As the end of…

Posted: December 31, 2009 in Art

2009 draws near…

All I can say is “good riddance”.  I’ll probably do some epic wrap-up post, but I will save that for when I have more energy and desire to do so.

In the mean time, I want to talk about another thing that is near and dear to my black and twisted heart…

Rachel Cervantes has an interesting link up to a post on the dehumanization of women in photography.  Not granted, some of those images are just outright fucking horrible no question, and I have never had much love for a great many of the PETA adds, however, I myself have been in a photo or two where “being seen as fully human” was so, not at all, on the agenda.  And while the idea was not to make me look like an animal, but rather a…machine… I have come to the conclusion I have very, very mixed feelings on this whole issue and what, exactly photos that portray woman as something other than human might be saying.

Some of them, without question, are intended to humiliate and degrade and make the woman seem weak or defenseless.  Others, however, while they may make her seem “other”, I am not so sure weak or any other such thing is the intent.  I mean, sure, I’m not wearing a whole lot in that there photo and even less is even being done to “recognize my humanity”, but I am not sure I would want to run into me in a dark alley either, you know?  And frankly, even Grace Jones in a Cage makes me wonder, because she looks like if anyone gets too close to that cage or she happens to get out???  She’ll rip them apart.  I even get that on some level a lot of folk object to the idea of women being compared to animals or machines on principle because the it is denying their humanity…but well, humans are animals…and as far as the animal kingdom goes, we really kind of suck, so I think at times the comparison is not at all a bad one…

Then again, that’s just me.  Being compared to apex predators and steel and gears will ALWAYS rate high in my book.

Thoughts on the matter, oh denizens of the Internet???

  1. rootietoot says:

    I didn’t have a problem with Grace Jones in a Cage, because she’s always had this persona of a fierce sort of predator type. I almost ahve the feeling that picture was her idea. Tthe image of the woman running with the cheetas didn’t bother me either, because she was so sleek and beautiful . The other ones tho, made me kinda sick.

    Thing is, if we were to take the same sorts of pictures, and use men instead of women, wouldn’t people think it was funny? It’s be just as disrespectful.

  2. rootietoot says:

    and another thing? I like that picture of you, always have. I’d totally want you on my side in a dark alley.

  3. Eli says:

    I admit I LOLed at the frog costume. Some of those pictures disturb me because they appear racist.

    At least a few of those seem to me like women dressing up as anthropomorphized animals. There are people -like furry lifestylers- who believe being seen as an animal is “upgrading” rather than degrading, and who go to great lengths to achieve just that. Is it feminist to denounce women who like to self-identify as leopards or snakes, on the grounds that it might give some hypothetical other people the wrong idea? I think it’s overreacting to call all such pictures out as a ploy to deny women’s humanity in order to take their human rights away. How about people dressing up in Minnie Mouse or Pokemon or Ninja Turtles costumes (fetish or otherwise)?

    • rootietoot says:

      I’m thinking that much of the offense is taken by individuals who are looking for a reason to take offense. Some of it, however, really is degrading and seems to be intended for that purpose.

  4. Gaina says:

    I think context is everything.

    Whilst I can understand why that photo of Grace Jones could make some people feel uneasy, I have to say I don’t share their uneasiness.

    She’s a feisty, smart woman and obviously she felt comfortable with it and IMHO, if the person being ask to do it feels ok with it then how others choose to receive the work is up to them.

    I almost feel like she’s taken power over a stereo type and throwing it back in our faces in the ‘cage’ photo. I definitely agree that it says ‘God help you if I get out cos I’m gonna tear you apart’ rather than portraying her as a possession or less than human.

    Bottom line is, somebody produced art that got people thinking and talking which is always a good thing in my book.

  5. Deb Sens says:

    I liked the Grace Jones and the one with the women running with the Cheetah because those aren’t degrading, the women are active not passive objects. I felt really uncomfortable with the others because they seemed dehumanizing.. That one with the womans head being stepped on and the one with the monkeys really disturbed me

  6. Deb Sens says:

    I also really like that picture of you! I think you look badass!

  7. I find the commentary here on the Grace Jones in a cage image to be interesting because while it says “God help you if I ever get out”, it also I feel has a message implicit in that, that women can never be let out of their cage because they are just such wild, uncontrolled insane beasts that ANYTHING could happen if they were ever given real power. Great for a show in the lion-tamer (woman-tamer) show at the circus, but in the wild it’s legitimate to do whatever it takes to bring them under control because you can’t really reason with them – not like you could a man, anyway.

    So to me, it is still a very disconcerting image in terms of the message it sends out about women, in terms of the way that Patriarchy views female persons. The concern expressed in the post with the images about portraying women in such a way as to legitimise violating human rights I think is still valid for that picture.

    This in turn is troubling, because if (as commenters suggest) Grace Jones instigated the set up of those photos then there’s that whole issue over again of trying to police the ways in which women themselves project their image and self-expression into the world. As I hope people know, my views always end up on the side of freedom of expression in these matters.

    On the other hand, the cheetah image is much less troubling to me – reading a book at the moment about “Wild Women” archetypes, I think that merely being described as wild in that image is not such a bad thing, in that in some way it can legitimise for women reading, the image of themselves as wild and free. It shows power unrestrained, and it doesn’t show a threat that must be countered or contained. Strength, but not uncontrolled.

    In general, as Gaina says, context is everything: it’s very hard to say with certainty what any image means.

    Also, I agree with Gaina’s last words: “Bottom line is, somebody produced art that got people thinking and talking which is always a good thing in my book.”

  8. Senator says:

    The thing with Grace Jones is – I doubt anyone could put Grace Jones in any cage, any easy box, to be confined or defined. So to me, the image itself makes her seem more “dangerous” because she’s got you right where she wants you. At least, that’s what the image says to me. But I go into it (seeing the pic), knowing who she is. If it was another woman, in a diff pose maybe – my impression would likely change.

    The Save the Whales one is just mean and unnecessary. And the Leggs-Men slacks one is just a pile of offensive shit. Even for its time, I can’t imagine it was an effective ad campaign. It actually has the words “walk all over her” – what the hell?

    The woman in the zebra stripes jumping rope with monkeys, at first, passed under my radar. Probably because she’s shown laughing and I don’t have a – let’s call it a trained eye to spot the kinds of things that are done to make some shit appear more palatable, it got a pass from me. Till I saw the zookeeper watching the trio play. Then it dawned on me that putting a black person in a pen with monkeys is just a real poor choice at best and racist bullshit at worst (Michelle Obama/chimpanzee face one).

    The cheetah one, like everyone else pretty much, I liked. It looked more like a moment of unrestrained freedom. It didn’t seem to dehumanize the model, but to me, compared her speed (I thought she might be a famous track runner before I read who it was) to the fleetness of the fastest land animal.

    Others, I don’t “get” like the frog one, or the pig mask holding money. Others, obvious agi-prop like the Hillary/pig one.

    But the picture of Ren, I really dig. Because of the way you’re looking off to the side and not at the camera, and the lighting, it makes me feel like something big either just went down, or is about to go down. Either way, it’s huge and we’re going to miss it / just missed it.

  9. dehumanization of women in photography

    Not to minimize the fact that, in the aggregate, women are surely dehumanized in photographs more than men, my impression is that photography is an intrinsically dehumanizing medium for depicting human beings.

    • Gaina says:

      Hmm…I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that, Prof. Of course it’s totally subjective, but I find the likes of Anton Corbijn very moving because he manages to photograph people’s souls, not just their faces and bodies.

      I also like alot of Nan Goldin’s work, although it’s not for everybody.

  10. Eli says:

    One thing I’m curious about; does it matter that these are not all photographs?

    The high-heeled frog is clearly a painting (and I’m not too sure about some of the others) so there may not actually be any actual woman who was “animalized” in the production of the picture.

    So I’m puzzled about the presence of the frog painting in the list, because if a drawing counts as dehumanisation, then where are the scores of anime catgirls and cartoon figures and furry fanart?

    • Eli says:

      (I should probably disclose my potential conflict of interest with regards to this discussion, as I have these characters…)

      • Ren says:

        Eli: That is an interesting question wrt to art/characters being “dehumanized”. I like to write/draw/play video games and I am a huge fan of cyborg types…people who all obviously started as humans and did not end up being all human at all. Most of said characters are women. I wonder if that would rate the discontent that the frog woman or the anime cat girls would or if it would be seen differently.

        • Eli says:

          My (fairly unoriginal) guess would be that, before any other factors, the level of discontent would probably be roughly proportional to the sexiness of the pictures. Like, turning a woman into a terminator is likely totally okay, but turning her into a sexaroid is not?

          My own characters are technically “humanised” as they started out as animals. But “intent” is usually dismissed as irrelevant in critiques of this type. For my own art I decided that, since I can’t please everyone anyway, I’ll just do my thing and not try to pretend to be less of a jerk than I am…

        • Interesting that you mention cat girls. I’ve always thought of cat girls as combining all the best traits of humans and cats. (Probably inspired in part by our family having a really nice cat when I was younger.) I was about ready to murder someone when I saw that picture of a cat girl with one of those cone things. There’s a distinction between “lesser” and “different’, and they’d gone right into “lesser” territory.

          I’m not really bothered by the frog one too. If someone has a tongue that’ll do that, why shouldn’t they use it? Or something. Some of the others… no idea. Evidence without context is meaningless, I have no idea what they were trying to do. And I can’t even figure out how zebras and jump roping go together.

  11. Roy Kay says:

    Ha! As if “humanizing” photos weren’t implicitly dehumanizing since the person in them is supposed to fit into a stereotypical “humanized” paradigm.

    Some of these offend me, but the world don’t exist just to coddle my tender little psyche. The Hillary/pig one is just standard politics. Plenty of editorial cartoons have characterized one politician or another as piggish, though customarily with their muzzles in a trough of dollars.

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