?
Well I’m glad you asked. First of all, let’s take a look at a quick image search of the word straitjacket. What do you see? In almost all these images, men in straitjackets are typically represented as crazed killers, while women are sexualized with no pants and often on their knees. So the ongoing messages of these images are that people with mental illnesses are either violent if they are men, or easy sexual victims if they are women. This is the message you just helped to perpetuate.
But let’s dig a little deeper, let’s look at the history of the straitjacket and how it was used. Typically the garment was as small as possible as this made it more difficult for the patient to struggle once it was on. While it was an improvement over the chains and ropes used to keep the patients from harming the staff or other patients in the overcrowded asylums and prisons they were crowded into. It was not a humane treatment by any measurement, and it is one still in use in many places around the world. In fact, I know several people who have been personally subjected to the horrors of it.
Now I have not had to deal with this particular torture myself, but I have dealt with the similar 5-point restraints when I knocked a nurse down while coping with flashbacks. I understand the need for restraints in these sort of circumstances, I could have seriously injured a woman who was just trying to help someone who was in crisis. She was unaware that approaching me from behind and touching my right shoulder was how many of my Flashbacks actually begin in the first place, so the additional physical pressure freaked me out and I spun around and knocked her arm away and she fell. The police were called because they had to be and I was taken away to a higher level facility. That’s what they do here in the US.
But you know what they didn’t do? They didn’t put me into a straitjacket because those are not legal to use anymore in Washington, because they are considered too cruel.
Typically the garment was as small as possible as this made it more difficult for the patient to struggle once it was on. The straitjackets made things more secure for the staff of course, but it often left the patients open to abuse by other patients that were not restrained and the staff that often resented having to care for them in the first place. But the patients were often left strapped in these things 24 hours a day for weeks or months on end
Straitjackets were so uncomfortable that straitjackets were used as torture devices in some prisons and at least one prisoner died when one was put on too tightly in a prison in California in 1903.
The interesting thing is that these days the use of them is often limited to the prevention of self-harm.
So what should you have done?
First of all, when presented with a product like a Straitjacket to sell, you should have looked at the morons from the Eurovision Song Contest Marketing Department and asked them, and please pardon the language here, but believe me, in this case, it is quite appropriate, “What the fuck are you morons thinking? I’m not going to sell that!” If they then tell you that they had this brilliant idea to have dancers dressed in these horrible stigmatizing things while someone performs Gnarles Barkley’s song “Crazy,” you could then tell them they might want to select different outfits because that is just as disgusting and stigmatizing and would likely be getting a lot more press if a Hostess hadn’t done something incredibly atrocious like making a horrendous joke that stigmatized Mental Illness by making fun of a wide range of serious illnesses that cause the deaths of a large number of people daily through suicide, and minimizing the struggles of an already marginalized group of people.
Now don’t get me wrong, the song itself is just fine, you know as long as you can overlook Ceelo Green’s statements that it’s ok to have sex with a woman who is passed out, in other words, rape is just fine. Still the whole thing about the straitjackets was just a bad idea overall, which your little joke made worse.
Second of all, when hosting events, you should try to remember that any Marginalized Group should be considered off limits from your Bullshit. For years now Mental Illness has been catching this sort of shit because we haven’t been standing up and shouting for the protections we deserve. We haven’t been active about why it isn’t right to be making fun of our illnesses.
Would you be making jokes like this about Cancer? Would you be making jokes like this about Aids?
Then why the hell are you making them about Mental Illness?
Is there something wrong with you?
Are you… perhaps, one of us?
Are you, crazy?
Do you need a straitjacket?
Because I know where you might be able to buy one. After all, what is wrong with straitjackets?