Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Art historically speaking, it wasn't uncommon for male artists who attempted to "document" (interpret) a woman's identity, sexual or otherwise, to portray her the way he wanted to see her rather than how she saw herself; his fantasy over her reality. That's just how the [stupid] game was played. But now we have more women artists and more women who are comfortable talking about sex, so has this changed the situation at all? Idealistically, I'd like to think that because sex, gender, and sexuality have been discussed more openly, honestly, and intellectually from ALL sides (it's not a binary) in recent decades that people today are generally more educated in such matters--that is, if they're willing to be educated. Maybe that's just a reflection of my own generation, but I think there's a glimmer of truth to that statement. But then again, identity is both fluid and unique. You can't make a sweeping statement about a group of people and have it apply to everyone, someone will inevitably been excluded. In which case, everything stated earlier is bunk. So:

Can men and women interpret each other's sexuality without thrusting their own ideals/fantasies onto their subject? Can men and women interpret each other's sexuality, period?

On a related note, for the record, this is exactly why I HATE (hate hate hate hate hate) traditional black and white nude photography--naked, skinny, big-breasted women lying oh-so-gracefully on boulders in the sun, or galavanting in wheat fields, or rolling around on the sand, taken by men. It seems like the last bastion of that archaic man/woman, artist/model, superior/inferior binary hierarchy. Women don't do this in real life, and chances are, we wouldn't make another woman do it because we know how uncomfortable and unrealistic it is. I mean, if you wake up in the morning, and you just have this overwhelming hankering to force your back into an unnatural parabola over some sharp rocks, that's one thing, but I think it's safe to say most people don't. But I've seen some women photographers take comparable images of men in the same way--naked, muscle-y men with man-boobs bigger than mine, coated liberally with baby oil, glistening in the sun. Here's a little quiz, and there are no wrong answers. Are these photos:
a.) mocking traditional black and white nude photography (men taking pictures of women), which makes a sort of social statement, and therefore has a little more intellectual merit than just saying "I think the female form is the most beautiful thing in existence?"
b.) irrelevant, because even if it was commentary, what makes what a woman says any more valid or valuable than a man?
c.) important, because it "evens the playing field"--now men and women are both guilty of objectifying the other.
d.) important, because regardless of what the artist says, these pictures partially dismantle that aforementioned man/woman, artist/model, superior/inferior traditional hierarchies and shake things up a bit.
e.) some combination of above.
f.) all of the above.
g.) none of the above.


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