Category Archives: Feminism

“Family Values” My Ass!

I always ask myself why conservatives have enough supporters to get elected.  Those who benefit from having a conservative Republican in power are really an elite few — but the way they gain a large number of their supporters is via their platform for “family values.” Their call for family values is but a mask that they use so they can not only win the support of the wealthy and those in power, but also those who hold in high esteem a conservative moral standard. After some minor digging, anyone can see that their policies are not aimed towards helping our families or instilling a moral fiber into our nation, but achieving their own agendas to line their own pockets.  

~Abstinence-Only Education

Although Bush spent $10 million on abstinence-only education in Texas, the data proves that spending more doesn’t necessarily mean getting more. 

“During President Bush’s tenure as governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, with abstinence-only programs in place, the state ranked last in the nation in the decline of teen birth rates among 15-17 year-old females,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Among this statement are findings from a congressional staff analysis concluding these federally-funded programs are presenting “false, misleading, or distorted information,” such as:

– “HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread as via sweat and tears.”

– “Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.”

– “Touching a person’s genitals can result in pregnancy.” 

Denying our future generations the scientific truth should be a crime, and feeding them distorted “information” is not installing family values, but hurting our families in the long run.

~Drilling for oil in Alaska

It sounds quite impressive when someone states “If we start drilling in Alaska, we can potentially produce 1 million barrels of oil a day.”  It’s also easy to exaggerate with numbers. One million sure seems like a substantial amount of oil—but not compared to the 20 million the United States consumes each day.  Potentially destroying pristine wildlife areas will not reduce reliance on imported oil as this foolish venture will only  produce 5 percent of our “needs.” 

As for gas prices, this is not enough to make a dent-and also keep in mind that the rising prices in California, for example, were due to corporate markups and profiteering.

~”Clear Skies”

Just as we’ve seen how easy it is to toy with numbers, it’s just as easy to have a pleasing nomenclature.  Clear Skies sounds like a step towards a cleaner environment, but according to the Sierra Club, this act weakens many parts of the Clean Air act put in place by the Clinton Administration.  With Clear Skies, there is a loophole that exempts power plants from being required to install clean-up technology to reduce air pollution. 

p1010063.jpg

[Photo by Diego Cupolo]

If this doesn’t sound a bit backwards, take a look at the increase in toxins that are allowed to be released.  For example, we can expect a 68% increase in NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) –a major contributor to smog that is linked to asthma and lung disease.  Along with NOx, we can expect an increase in Sulphur Dioxide and Mercury—and to top it all of, Clear Skies “delays the enforcement of public health standards for smog and soot until the end of 2015.”  Boy that sure sounds like an administration that cares about the well being of families.

~War in Iraq

The United States has already spent half a trillion dollars in Iraq.  What does that mean for the typical family since the start of the war? $16,000 dollars per family since the war began—and that’s not counting the 700,000 Iraqi civilians killed, 4,000 US soldiers dead and 60,000 US soldiers wounded. 

I have to ask, where is all this money going to?  Of course, I’m expecting technologically advanced weaponry and transportation whether air or land to rack up the cost, but there are a few prominent places where our tax money is going and that’s into the pockets of the Bush administration’s friends. 

So how does one make money off of war?  Baghdad Burning author “Riverbend,” (who remains anonymous for her own safety) listed in her accounts the frustrating reconstruction process.  Once a building or bridge is destroyed, it must be rebuilt.  But instead of contracting Iraqi engineers (and Baghdad is very well known for its engineering schools) or employing Iraqi workers, the bid goes out to Bush and Cheney’s old time cronies, for example, KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton.  What does this mean? Instead of the job getting completed for half a million dollars, the job is contracted for hundreds of millions dollars. This not only fills the pockets of war profiteers, but it also leaves many intelligent and able-bodied Iraqi citizens without jobs and, therefore, without money to feed their families, which then in turn makes that large sum of money offered by insurgents ever so tantalizing.

If our government really cared about family values, they would send our mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, husbands and wives back to their families where they belong — and not overseas risking their lives for others’ profit.  If our government really cared about family values, it would realize that women who have walked the streets of Baghdad in jeans and a t-shirt and who have enjoyed full employment before this war now feel pressured to hide behind a veil and stay at home — for there is so much turmoil and despair in the streets that their safety is now at risk. 

~Abortion

One of the more touchy subjects that divide the population is the stance on abortion.  For anyone who has seen the tragic pictures of the aborted fetuses, this isn’t an issue of money or pollution but a human life.  Yet the subject isn’t so black and white when it comes to the issues that surround it.  One must always look at its history and the role that socio-economic status plays in order to make a sound judgment. 

Abortion was always available to women through predominantly discreet ways.  Women whose families had the monetary backing, would readily reply to sly advertisements for top health services listed in the local paper.  Less affluent women were forced to more extreme and dangerous methods in order to achieve the same results.  If you didn’t have $1,000 cash one hundred years ago, you were on your own to find the means—and risked greater injury and death.


[ An 1845 ad for “French Periodical Pills” warns against use by women who might be “en ciente” (French for pregnant)]

If abortion is once again outlawed, the definite crack running between the haves and the have nots will split further. Those women who have the means will still have the opportunity to receive a higher standard of services whether right here in the states or through services abroad.  Those without the monetary backing can only look forward to a higher possibility of damaged reproductive organs and a higher death rate.

Abortion always existed, and believe it or not, abortion will always exist, whether legal or illegal.  (By the way, keep in mind that there will ultimately be a social upheaval IF abortion is ever outlawed.) When it is legalized, it can be regulated to uphold a certain level of quality standards; if it is not, than it is the poor that are ultimately punished.

If you are against abortion—then great—don’t have one.  If one really wishes to make an impact on the number of abortions performed, then I highly suggest supporting social programs that help these mothers with both financial support and a federal-based program for free child care.  (It would also help if this society changed the way it views single mothers.)  Ironically, it just so happens that most conservatives are also against the same social welfare programs that help support these struggling mothers.

~”No child left behind”

Now this is completely backwards—it calls for giving money to schools that are performing well while withholding money from schools that are performing poorly.  How does this make sense?  Shouldn’t the struggling school receive more funds so that it could get back on its feet? 

In working for an adolescent literacy program, I’ve gotten to know the frustration teachers, principals and most importantly children experience over standardized testing that will determine whether or not their school will have a chance.  To add a second kick to the face, Bush’s latest proposal calls for a budget cut—approximately $300 million dollars—from after school funds and a drastic restructure of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs that would convert it to an unstable voucher program.  After school programs work—they keep kids safe, incite them to learn all while assisting working families.  I suppose our children’s education and their future in tomorrow’s workforce means nothing compared to the need for an unnecessary war.

So, remind me again how the conservatives are promoting “family values”?

– written by Elena Gaudino

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Two Years and Waiting

This video, from mid-December, features Jamie Leigh Jones on MSNBC recounting her nightmare.  While working for KBR in Baghdad, a former subsidiary of Halliburton. Jamie was drugged and gang-raped vaginally and anally by a group of co-workers.

It’s been two years since the event happened and still no suspects have been arrested.  As for Jamie, she was told right after the incident that if she reported the rape, she could kiss her job goodbye. Military doctors confirmed that Jamie had been raped but the rape kit “magically” disappeared once it was handed over to KBR security officers.

Ask yourself how many other scenarios like this are occurring that the public is not made aware of – Why this situation has not come to a conclusion–How many other US employees deployed over seas are mistreating, not only American women, but women all over the world.

We’re given this squeaky clean image of the US “Installing Democracy,” some even going so far as to saying the other countries are “lucky” for our intervention. This event is not even the apex–it is the slightly protruding head of a very large submerged iceberg.  We are not fed the truth, we are fed propaganda.  And when brave young women come forth as victims and speak up, their own moral fiber is questioned.

– written by Elena Gaudino

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Get Your Eyes Off My Thighs

So I live in this neighborhood that’s . . . well, not exactly like the safety bubble I had experienced in college. I recall the good old days where I could scooter over to class wearing a jumble of tye-dye sleeveless shirts and camo shorts or if it was really hot, a yellow cotton halter and a loose-fitting mid-cut skirt. I never left the house worrying what others thought of me. I was never bothered. The only signals I got were the occasional wave and/or verbal greeting from a friend or classmate. What I wore didn’t matter to anyone. Those that knew me knew my personality and those who didn’t know me, well … got out of my way before I ran them over with my razor scooter.

Then I moved. I moved to a some-what financially distressed, socially oppressed neighborhood in Brooklyn where the schools were struggling and the graduation rate was teetering. That’s when I noticed. I noticed that my body was being followed by dozens of eyes. The first thing I did was look down to see if a button was missing … or maybe a third eyeball had grown out of my cheek. But I saw no signs that would lead to alienation. I must admit, I was puzzled. Why would anyone do that? What’s there to see anyway? I’m just another human being walking down the street. Isn’t that what we all are?

So when I took on a job that had a fairly materialistic dress code that required “trendy attire,” I panicked. I panicked for the first time since I was four years old – about what I should wear. I knew that if I had received stares and taunts now, imagine what I would get when I was wearing flashy blouses and black dress pants with heels trotting down the street. For the first time, I walked outside of my apartment not with the thought of what I was going to do or who I was going to see, but how I could make myself as invisible as possible. I made sure that, no matter how high the temperatures reached during the soggy summer days, I always had a zip-up sweater over me. It was like a comfort blanket to me and I felt that without it, things would be a lot worse.

As I said goodbye to the tingling rays of sunlight and warm temperatures, and welcomed in the winter season, I felt a sigh of relief. Yes, now I would be wearing bulky jackets and surely now I won’t receive any attention! This is what I told myself, but when I started taking a tally and calculated the ratio between people on the street and number of glances/cat calls, I noticed that the numbers during the winter time reflected the numbers during the summer time.

Then a small miraculous gift came into my world: an iPod shuffle. I played my anthems and speed-walked down the street changing my atmosphere into a fake playground of bass lines and pure funk. For those of you who believe that I am just ignoring the problem, have no fear. One of the first tasks I did when I moved to my neighborhood was to print out fliers and hand them to every pervert on the street who dare mentioned a word. Don’t get me wrong, at first I was shy and just walked away, but I found myself unable to contain my anger as time went by. I found relief in replying with a few nasty words myself, shaking my fist or a combination of pointing my finger and swearing in different languages. I feel it’s important to let the perpetrators know that what they’re doing is not acceptable. After all, it may be possible that some of them believe women like to be treated as sub-human.

One day, my shuffle ran out of batteries while I was still on the subway. Being somewhat lazy at times, I left the ear pieces in and, being the somewhat forgetful person I am, I forgot that the ear pieces were still in my ear as I walked down the street. That day, no one said a word, and the obvious glaring was non-existent. I didn’t think anything of it until I reached my door and reflected. The next day, I resolved to partake in this experiment and walked with my ear pieces in sans music. It was the same deal; no one even attempted to harass me.

My experience with street harassment isn’t special or an exception by any means. Coincidentally, a recent article in the Gotham Gazette called to light the issue of street/subway harassment and the growing popularity of the website, “Holla Back” a resource that invites New Yorkers to share their experiences and anecdotes in an online forum. But before this website was even created in 2005, filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West created a documentary in 1998 that focused on men who harass women entitled “War Zone” that still receives publicity to this day.

According to the Gotham Gazette, group of women from Brownsville Brooklyn, inspired by this documentary, congregated to form Girls for Gender Equity. They’ve set out to create “harassment-free zones” in their neighborhoods and, according to Executive Director Joanne Smith, train the girls to “Own up to their own comfort zone and identify what they think is harassment.” The girls are encouraged to hang posters to raise awareness and to take part in the battle by letting their perpetrators know that they are uncomfortable with that type of behavior.

As ineffective as some may claim this approach is, I do believe that this can be used as a crucial tactic. I recall a story I was told about a friend who was getting harassed on a fairly filled subway car. This friend pointed at the man and proclaimed loudly “Dirty man!” Everyone on the train looked over to the man, who immediately ceased his taunts. Not only did this effectively shut him up for the time being, but perhaps taught him a lesson to never harass again. Of course there are more physical ways to approach this dilemma, such as the instance where four women stabbed and beat a harasser in Greenwich village with a steak knife, but I would like to stay away from advocating violence unless necessary.

On a positive note, I was happy to find that I wasn’t the only one handing out fliers, and relieved to see that I was certainly not alone when I say that I know that sexual harassment is unacceptable. And for the sarcastic commentators: no, my fliers weren’t banal. They did not simply say “Don’t look at me.” They called upon the fact that I am a human being: a daughter a sister and a girlfriend. (People forget those things, you know.) They also defined what a rape culture is and how that harasser is contributing to it and how it affects our future . . . perhaps even that harasser’s future daughter. Those fliers helped define me as a human and hopefully made them see the situation from my point of view so that I’m not just tits and ass floating down the street, I’m alive and have feelings. They need to know that their words aren’t just words, their words are poison to the community, to the victim and even to the harassers themselves.

As for blaming attire . . . it really urks me when a woman is harassed or even raped and people ask what she was wearing at the time. First of all, not only is it irrelevant, but it doesn’t make any sense – what was “trampy” back in the fifties, wasn’t “trampy” in the 70’s. What’s tasteful fluctuates with time. What people need to get off of their minds is this myth that what women wear determines if a man will “lose it” or not. What people need to realize is that everything from cat calls to rape to domestic violence is all about power. And no wonder these issues are prevalent in low-income neighborhoods. They are oppressed socially and economically and in most cases, will stay hovering among the lower rungs of the ladder by the corrupt powers that be. According to sociologist Laura Beth Nielson who was quoted in the Gotham Gazette, sexual harassment “[Is] a mechanism designed to reinforce [traditional] status hierarchies.” I couldn’t agree more.

A part of me tries to find a thread of compassion, but it’s hard to look through your enemy to see the battered soul that feels that there is nothing left to lose. The anger I feel is the most prevalent emotion I experience and I have to admit that it’s a good idea that I stay away from firearms. But there also exists a small ray of hope that tries to show me that it doesn’t have to be like this. After all, I lived in a community where I felt completely at ease – these places exist! Why not make it happen everywhere else? Why not dream and work on that day where you can walk outside your home wearing whatever you want and for once, not think about how modest or appropriate you are in other’s eyes for your safety against men’s “weakness”, (cough cough, BULLSHIT) but instead focus on what goodness your day can bring.

– written by Elena Gaudino

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Dolce’s Bitter Take on Sexuality

“Rarely will two boys alone engage in a cut fight. But put the same two boys in a group and they often feel compelled to insult each other or another boy in the group. A cut fight requires an audience. At center stage are the higher-status boys; around the periphery are the lower-status boys, and admiring audience who, by their presence, attention, and laughter, validate the higher status of the boys at the center. This dynamic starts as early as first grade and is well established by high school . . .

“They sometimes gathered in a home when parents were away to watch pornographic films and masturbate together. Next they developed a group entertainment called voyeuring, in which one guy at a party would try to convince a girl to go upstairs to a bedroom to have sex. But first his buddies would go up and hide in a closet, under the bed, or behind the door, where they could watch. Sex with a girl, for these guys, was less an intimate encounter with a valued human being than it was the use of a woman’s body as a sexual performance for male buddies, a way to create their own porn movie. . .

“In gang rape, men use female bodies to bond with each other. Anthropologist Peggy Sanday and others who have studied gang rape are careful to argue that, from the point of view of the woman, the rape is not a sexual experience but a violent, degrading, and painful assault. For the perpetrators, however, gang rape certainly is a sexual experience-but it is not about sex with a woman; rather, the males in the group use the violated woman’s body as an object through which to have vicarious sex with each other. Underlying gang rape is male anxiety about status in a hierarchy of power, expressed through denigration of women and erotic bonding among men, and rooted in the misogynist joking culture of athletic teams.
Most heterosexual boys and young men go through a period of insecurity and even discomfort in learning to establish sexual relations with girls and women. Men who were former athletes told me that in high school, and even in college, talking to girls and women made them feel anxious and inadequate. These young men dealt with their feelings of lameness with young women primarily by listening to and watching their male peers deliver a rap to women. This peer pedagogy of heterosexual relations taught them to put on a performance for girls that seemed to work. The success of this learned heterosexual come-on allowed a young man to mask, even overcome, his sense of insecurity and lameness in his own eyes and, just as important, in the eyes of his male teammates. It also deepened his erotic bond with other members of his male peer group by collectively constructing women as objects of conquest.”

~Excerpts from Michael Messner’s essay entitled “The Triad of Violence in Men’s Sports”

“It does not represent rape or violence, but if one had to give an interpretation of the picture, it could recall an erotic dream, a sexual game.“~Response to the criticism by designer Stefano Gabbana

The most common argument against the gang-rape criticism is the fact that the woman is not putting up a fight, but instead remains still with an air of helplessness. I say, this is all the more reason that this promotes gang rape as it depicts a scenario where a woman is objectified and degraded and has no issue with this fact whatsoever. This gives the public and the male population a false sense of complacency when it comes to women and “putting out.” Advertisers constantly depict women as being hyper-sexual beings, ready to pounce and always willing to show you more of her body. This advertisement depicts a woman who, by lying motionless without a care or thought, relays the same message: I’m here, take me, degrade me.

Although Mr. Gabbana tries to take a stab at defending his advertisement, keep in mind that he is a businessman and in the world of selling products, one must stand out from the rest. Usually, advertisers delve into the oh-so tantalizing world of sexuality, illustrating a story of sexuality that plays into fantasy that many of us have been sold to since a very young age. Our minds are being tampered with, our wallet is at stake – all for the sake of a company’s profit. But at whose expense?

written by Elena Gaudino

 

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America’s Fear of a Woman with Power

Now don’t get me wrong, when it comes to politics I don’t consider myself any sort of guru, although I know enough not to believe anything on Fox News. Overall, politics can get sticky and the lines between the bad and the ugly can begin to blur. What I have noticed for the duration of 2007 into 2008 is a prominent bashing against Senator Hillary Clinton. Again, I don’t consider myself a political analyst, but I can’t help but question the validity behind the seemingly shallow hatred. This is mostly because of the fact that when I ask people why they hate her, I’m most often met with the vague, bandwagon response along the lines of “She’s a bitch” or “She’s a femi-nazi.” 

So I looked into Senator Clinton’s policies and compared them to her competitors in order to find any sign leading to “femi-nazism”  Needless to say, the only evidence I found was a policy that supports women’s reproductive health care issues and a stance that desired compromise between the two sides. Clinton has been quoted saying that she strongly believes in Roe vs. Wade, but also believes in taking preventative measures to encourage abortion alternatives, even embracing the possible use of religion and morals to promote abstinence. So this is what a femi-nazi is? 

Now, I hate this term “femi-nazi” and for good reason. I believe it was derived from the far right to connect their female enemies with negative associations. Ask anyone who a femi-nazi is and they’ll refer to a bra-burning, man-hating woman on steroids, even though the notorious bra-burning scenario was a completely false illusion created by sensationalized journalists and almost anyone would have some sort of dissent against someone else who has cheated them out of fair pay and equality for thousands of years.  So why would conservatives want to take power away from women? Easy, because women gaining power means they (our beloved wealthy white men) will be losing power, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep it. 

A recent Op-Ed in The New York Times by Gloria Steinhem was called to my attention today, which brought up the fact that during Clinton and Obama’s two overlapping years in the senate, they have voted the same 90 percent of the time. If you place their view points on reproductive rights, climate change and war side by side, they appear to run parallel to one another, plus or minus a few tweaks. Yet, the Clinton-bashing brigade strengthens, feeding off of any insignificant detail that could be used against her. She remains stern, she’s a robot. She cries, she’s an emotional wreck unfit to run a country. One has to ask, is it really Clinton as a candidate or the fact that she has a vagina that leads ignorant forces to prompt a fight against her? 

Charlotte Whitton once quoted: “Whatever women must do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good,” mostly because there are very black and white definitions that are carried with the label of “woman.” If she is attractive, then certainly, she is a whore. If she is not feminine, then she is a dyke. If she’s emotional, she is a “typical woman” and if she holds back the emotion and runs the show with a firm hand, then she is a bitch.  Any woman who breaks out of the mold is seen as having penis envy, unnatural, etc. and here we have our first front-running female presidential candidate marking U.S. history and low and behold, she is the most ridiculed of them all. 

I applaud Clinton’s efforts and shout loudly “It’s about f-ing time!”  I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that there have been no presidential candidates up until now that were either female or of a different race.  How can citizens tout their tattering American flags out their car windows or claim our country is the greatest when the government, a so-called democracy, does not rightly represent the demographics of the American people? 

What I find even more interesting concerning this issue are our misled citizens’ claims that women in other countries have it a lot worse. But as we all know, the recently assassinated Bhutto, who was the first female prime minister for a Muslim nation, was elected into office in Pakistan, not in this decade, not in the 90’s, but in 1988 – twenty years before we saw a woman candidate. As for sympathized South America; Argentina and Chile already have had a taste of having a woman in power. 

The worst aspect of this situation is hearing these formless claims coming from the mouths of fellow women. Oh, I understand all right. I was raised in a family where abortion was a huge no-no and quite possibly the biggest deciding factor. But women must realize that just because they are women, does not exempt you from feeling the pangs of living in a patriarchal society that has catered towards men in power. Quite frankly, most of us do not realize the basic realities and faults of our current system and find it all normal, because that’s just how it always was. Fortunately, I was saved from the lie that condemning abortion would save our nation. Unfortunately for the rest, believing in a woman receiving hygienic health care versus throwing herself down a flight of stairs or finding a wire hanger simply seems absurd.

I’m not telling you to vote for Hillary.  I’m not running a campaign site here.  I am just plain sick and tired of such uninformed groups of people preemptively judging and blurting false accusations.  All I ask is that you judge each candidate, not by their looks, gender or ethnicity, but by his/her experience, integrity and policies towards what our nation is and what it can and should be.

– written by Elena Gaudino

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Women’s Bodies for Sale

excerpt from: Dreamworlds 2: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video

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Art Imitating (Unreal) Life

Living adjacent to Williamsburg which boasts a growing community of starving artists in $3,000 a month lofts, I’ve come across not only a population of artists, but also their social havens that feature their work and their undulating poems.

The social spots are considered by many to be a brewing pot of progressive thought where the next generation goes to nourish its mind and soul and yet some how the “art work” displayed consisting of red spray-painted bare-breasted torsos and vintage prints of pointy-bra pulp women just don’t seem progressive at all in my eyes. But these poor souls and their interpretation of acceptable art work does not only dwell in casual settings featuring $4 beers, but on top of the most elite mountain of art as well.

Upon my last visit to the MoMA, I passed by one abstract exhibit after another, ascending floor by floor to what I believed would be art bliss. On my journey, I heard rumors of the featured Venezuelan artist that tickled my curiosity. This interest peaked once I reached the top floor where his exhibit was stationed as I passed by a group of white-haired socialites donning Burberry trench coats.

“Mmmm, it is very fascinating.”

“I absolutely adore his work.”

“It’s a thrill to have his work displayed here.”

As I walked through the exhibit, I was met with the awkward greetings of boobs. In fact, there were so many of them that I walked around the exhibit counting on my fingers how many paintings there were with bare breasts for no apparent reason, and had to switch my tally to how many paintings featured women who were actually covered. My tally proved to be disheartening, and the bare breasts won 10-1.

Of course, this argument is met by defense from individuals saying “But, the female body is beautiful.”

Well, this is true. The human body in general is a wonderful thing to celebrate, but there is a sharp distinction between using art to celebrate and empower versus usurping. One must ask what type of role the female is playing in the art piece. For instance, is she taking a part in a significant action? Does she have a character? Does she even have a head? Is she a subject or an object?

In this case, the woman’s breasts splattered across the canvas took away any sort of subjectivity this woman might have and instead objectified the woman for her two circular commodities. In many paintings, the woman was headless, lurking naked in the background. In some pieces, there was a male character, dressed of course, but always accompanied by the two perfect and perky bulls-eyes, which, all ladies know simply don’t exist in reality. Keeping all this in mind, one must ask what kind of position do these paintings place women in? What story is being told and most importantly, whose point of view is this story being told from?

According to the Guerilla girls, only 3% of the artists in the Met. are female, where as 83% of the nudes portraits are of women. This does not mean that there are less female artists in the world it means that male artists are more likely to gain recognition. Not only are these males picked to share their works with the public and gain publicity, they are the ones who get to choose what images will be shared with the public. The nude portraits, therefore, are mostly created by males who, no matter how many times will study a nude model, will never quite understand how the female body works and who many times, have a distorted notion of sexuality.

There are still individuals who simply don’t see the harm in any type of imagery, seeing an invisible line between fantasy and reality that can never be breached. Art, in this case, is the vessel for imagery where the imagination can go off to play with no expense, yet this holds no verity. Every image and every piece of “art” whether its meant for one’s twisted fantasy or not has an impact on what our society deems as normal and acceptable. Not only this, it paves the way for sexism to survive in a helmeted shell as carrying the “art” label usually puts the skeptics glances at ease.

A perfect and fairly extreme example of life imitating “art” comes in the form of a December 1984 issue of Penthouse that featured a photo-essay by photographer Akira Ishagaki. Ishagaki basically played into a necrophilia fantasy entitled Sakura which he explains:

Sakura is the word for the cherry blossom. From my childhood . . . I recall the resemblance between the petals of the cherry blossom and a woman’s body. In the spring of my twelve years, I caressed the petals with my fingers, kissed them gently with my lips.

His words pave way for what one would think to be a flowery and beloved portrayal of women. Instead, his images depict an array of women’s bodies in sexually charged post-mortem positions. The images, all taking after Asian influence, are bleak and reek of death. One picture in particular, had a woman with a Japanese-looking outfit hanging limp from a tree, her arms bound behind her back, her head slumped forward, her leg exposed up to her thigh.

Two months later after the issue hit the shelves, Jean Kar-Har Fewel, an 8-year old Chinese girl, was found raped and murdered hanging from a tree.

Once a piece of art meets our society’s artistic standards, that piece, the image it beholds and the story it tells sets up invisible social structures and defines the norm. The norm, in many cases, seems to be that women are itching to be topless, and as Ishagaki portrayed, disposable. The Venezuelan exhibit told me that women are dispensable. All of the portrayed women are alike, have no character and submit to any sexual advances. The most likely cause of the problem is that this is the story that men are telling. These men are setting the roles and putting the pieces into place from their point of view, and it comes to no surprise that there are both men and women out there that believe many of these images are true and normal because they’ve been handed a set script of how they should act at a very young age.

Every aspect of media has a consequence on our society, and the art world is no exception. The usurpation of the female body is all too commonplace, and many pieces of art illustrate this quite well. Just because an individual is an artist, does not make that artist all-knowing or that viewpoint the truth. For the most part, the images we see of women are through the eyes of men, and those works created by women are too far and few between. In this case, art is not imitating life, but changing our lives to imitate a lie.

-written by Elena Gaudino

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