ArticleVolume 32, Number 2 (2017)

“We Just Looked At Them As Ordinary People Like We Were:” The Legal Gaze and Women’s Bodies


This Article analyzes the struggles of two female musicians who became caught up in the criminal justice system because they revealed their bodies. Using archival research and personal interviews, I tell the story of punk rocker Wendy O. Williams’ 1981-1984 obscenity and police brutality court battles. I also relay the life of Lorien Bourne, a disabled and lesbian rock-n-roller charged with disorderly conduct in Bowling Green, Ohio, in 2006. I examine how legal actors, including courts and jurors, viewed Williams and Bourne using classist, ableist, sexist, and homophobic optics. In so doing, I extend my previous work on legal “gazes,” or what I have called the legal practice of “peering.” I end the Article by looking to the women’s art and lives as correctives to oppressive manners of legal seeing.