Naked female statues

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snoozeofreason
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by snoozeofreason » Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:24 pm

Olivia Alabaster, writing in the Independent, reckons we should applaud the Wollstonecraft statue for its celebration of fearlessness. I am - through a combination of personal inclination, principle, and pragmatism - a lifelong coward, and I have never quite understood why we should celebrate fearlessness. Fear, when listened to judiciously, is a good and wise friend, and anyone who wants to get things done should pay attention to it.

I feel much the same way about the "Fearless Girl" statue near the New York Stock exchange. The fearlessness was, I think, meant to be emphasised by placing it so that it faced down Arturo Di Modica's "Charging Bull" statue. So, basically it was a depiction of a small girl who is about to get flattened by a 3 ton animal in a bad mood (Di Modica very sensibly got the poor girl moved to a safer location).

If you wanted to make a statement about female empowerment then it would be better to have the girl crouching cautiously behind a corner with an elephant gun in her hands. Similarly, Wollstonecraft should be dressed in all-weather gear and sensible shoes. Anyone genuinely concerned with empowerment picks fights they can win and then makes sure they have the wherewithal to win them.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Grumble » Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:59 pm

snoozeofreason wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:24 pm
Olivia Alabaster, writing in the Independent, reckons we should applaud the Wollstonecraft statue for its celebration of fearlessness. I am - through a combination of personal inclination, principle, and pragmatism - a lifelong coward, and I have never quite understood why we should celebrate fearlessness. Fear, when listened to judiciously, is a good and wise friend, and anyone who wants to get things done should pay attention to it.

I feel much the same way about the "Fearless Girl" statue near the New York Stock exchange. The fearlessness was, I think, meant to be emphasised by placing it so that it faced down Arturo Di Modica's "Charging Bull" statue. So, basically it was a depiction of a small girl who is about to get flattened by a 3 ton animal in a bad mood (Di Modica very sensibly got the poor girl moved to a safer location).

If you wanted to make a statement about female empowerment then it would be better to have the girl crouching cautiously behind a corner with an elephant gun in her hands. Similarly, Wollstonecraft should be dressed in all-weather gear and sensible shoes. Anyone genuinely concerned with empowerment picks fights they can win and then makes sure they have the wherewithal to win them.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Tessa K » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:07 pm

snoozeofreason wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:24 pm


If you wanted to make a statement about female empowerment then it would be better to have the girl crouching cautiously behind a corner with an elephant gun in her hands. Similarly, Wollstonecraft should be dressed in all-weather gear and sensible shoes. Anyone genuinely concerned with empowerment picks fights they can win and then makes sure they have the wherewithal to win them.
Or an image like this: (don't try this at home)

Image

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by tenchboy » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:14 pm

For fearless read insufficiently informed.
Or drunk.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Tessa K » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:23 pm

tenchboy wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:14 pm
For fearless read insufficiently informed.
Or drunk.
Fearless is often confused with brave. A brave person acknowledges the risks, the fearless one ignores them. The suffragettes were brave; they knew what would happen but thought the risks worthwhile despite the potential cost.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:40 pm

You can also be aware of risks without being afraid of them.

Awareness is useful. Fear can be paralysing. Obviously it's impossible to accurately discern someone's internal emotional state but I wouldn't be so quick to assume that making achievements is predicated on fear.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Fishnut » Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:49 pm

snoozeofreason wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 12:24 pm
Olivia Alabaster, writing in the Independent, reckons we should applaud the Wollstonecraft statue for its celebration of fearlessness. I am - through a combination of personal inclination, principle, and pragmatism - a lifelong coward, and I have never quite understood why we should celebrate fearlessness. Fear, when listened to judiciously, is a good and wise friend, and anyone who wants to get things done should pay attention to it.

I feel much the same way about the "Fearless Girl" statue near the New York Stock exchange. The fearlessness was, I think, meant to be emphasised by placing it so that it faced down Arturo Di Modica's "Charging Bull" statue. So, basically it was a depiction of a small girl who is about to get flattened by a 3 ton animal in a bad mood (Di Modica very sensibly got the poor girl moved to a safer location).

If you wanted to make a statement about female empowerment then it would be better to have the girl crouching cautiously behind a corner with an elephant gun in her hands. Similarly, Wollstonecraft should be dressed in all-weather gear and sensible shoes. Anyone genuinely concerned with empowerment picks fights they can win and then makes sure they have the wherewithal to win them.
Good points about the problems with fearlessness. I'd also point out it's not fearless. A naked women in statue form is not unusual or daring - it's been done so many times before that one of the biggest problems with it is it's not largely distinguishable from all the other naked women statues out there. It's not fearless, it's not original. It's boring and following all the tropes of women in art.

If she was indeed supposed to be an 'everywoman' she shouldn't be toned, she shouldn't have flawless skin. The more I think about that claim the more annoyed I get by it. For one it seems to be saying that womanhood can be reduced to a single representation, which is ridiculous. The statement by the artist that "As far as I know, she’s more or less the shape we’d all like to be" is presumptive in the extreme, and even if it is true doesn't ask any questions about why that might be true. Why are we all supposed to look like all we do is spend our days in the gym? Why, even after 200+ years since the publication of The Vindication of the Rights of women are we still being so defined by our appearance rather than our achievements? If you want her to represent the British everywoman now why not make her a size 16 with big boobs? Probably because if you did that it wouldn't be particularly attractive and wouldn't fit with the classical statues it's clearly copying. But at least it wouldn't be derivative. But it does again raise the question, if it's supposed to be an everywoman why is it an idealised version of a woman that we are all supposed to be striving to achieve? And I don't see that as being a question the artist even considered, which just shows how little actual feminist thought went into its design.

The focus on "oh, if she were clothed she'd be tied to the past, we need her to represent the 'now'" also infuriates me. If you want her in the 'now' why not put her in modern clothes? Clothes may tie us to a particular period but they also tie us to reality. Very few 'everywomen' go about their daily business naked. This isn't about prudery, it's about reality. If this statue is supposed to represent real women then she should look like real women and most women I see are clothed.
Were she dressed in anything specific, she would date. Or fail to feel accessible to every woman walking past... Women do not need adornments to make them beautiful – they do not need accessories or additions. Every woman is perfect as she is, in her own body. I can think of no better way of putting that message into sculpture than having her naked...
This argument infuriates me. She isn't accessible to every woman walking past. She is a reminder of what my body is not. Every woman may be perfect as she is but this statue doesn't make me feel that, it makes me think that only conventional beauty is allowed to be celebrated and those of us who aren't can't expect to see ourselves represented in art. She also reduces women to their bodies. Clothes are a very feminine way of self-expression. We don't just use adornments to make ourselves beautiful - sometimes they're for the exact opposite. Sometimes they're about feeling comfortable, or about making yourself feel more authoritative. Clothes are powerful.

The more I think about the statue the more annoyed I get. I suppose you could argue then it's doing what it set out to do - to create a conversation, to be controversial. But I don't think agree that those are valuable aims here. We should be taking this as an opportunity to talk about Wollstonecraft, about her work, her influence. Instead we're stuck in this stupid conversation of "would she have liked the statue being naked?". It's a distraction, and once the initial furore dies down I fear the statue will be largely ignored and forgotten. Though in that regard it will be like all the statues to men so maybe it will reach some sort of parity with them after all.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by dyqik » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:19 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:23 pm
tenchboy wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:14 pm
For fearless read insufficiently informed.
Or drunk.
Fearless is often confused with brave. A brave person acknowledges the risks, the fearless one ignores them. The suffragettes were brave; they knew what would happen but thought the risks worthwhile despite the potential cost.
It's far braver to recognize the risks, acknowledge them, and decide that the risks are worth taking than it is to ignore the risks and just do the thing without thinking about it. Bravery > stupidity and ignorance.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by dyqik » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:22 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:49 pm

The focus on "oh, if she were clothed she'd be tied to the past, we need her to represent the 'now'" also infuriates me. If you want her in the 'now' why not put her in modern clothes? Clothes may tie us to a particular period but they also tie us to reality. Very few 'everywomen' go about their daily business naked. This isn't about prudery, it's about reality. If this statue is supposed to represent real women then she should look like real women and most women I see are clothed.
Were she dressed in anything specific, she would date.
And in any case, this statue is celebrating a particular woman from a particular point in time. It's supposed to be tied to the past. To not tie it to her period in history is to deny her achievements under the particular circumstances of her time.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by EACLucifer » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:27 pm

dyqik wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:22 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:49 pm

The focus on "oh, if she were clothed she'd be tied to the past, we need her to represent the 'now'" also infuriates me. If you want her in the 'now' why not put her in modern clothes? Clothes may tie us to a particular period but they also tie us to reality. Very few 'everywomen' go about their daily business naked. This isn't about prudery, it's about reality. If this statue is supposed to represent real women then she should look like real women and most women I see are clothed.
Were she dressed in anything specific, she would date.
And in any case, this statue is celebrating a particular woman from a particular point in time. It's supposed to be tied to the past. To not tie it to her period in history is to deny her achievements under the particular circumstances of her time.
It's worth noting that this was the alternative candidate.

Image

While somewhat basic, I don't think it's too unreasonable to think a statue honouring someone ought to be more about the individual being honoured, rather than the artist of the statue.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:32 pm

Art doesn't need to be an accurate representation of reality, never has been and never will be.

Ancient statues of war showed everyone naked even though they actually wore armour and clothes. Similarly, the use of idealised muscly male bodies isn't supposed to imply that everybody did or should look like that. It's a stylised representation of a generic male form. (Obviously there are separate issues around representations of women's bodies in particular, and it's disappointing that the artist and commissioning committee don't seem to have anticipated them)

It may not have been the right commission for the circumstances, but a lot of the criticisms I've seen seem to be written by people encountering art for the first time and getting confused.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:36 pm

dyqik wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:22 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:49 pm

The focus on "oh, if she were clothed she'd be tied to the past, we need her to represent the 'now'" also infuriates me. If you want her in the 'now' why not put her in modern clothes? Clothes may tie us to a particular period but they also tie us to reality. Very few 'everywomen' go about their daily business naked. This isn't about prudery, it's about reality. If this statue is supposed to represent real women then she should look like real women and most women I see are clothed.
Were she dressed in anything specific, she would date.
And in any case, this statue is celebrating a particular woman from a particular point in time. It's supposed to be tied to the past. To not tie it to her period in history is to deny her achievements under the particular circumstances of her time.
To tie her to her period history is to deny her ongoing achievements since then, in the present and (hopefully) future.

The obvious reason not to use modern clothes is the same reason not to use bellbottoms and headbands: it would look f.cking stupid in about 10 years. The nudity makes it timeless (as in, part of a continuity in Western representations of the human form stretching back for millennia), not modern. Dressing her up in what 2020 women wear to work would date the statue almost immediately.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by EACLucifer » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:38 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:32 pm
Art doesn't need to be an accurate representation of reality, never has been and never will be.

Ancient statues of war showed everyone naked even though they actually wore armour and clothes. Similarly, the use of idealised muscly male bodies isn't supposed to imply that everybody did or should look like that. It's a stylised representation of a generic male form. (Obviously there are separate issues around representations of women's bodies in particular, and it's disappointing that the artist and commissioning committee don't seem to have anticipated them)

It may not have been the right commission for the circumstances, but a lot of the criticisms I've seen seem to be written by people encountering art for the first time and getting confused.
These are all pretty solid points.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:44 pm

dyqik wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:19 pm
Tessa K wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:23 pm
tenchboy wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:14 pm
For fearless read insufficiently informed.
Or drunk.
Fearless is often confused with brave. A brave person acknowledges the risks, the fearless one ignores them. The suffragettes were brave; they knew what would happen but thought the risks worthwhile despite the potential cost.
It's far braver to recognize the risks, acknowledge them, and decide that the risks are worth taking than it is to ignore the risks and just do the thing without thinking about it. Bravery > stupidity and ignorance.
Interestingly, dictionaries and thesauruses seem to equate fearlessness and bravery. Eg
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fearless literally defines fearless as brave. The Indie piece says "fearless and brave", fwiw.

I guess I associate fear with a negative emotional reaction to be overcome, rather than something to carry with you forever. When somebody is described as, say, a "fearless advocate for women's rights" it's not generally intended to suggest that they are stupid and ignorant.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Martin Y » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:44 pm

For me it's encapsulated in Tessa's opening post.
Tessa K wrote:
Wed Nov 11, 2020 8:43 am
Is a statue of a naked woman empowering or is it - yet again - naked women for the male gaze?
When it's in the eye of the beholder there's no reason it can't be both.

Her: "Getting her tits out is defiant and empowering".
Him: "<blink> Hmm? What?"

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:49 pm

Martin Y wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:44 pm
For me it's encapsulated in Tessa's opening post.
Tessa K wrote:
Wed Nov 11, 2020 8:43 am
Is a statue of a naked woman empowering or is it - yet again - naked women for the male gaze?
When it's in the eye of the beholder there's no reason it can't be both.

Her: "Getting her tits out is defiant and empowering".
Him: "<blink> Hmm? What?"
I'd be pretty surprised if anyone in the age of smartphones is going to be walking around parks getting boners looking at a statue's tiny silver tits.

It's a bit confusing. Normally people are trying to desexualise the female body, advocating for public breastfeeding, complaining about censorship of breasts and nipples on social media (and indeed in real life), and now suddenly a statue for Mary Wollstonecraft goes up and everyone's like "oooh cover yourself up, love, men might look at your boobies and think impure thoughts" like it would be better for feminism if she was contorted in a historically-accurate corset.
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Re: Naked female statues

Post by dyqik » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:53 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:36 pm
dyqik wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:22 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:49 pm

The focus on "oh, if she were clothed she'd be tied to the past, we need her to represent the 'now'" also infuriates me. If you want her in the 'now' why not put her in modern clothes? Clothes may tie us to a particular period but they also tie us to reality. Very few 'everywomen' go about their daily business naked. This isn't about prudery, it's about reality. If this statue is supposed to represent real women then she should look like real women and most women I see are clothed.
And in any case, this statue is celebrating a particular woman from a particular point in time. It's supposed to be tied to the past. To not tie it to her period in history is to deny her achievements under the particular circumstances of her time.
To tie her to her period history is to deny her ongoing achievements since then, in the present and (hopefully) future.
She's dead, BoaF. ;)

Yes, I know achievements outlive people and can be ongoing. But the period in history that she did stuff in is part of why she's important. You can't celebrate pioneers if you ignore that they were pioneering because they did stuff in a historical context.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by dyqik » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:53 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:44 pm
dyqik wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:19 pm
Tessa K wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:23 pm


Fearless is often confused with brave. A brave person acknowledges the risks, the fearless one ignores them. The suffragettes were brave; they knew what would happen but thought the risks worthwhile despite the potential cost.
It's far braver to recognize the risks, acknowledge them, and decide that the risks are worth taking than it is to ignore the risks and just do the thing without thinking about it. Bravery > stupidity and ignorance.
Interestingly, dictionaries and thesauruses seem to equate fearlessness and bravery. Eg
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fearless literally defines fearless as brave. The Indie piece says "fearless and brave", fwiw.

I guess I associate fear with a negative emotional reaction to be overcome, rather than something to carry with you forever. When somebody is described as, say, a "fearless advocate for women's rights" it's not generally intended to suggest that they are stupid and ignorant.
Which is why argument by citing dictionaries isn't a valid form of argument. Tessa K defines what she means by fearless in her post. You can't use a different definition of the word to counter her point.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Fishnut » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:56 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:36 pm
dyqik wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:22 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 1:49 pm

The focus on "oh, if she were clothed she'd be tied to the past, we need her to represent the 'now'" also infuriates me. If you want her in the 'now' why not put her in modern clothes? Clothes may tie us to a particular period but they also tie us to reality. Very few 'everywomen' go about their daily business naked. This isn't about prudery, it's about reality. If this statue is supposed to represent real women then she should look like real women and most women I see are clothed.
And in any case, this statue is celebrating a particular woman from a particular point in time. It's supposed to be tied to the past. To not tie it to her period in history is to deny her achievements under the particular circumstances of her time.
To tie her to her period history is to deny her ongoing achievements since then, in the present and (hopefully) future.

The obvious reason not to use modern clothes is the same reason not to use bellbottoms and headbands: it would look f.cking stupid in about 10 years. The nudity makes it timeless (as in, part of a continuity in Western representations of the human form stretching back for millennia), not modern. Dressing her up in what 2020 women wear to work would date the statue almost immediately.
What does this statue tell us about her achievements, ongoing or otherwise? And as it's not supposed to be her anyway it's not got any achievements to represent.

If this was a statue to the amorphous group called "women" then I'd still object to the anodyne depiction of the woman and I would have been disappointed that it wasn't something more daring or radical. But it's supposed to be a statue to/for [delete as applicable] Mary Wollstonecraft. The people who commissioned it said they wanted something that would be "a tangible way to share Wollstonecraft’s vision and ideas", "a visual celebration of diversity and inclusion" and "[h]er presence in a physical form". I can't see that it achieves any of those objectives.
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:49 pm
It's a bit confusing. Normally people are trying to desexualise the female body, advocating for public breastfeeding, complaining about censorship of breasts and nipples on social media (and indeed in real life), and now suddenly a statue for Mary Wollstonecraft goes up and everyone's like "oooh cover yourself up, love, men might look at your boobies and think impure thoughts" like it would be better for feminism if she was contorted in a historically-accurate corset.
I don't know anyone who's complained about the nudity because men might be turned on. I know I'm objecting to the nudity because it, once again, reduces women to their bodies. It's not empowering. It's a distraction. Instead of talking about Wollstonecraft, about feminism, about women's rights, we're now talking about this stupid tiny nude statue. The group said that "Just as the image of Churchill’s memorial statue is used in debates on his legacy, the same is needed for Mary Wollstonecraft." and they've not achieved that at all. Where has been the debate about Wollstonecraft's legacy? I've learned more about the artist in the discussions than I have about the Vindication of the Rights of Women.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by snoozeofreason » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:56 pm

EACLucifer wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:27 pm
It's worth noting that this was the alternative candidate.

Image

While somewhat basic, I don't think it's too unreasonable to think a statue honouring someone ought to be more about the individual being honoured, rather than the artist of the statue.
I like the silhouette of the pony-tailed woman in modern dress (I assume it's part of the artwork, rather than someone who just wandered into shot when the photograph was taken). The statue puts Wollstonecraft firmly in her time, but the silhouette brings out her influence beyond that time.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by dyqik » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:57 pm

snoozeofreason wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:56 pm
(I assume it's part of the artwork, rather than someone who just wandered into shot when the photograph was taken).
I'm pretty sure that's there for scale.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by shpalman » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:58 pm

snoozeofreason wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:56 pm
EACLucifer wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:27 pm
It's worth noting that this was the alternative candidate.

Image

While somewhat basic, I don't think it's too unreasonable to think a statue honouring someone ought to be more about the individual being honoured, rather than the artist of the statue.
I like the silhouette of the pony-tailed woman in modern dress (I assume it's part of the artwork, rather than someone who just wandered into shot when the photograph was taken). The statue puts Wollstonecraft firmly in her time, but the silhouette brings out her influence beyond that time.
I wondered about that and then it occurred to me that she was there for scale.
molto tricky

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by EACLucifer » Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:59 pm

Martin Y wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:44 pm
For me it's encapsulated in Tessa's opening post.
Tessa K wrote:
Wed Nov 11, 2020 8:43 am
Is a statue of a naked woman empowering or is it - yet again - naked women for the male gaze?
When it's in the eye of the beholder there's no reason it can't be both.

Her: "Getting her tits out is defiant and empowering".
Him: "<blink> Hmm? What?"
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that a statue commissioned by a group with listed patrons and chair* all women that voted unanimously for a female sculptor's* statue was not intending it to be for the "male gaze"


*It only took a moment to check this, but I really don't think adeep dive onto who was involved is that important here.

**Worth pointing out, though, that the artist is in a long term relationship with a woman - assumptions about "male gaze" can be remarkably heteronormative

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by EACLucifer » Fri Nov 13, 2020 3:01 pm

dyqik wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:57 pm
snoozeofreason wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:56 pm
(I assume it's part of the artwork, rather than someone who just wandered into shot when the photograph was taken).
I'm pretty sure that's there for scale.
Image

Yep.

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Re: Naked female statues

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Nov 13, 2020 3:07 pm

dyqik wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:53 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:36 pm
dyqik wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 2:22 pm


And in any case, this statue is celebrating a particular woman from a particular point in time. It's supposed to be tied to the past. To not tie it to her period in history is to deny her achievements under the particular circumstances of her time.
To tie her to her period history is to deny her ongoing achievements since then, in the present and (hopefully) future.
She's dead, BoaF. ;)

Yes, I know achievements outlive people and can be ongoing. But the period in history that she did stuff in is part of why she's important. You can't celebrate pioneers if you ignore that they were pioneering because they did stuff in a historical context.
For sure. But it's also important to recognise the ongoing contributions their achievements make. There's no need to be dogmatic about which part should be visually represented in a statue.

Indeed, a few months ago people including on here were arguing that there are too many statues focussing on old dead people and that public art should instead seek to venerate concepts and ideas.
THINK BIG AND UPEND THE SYSTEM

#ShowYourStripes

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