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Jun 19 2010

Heads up! Art Week starts on Monday

Now that Science Week is over [and what did we learn? That you can't get smart without oppressin' somebody somewhere, that's what. Which is hardly surprising, since (as I've been gently, kindly, and with the patience of Job trying to explain the Internet for the last 5 years) patriarchy isn't just some vague academic concept invented by fat chicks who can't get laid, it's the world's most popular world order, and it's actually predicated on oppression, and its sphere of influence is infinite, therefore science can't exist outside it, therefore revolution is the only solution, blah, yadda, etc] it’s time to focus the jaundiced lens of blaming scrutiny on Art.

Although if I might just make one last observation: the idea of the “natural” world as separate from human culture? Nope.

Let me ask you this. At what point does human culture depart from the Natural? With the invention of computers? TV? Cars? The cotton gin? Electricity? Taco stands? Gunpowder? The printing press? Written language? Shoes? Crop cultivation? Yurts? The wheel? Did humans become unnatural when the good old days of picturesque, endless agrarian toil, feudal oppression, unchecked disease, ignorance, and death from dysentery at 35 turned into the bad new days of urban post-industrial capitalism where a pound of fair-trade organic coffee costs $12.99 and your email inbox is full of spam?

Pah. Everything humans do, or have ever done, is “natural.” We can’t do anything else. The idea that modern culture is un-natural is nostalgic and inaccurate. Living off the grid in a yurt is “good” in some absolute sense, whereas driving an SUV from a suburban bungalow to the stripmall is “bad”? Come on. This a romantic, but misguided view. The cosmic reaction to a 20′ Ford Expedition is the same as to a sanctimonious Prius: bupkis. The universe doesn’t give a fuck about you or your lifestyle choices. It doesn’t give a fuck about the economy, oil spills, or civil unrest in Blargistan. It doesn’t give a fuck about katydids. Eventually our whole planet will be erased from space, and the galaxy won’t bat an eye. The inevitable extinction of our species (imminent, according to research here at Spinster Laboratories) via the exhaustion of available resources is as natural as a fresh-picked peach. As Andre 3000 and other dude philosophers have observed, nothing is forever.

Yes, yes, when people use the word ‘natural’ what they really mean is ‘free of chemical additives’ and maybe some of the assorted hippie concepts that go with that narrative. Barter economies, home furnishings made from bamboo, vegan cookbooks, living in the country. While I would argue that it is just as natural for people to put chemical additives in things as it is to not put chemical additives in things, I admit that it is appealing to fantasize that the source of human misery is an unnatural isolation from Nature, and that doing yoga on an organic rubber mat and drinking organic spinach smoothies will put me back in sync with the cosmos.

But alas, I’m already in sync with the cosmos, and so are you. In other words, this is it. This is what we’ve become, and this is what we get. Which is not to say that a person can’t fantasize about a verdant paradise full of songbirds and polar bears and Bengal tigers, untouched by human influence. Only, that world isn’t a world we could actually live in. The minute you add “contented children, lazy from a carefree day at the swimming hole, eating ripe plums on the porch at sunset” to that scenario, natural history changes, and it’s right back to our scorched-earth dystopia. Our giant brains use up resources, it’s as simple as that.

As long as we’re still here, though, we might as well try to make the best of it. Which is why I say bring on the cyborg fetus incubators, and Art Week.

In my enthusiasm for the project at hand, I Googled “women art.” Amazon came back with this result:

Women, Art, and Society by Whitney Chadwick , which discusses women artists through the ages and how they came to be given the heave-ho by the keepers of the Great Art Canon. What’s this doing here?

Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church by Nancy Beach. “Nancy desires that women will fully engage in the dangerous and thrilling adventure of using their leadership gifts to advance the kingdom of God. The path won’t be easy . . . but God will never leave you alone. ” Now this is more like it.

The Best Things in Life are Topless (Woman and Beer) Art Poster Print by Poster Revolution. From the Home & Garden section! Art for the people! Now we’re getting to the crux of the matter. Customers who viewed this item also viewed posters with images of beers squished between women’s breasts and thighs, along with about 30,672 other pornographic posters featuring beer as a subtle metaphor for rape.

Cheap Monday The Tight Jean in Art, Denim for Women. Price, $64. Art in this case is a color. Customers who bought art-colored tight jeans from Amazon also bought “Sexy Metallic Stretch Booty Shorts” and “Sexy Black Rubber Look Mini Skirt.” Awesome.

Also, Salvador Dali mousepad, featuring “Woman Sleeping in A Landscape.” More awesome. Why not get one for Dad? He’ll enjoy rolling his mouse over this charming painting of a naked woman with her skull bashed in, brains hanging out, wrist chained to a dead tree, because it is beautiful and important, having been painted by a 20th Century Master.

Well, what’re you waiting for? Get crackin!

79 comments

  1. jaded

    Ooh nothing sets me off as art patriarchal art does. Many dudes (such as my art professor) think Boticelli’s Venus is an empowering painting as women’s bodies have never been celebrated before. When fellow feminists and I pointed out that it’s some dude celebrating a woman’s body and not her; he asked if there is REALLY a difference considering had it not been Boticelli, we’d still not be okay with women’s nudity. Huh. That would be so (not) bad if you see all the porn it generates from the very principle.

    What can you do? Intelligence isn’t everyone’s forte.

  2. Triste

    Oooooh. What kind of art are we focusing on exactly? The “walk into a museum and BAM this is art” kind of art, or art as a broader term which includes literature/music/drama and such?

  3. Comrade PhysioProf

    Fuck art.

  4. Dawn Coyote

    I have a question: Can nature commit crimes against itself?

    I think the fucking universe is suicidal.

  5. nails

    I read some stuff about Dali back in the day. His dad fucked him up really bad- showed him graphic pictures of venereal disease as a child over and over. Then he took all kinds of hallucinogens. His paintings kinda make sense in that context.

  6. thewhatifgirl

    As an anthropologist/archaeologist, I have to thank you. I feel like I am constantly telling people on the Internets (for which I blame evo psych!) that “natural” is all in how you look at it, that human biology doesn’t automatically trump human culture, etc.

  7. Bonnie

    Art is being able to keep the Verdins from beaning themselves on our picture windows.

    I fail at art.

  8. MPMR

    Dawn, why would you say the universe is suicidal? I’m speculating it’s because of our current quest to make Earth uninhabitable for humans. (If not, please elaborate.) If so, please consider:

    Long time past, the only life on Earth was unicellular microorganisms. They hung around being groovy for a good long while (1.2 billion with a B years) until cyanobacteria came along and started polluting their atmosphere with whole piles of oxygen, changing the environment drastically. (Ancient bacteria: “Hey, asshole! Poop out your oxygen on someone else’s planet!”) Then another billion years or so later, organisms that start to look like plants show up on the scene, and start taking over. Then by about 200 million years ago, plants have really done well for themselves, covering vast swaths of the Earth’s surface.

    Now humans are polluting the atmosphere again, but I doubt it will be as drastic a change as the one plants made. I’m not saying this because I think it’s okay, I’m saying this because Earth will go on, even if all humans and all animals (and even all plants!) go extinct. It will look different, but I personally don’t believe Earth gives a crap what it looks like, and all this affection for tweeting songbirds and green grass that humans have developed is about our preferences, not nature’s as a whole.

  9. sargassosea

    Dali also liked (so I read) to use his heighth of position in the world of Art to demand toe sucking favors from those up-and-coming in trade for a good review.

  10. yttik

    The universe is not suicidal, Twisty. People may be, but the universe, she will just spit us out when she tires of us. Probably in the name of self preservation.

    As to nature, since people came to be, they’ve been trying to improve on things, make life more convenient. When people long for something “natural” they’re not being nostalgic, they’re questioning if people may have been a bit hasty in declaring nature a defective system. We are starting to learn that there is a rhyme and reason to how things work and that nature spent a few million years developing it. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been so hasty in our disregard for nature and stopped to consider the big picture before we sought to “improve” so many things.

  11. otoc

    I would like to do an experiment where I get bloggers and internet community members of all tribes to pledge to define terms before discussions, especially on controversial topics. I hypothesize it would reduce time spent arguing with strangers on the internet by .001%. I assert that this experiment would be arty, especially if it became trendy, and I could title it “A Commentary on Modern Communication in The Age of The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Herself”.

  12. MPMR

    yttik, where do you draw the line between making life more convenient naturally and unnaturally? Is making a pile of grass to use as a bed natural? Weaving a hammock? Chopping down a tree to make a bed? Building a factory that builds beds to be sold at IKEA? I’m not asking you to draw a firm line, but what are your criteria for natural?

    You seem to use the term “nature” as if nature is an intelligent separate being apart from the the organisms in it and that nature externally directs events within nature. I don’t believe that nature will “spit us out”, although I can believe that we will modify our environment enough that we will no longer be able to survive.

    The idea that nature spent millions of years “developing” herself has an implicit moral judgment and seems to imply you think that evolution is directed in some way. That’s not how evolution works. There is no destination.

  13. Bushfire

    I have a cute little anecdote for y’all. One day in recent years I decided I really liked fairies, and decided to draw one. I started to draw a sexxxay girl with wings and then thought there was something really weird about that. I wondered why I was drawing a porno idea of what a fairy should look like. Then I started wondering what a fairy would look like if she had full personhood rights. I decided she would be wearing comfy clothes, not showing any tits, and going about her business. So then I drew a sexxay girl wearing pajamas. Then I realized that it was completely futile to draw a picture of a woman who was meant to be on my wall and gazed at by people expecting “beauty” without it being rapey in some way. Now when I feel like drawing or painting it’s a still life. My favourite pieces are a corn cob and a blue couch.

    I wish I could draw women, because I love women, but I just can’t do it until the P has been overthrown.

  14. C.

    Yo Twisty, you should cast your jaundiced eye upon the clusterbomb of intersectionality known as Vanessa Beecroft! Provided you’re going to go beyond lampooning only the most abstract conceptions of mid-century modern American expressionism, I don’t know how the hell you could blame “Art” as patriarchy without blaming it as white supremacy to boot.

    Even that insufferable, rich honky dude rag, New York magazine, did a fair feature on Beecroft’s work that went, “yah, that shit’s kinda totally wack.”

    When Beecroft finally installs her final work, VB61: Still Death Darfur Still Deaf, it’s the standard Beecroft hokum: mostly-nude women in a public place, only this time they’re painted pitch black and covered with buckets of fake blood (get it?).

  15. kristinc

    Fuck art.

    No way. Just look at the artists on Etsy. It’s a marketplace full of amazing female artists making art on their own terms for us to enjoy on our terms.

    Beautiful things are good, it’s defining “beautiful” based on exclusionary, patriarchal asskissing that stinks. (Or “important” — I think the idea of “important” art is bullshit inextricably wound up in hierarchy.)

    One of my favorite things about the Intertubes is how they’re being used by artists to go directly to an audience instead of having to grovel and conform to be allowed exposure.

  16. tinfoil hattie

    fat chicks who can’t get laid,

    Hey! That’s the name of my band!

  17. Tigs

    Art Week!
    Yayyy!

    Art is merely a way of keeping the [i]wrong[/i]people from making beautiful things and enjoying beautiful things. Art also is a necessary tool in the box for keeping the masses in line– defining so much of the way that we perceive the world.

    That being said, I lurve Art. I try to resist the patriarchal training that says X is more valuable/beautiful/Art-y than Y, but in reality– I realllllly believe that sometimes X is more valuable/beautiful/Art-y than Y. I freely admit that Michaelangelo’s Pieta took my breath away in ways that a million other pictures/sculptures of good old Jesus and Mary. I [i]felt[/i] that it was a visceral reaction, indeed, I did not know it was Michaelangelo’s when I turned that corner and dropped the F-bomb in the Pope’s house—but, well, I was in St. Peter’s, I knew some pretty [u]impressive[/u] shit was coming up somewhere.

    Also, I think that this was a very nice transition from science to art week, because Art can only be Art if Nature is something other than Culture, and the patriarchy can only exist when these arbitrary distinctions are held sacrosanct.

  18. Mujery Legs

    Alembert once said, “it is readily apparent that the sciences and the arts are mutually supporting, and that consequently there is a chain that binds them together.”

    Fuck, you can’t talk about chains and shit on the patriarchy-blaming blog. Can ya?

  19. ikkepagrasset

    I love this perspective on nature — I once spent an entire nature writing class trying to convince people of the very same. Unsuccessfully, but whatever, I tried. I wonder if there are any other animals that refuse to think of themselves as animals.

    Anyway, what a relief to know that I’m not the only one who thinks this way!

  20. Hedgepig

    Hey, Art Week starts on Monday and it’s not even Monday in New Zealand yet so we have to wait or it isn’t fair.

  21. ladysquires

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who watches Discovery Channel documentaries featuring Stephen Hawking during the insomniac hours of the night and takes a strange and sort of creepy comfort in knowing that Yellowstone National Park is due to blow North America the fuck up and cover every place else in ash and cause volcanic winter just about any day now.

    And if that doesn’t wipe us out, then the flying planet chunks will, or a star several light years away is going to go supernova and strip away Earth’s protective magnetic field with its cosmic rays and give us all the suntan from hell, and then one day our sun is going to go Red Giant and just swallow the Earth in it’s ever-expanding radioactive embrace.

  22. nails

    In local art news, Garbage can 2.0 is about 50% complete. I need more plastic garbage. I have enlisted the help of my friends in order to accumulate more.

    http://i47.tinypic.com/33w0bhw.jpg

    It is one of those tiny paper waste kind of trash cans. You will notice my huge pope painting in the background.

    I have a whole set of pink painted army men toys, too.

    Art is fun.

  23. Ashley

    “Let me ask you this. At what point does human culture depart from the Natural?”

    You’re just not much of a hippie, Jill. If emoticons were allowed there’d be a smile here.

    Although strangely, you take lots of beautiful hippie pictures.

  24. AoT

    The whole idea of nature and things being natural is pretty much a racist, sexist scam. All the language about the rape of the earth, and the “untouched beauty” of some place that has actually had people living there for thousands, if not millions, of years. Now it’s be repurposed as a marketing ploy, to go along with all the pink ribbons and green whatever. Nature is a poor innocent woman untouched by real people(ie white men).

  25. Earnest O'Nest

    kristinc called it! Let’s fuck those fucking with art, all this sorry bunch of cigar-smoking self-indulgent fat dudes that want you to prove to them why they should give you an audience (‘a shot’ at ‘making it’).

    Blame simply isn’t enough for people ‘working’ in art. The funk will need to settle that score by them realizing what sorry little nitwits they are.

  26. Barbara P

    Reminds me of an art presentation I watched once where there was a selection of “important” art. The guy running it considered himself very progressive because he included two women (out of ~20 artists) in the mix:

    – Georgia O’Keefe (quote: “she was the best female artist of this century, perhaps the best female artist ever“)
    – A woman who did “protest” art, as one of a group of other “protest artists”. The others protested things like “war”. Her protest was against the male dominated-aspect of art.

    I just about died from the irony.

    * I cannot remember the artist’s name, but I blame the patriarchy for that.

  27. Barbara P

    otoc, you have a good point about defining terms. What about giving people the benefit of the doubt? (I know it’s tricky because of idiot trolls. But it can work if you only respond to things that pass the “smell test” and ignore everything else.) Another thing that helps: reading previous comments very, very carefully. Also, resist correcting others harshly, but be willing to listen to correction gracefully, even if you ultimately don’t accept the criticism. I say this as someone who’s observed internet conversation for about 18 years, and who reads a hell of a lot more than she writes. It always saddens me to see an otherwise embiggening conversation deteriorate because of a weird breakdown of trust and goodwill. So often, when you really read the progression, you realize the craziness should never have happened. Really, just a little more patience & a little more kindness is all it takes.

    After (mostly) lurking on this site for years, about 90% of the commentariat sound like people I would love to hang out with, regardless of the sides they took in various blow-ups. This includes some with whom I disagree fairly strongly. Hell, sometimes I think Jill is wrong, but I love her anyway! (I may be too optimistic about people.)

  28. Sylvie

    Lord luv a duck and lawks a mercy, that Nietzsche – dead but he won’t lie down.

    Art’s what you can get away with – therefore a power move.

  29. Comrade Svilova

    The whole “natural” movement is also, in its own way, a weird conglomeration of classism and some other ingredient I can’t name. So much of the green movement is based on going “back to basics” or back to what poor people used to do; ironically, of course, that lifestyle is now primarily only available to rich people.

    On art, I work in public access TV, and it’s incredible to me the amount of scorn people display towards those who want to get their message out on the air, create a short films, or otherwise dabble in video art. Sure, the channel doesn’t have many high speed car chases or topless women, but really — how many cliched big budget films do you need to see before you’ve seen them all? The affection people have for high production values and the Authority of Real Art and the derision they express for Art for the Masses is astounding.

    I Blame the Kyriarchy.

  30. snow black

    For a truly nauseating “celebration” of art and women (as objects, natch) see this youtube thingie:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUDIoN-_Hxs

    The horror, for me, is compounded by the impossibility of explaining to my dear ones why it is so nauseating.

  31. ew_nc

    A thought occurred to me recently regarding art. (that doesn’t happen very often, I assure you)

    For me, art is color.

    And that is my entire contribution to the subject of art. Other that it’s such a tiny, plain word to describe such a huge subject.

  32. Amos

    Nature is the opposite not of culture, but of artifice, which seems appropriate for Art Week. They are relative terms though, like big and small, with the added twist that all things artificial ultimately derive from nature.

  33. Jodie

    I love things that are made to be pleasing to the eye, especially things meant to give some insight into the subject or surprise me or make me think; embroideries and needlepoint and painted things and photographs and molded or blown glass and pottery and metal work or whatever.

  34. j

    Bushfire, your ancedote where you try to paint a picture of a woman without patriarchal influence is something I can relate to very much. It’s very frustrating, but I think it’s worth to continue to try.

    For example, I find it most satisfying to draw “ugly”, not patriarchally approved pictures of women/girls, where the women is still portrayed in a positive light. As someone to relate to.

  35. yttik

    One definition of natural that I like is, “having a real or physical existence as contrasted with one that is spiritual, intellectual, or fictitious.”

    It seems that exploring mother nature or doing science are pretty much the same thing, just attempts to filter out all the fiction and observe what’s really going on.

    Art has the same problems for me as science. Art of the masses is fabulous, art as a method is delightful, but that stuff is not even acknowledged as “real art” because art is an institution belonging to the dominant culture. However, people not allowed into the Elitist Art Club have gone right on doing art anyway, just as people not allowed to be part of Science went right on doing science anyway.

  36. gwyllion

    Holy CRAP – just read the review of the Vanessa Beecroft debacle – HOLY CRAP!

  37. MPMR

    “It seems that exploring mother nature or doing science are pretty much the same thing.”

    That’s how I feel about it as a mathematician. Math is the stunning thread that the fabric of the universe is made of. Truth ‘n’ beauty and all that.

    As for Art Week, lots of people are surprised that I paint, write music, design furniture, etc., because I’m a mathematician. But mathematics is the most creative thing I do! To solve a problem that no one has ever solved before means I need to use a method no one has tried before. Very hard, very creative, very satisfying.

    The problem is that the way high mathematics is taught is a lot like doing a paint-by-number with only one color of paint. Tedious and uncompelling to all but a few.

  38. thewhatifgirl

    Comrade Svilova, agreed, and a lot of it involves doing the more complicated and lengthy methods of what is traditionally women’s work. Usually, of course, to be performed by modern day women.

  39. MPMR

    I meant high school mathematics, not high mathematics.

  40. Hattie

    Oh Twisty: Beneath it all I sense a broken heart.

  41. nails

    Did anyone ever notice that even by the fluffy woo definition of ‘nature’, that nature is trying to kill us all the time? Dear lord, I just read this really old national geographic about parasites, there are a million living isms trying to worm their way into us constantly. That doesn’t even cover poison plants, molds, metals, bacteria, and environmental disasters.

  42. slade

    Obviously someone has not been forced to wear makeup, closed-toed shoes, nylons, and a dress/skirt so to keep a roof over one’s head and food in a refrigerator.

    The above clothing dicta as issued by males is NOT natural to the Female Spirit. In fact, it sucks the Female Soul dry to the point of insanity.

    Trying to exist in today’s Corporately-fucked world is NOT natural. However, having shelter and food is.

    What a fucking world we’re stuck in.

    I really don’t want any part of it, but at present can’t afford not to.

    See? This is how it has been arranged. I’d kill myself but that’s exactly what ‘they’ want.

    I blame them alright.

  43. Gayle

    “The universe is not suicidal, Twisty. People may be, but the universe, she will just spit us out when she tires of us. Probably in the name of self preservation.”

    The universe needs to get a move on then. As things stand, we’re taking everything and everyone else out with us.

    People are more homicidal than suicidal.

  44. sargassosea

    “People“, please.

    Males are more homicidal than suicidal as many scienc-ie statistics have shown.

    To be honest I haven’t looked into stats on female suicide rates lately, but my ‘intuition’ tells me that chicks off themselves (for Personal Reasons like botched DIY Ticonderoga #2 abortions, not living up to Beauty Standards, being/working twice-as-hard-for-less, etc.) more often than do dudes but they do it with less panache, fanfare and media attention. Who cares about a female suicide anyway?

    *

    Art! An actual reason to look forward to the coming week!

  45. Le Chat Noir

    I am wary of the idea that everything human beings do is natural by virtue that we are animals and part of nature. Is patriarchy therefore natural? Are atom bombs natural?

    I would argue that our patriarchal Western society is unnatural because it is dominated by the male sex and caucasians and therefore out of balance. There are many indigenous societies where women have more of a voice and who are more in harmony with nature.

  46. Tigs

    “To be honest I haven’t looked into stats on female suicide rates lately, but my ‘intuition’ tells me that chicks off themselves (for Personal Reasons like botched DIY Ticonderoga #2 abortions, not living up to Beauty Standards, being/working twice-as-hard-for-less, etc.) more often than do dudes but they do it with less panache, fanfare and media attention. Who cares about a female suicide anyway?”

    Women try to kill themselves more often, but men are more likely to be successful–thus making the successful suicide rate of men higher.
    Most of the difference can be explained by looking at methods. Men are more likely to use violence methods (self-inflicted gunshot wound, for example). There’s much less chance that you’ll have the time to change your mind or that someone will intervene if you’ve blown your brains out.

  47. Amananta

    Speaking as a fat chick with lots of fat chick friends, guys only PRETEND they won’t bang you. All the fat chicks I know get laid as much (or more) as anyone else. Guys just like to pretend they wouldn’t. Why? I blame the patriarchy.

  48. Jill

    “The universe is not suicidal, Twisty

    Someone else said that, not me. I said it was indifferent.

  49. Lovepug

    I highly recommend Rebecca Solnit’s book “Savage Dreams” wherein she takes on this topic quite brilliantly. Her discussion of it centers around the history of Yosemite. She also has an interesting take on photography and realism. One of my favorite books. And her work is always meticulously researched.

  50. yttik

    Sorry Jill, it wasn’t you, it was the tone of the comments that came after.

    Yikes, what sent us down this path of heavy homicide/suicide themes? Art? If so, that’s a good argument against it.

  51. wiggles

    Tigs is correct according to what research I’ve ever done. Women are twice as likely to quietly overdose and leave everybody else out of it. A man is about six times more likely than a woman to buy a gun and blast every woman and child in his path before turning the thing on himself. Men who do this are also significantly more likely to be portrayed sympathetically in the media than women who develop psychotic post-partum depression, are denied treatment because it might interfere with their baby-making obligations, and drown their kids in bathtubs.

  52. otoc

    Barbara P, I think Pinko Punko first mentioned the importance of defining terms in one of the other threads.

  53. no fun

    That youtube video really is sad.

    Aside from almost all being young, white, in full feminine drag and conventionally pretty, the women are almost all signaling passiveness and deference to the viewer by
    1. Averting their gaze downward. When they do look at the viewer, half the time it’s with a sideways glance from a bowed head.
    2. keeping their mouths shut/being silent
    3. doing nothing but sit there

    Start looking at classical famous paintings of dudes and you’re sure to get guys talking or being actively violent.

  54. CrazyQuilter

    what is striking to me is how cosmetic most of the “green” movement is, due in no small part to the complete unavailability of “green” choices to the numbers of people necessary to make any real change.

    so Beatrice Bucks-a-Plenty might be able to easily afford a pound of “fair-trade” coffee for $12.99, but Susie Somebody certainly cannot. advertising companies will now routinely shame Ms. Somebody, however, for not being monied enough to buy products that aren’t planet-killing, while patting Ms. Bucks-a-Plenty for being monied enough to flush cash on a fancier version of the same sort product, and the accompanying lifestyle it signifies.

    the ‘green’ movement attempts to be genuine, but it is eaten up by the fact that much of it is another collection of marketing ploys, cooked up by companies to make people want to consume more products, ironically claiming that through the consumption of these new ‘green’ products, we can correct the very problems caused by our culture of consumption–which is by necessity also a culture of incredible greed, and at the same time of profound waste–created in the first place.

    –i am new at this, but i venture to blame the patriarchy for letting some of us think they were small gods who could get away with this irresponsible behavior indefinitely.

  55. CrazyQuilter

    and as for art–only look how many simpering female nudes are proclaimed as ‘artistic’.

    walk into nearly any ‘big-name’ museum and count the female nudes; count the poses, the themes used, and tally it up, and you will see that you are standing amidst a huge, unspoken-of super-vintage soft-core porn stash.

    you can do the same by flipping open any book of art history–very nearly any “standard” art textbook will contain dozens of pictures of passive, powerless naked women, all discussed in the most glowing or thoughtful terms, without anyone really stopping to assess that they ARE just pictures of naked women–often in suggestive poses, and often blatantly meant to excite the male viewer. it is rare enough to see a woman protrayed as a living, thinking being, DOING something, in so-called Great Art; it is far more common to see women doing nothing but being passive and still and, apparently, existing only to be looked at (again, presumably by male viewers). i do sincerely blame the patriarchy for the erasure of the female gaze as an intended audience, and its being supplanted with the exclusively masculine gaze.

    i shudder to think this, but a part of me would not be surprised if, in a few decades, we would begin to see today’s pornography hung in museums and assessed by critics worldwide, while everyone tripped over each other to fellate the “artists’” egos.

  56. j

    Indeed CrazyQuilter, those old-time artistic female nudes were often meant to be soft-core porn. Most of those works were comissioned by rich dudesbros who wanted something titillating for their wast mansion interiors.

    This great video about gender in advertising mentions how the women in advertising today are posed in the same submissive poses as the ones in the Old Master’s works:

    http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=238&template=PDGCommTemplates/HTN/Item_Preview.html

  57. wiggles

    CrazyQuilter – There was a Manga/Hentai (I tend to forget which is supposed to be the overtly porny one) exhibit at SF MOMA a few years ago. The porniness wasn’t all the way out there, but it was strongly implied. They were basically pin-ups of hypersexualized busty 10-year-olds doing high kicks to at once demonstrate how “strong” and “capable” they are while conveniently revealing the crotches of their underpants.
    So I think we’re well on our way to seeing straight-up porn in museums.

    There was a Magritte painting at NY MOMA (I get around) of a group of fully-dressed dudes standing around chatting, ignoring a naked and freshly-murdered woman on a nearby bed. The guy I went there with asked me what I thought of it. Somehow he was surprised when I told him it pissed me off.

  58. kristinc

    Art’s what you can get away with – therefore a power move.

    Ooooh, interesting that this immediately reminded me of a young fashion blogger. She’s middle-school-aged and currently the darling of many a feminist blog because of the “daring” way she “plays with fashion” — wearing skirts as dresses, experimenting with texture and color and shape in ways not usually thought of as attractive.

    She seems like a perfectly nice, smart girl and I do always like to see creativity in the young but what always puts me off about all the fuss is that this girl is slim, white, hews closely to P2K compliance, and comes from a very privileged background. So duh, of COURSE everyone just LOVES how daring and clever and precocious and adorable she is! She can do no wrong because of all her privilege. Most of us mere mortals, as teens, would have bene roundly shamed and abused out of town for wearing the getups that are so daring and creative when this young blogger wears them.

    Anyway, thank you for crystallizing in one sentence the idea that bullshit hierarchy fucks with who’s legitimately allowed to Do Art because they’re clever or adorable, and who isn’t because they’re crazy or clueless.

  59. CrazyQuilter

    wiggles – the description of that picture made my jaw drop, but also reminded me of that painting by Manet, in which a naked woman is sitting down beside two normally-clad men, apparently at a picnic. in Great Art, it seems, only men are given full humanity, while women serve primarily as attractive set pieces and readily posable props.

    what that struck me about the Manet picture, the Luncheon on the Grass, was how ‘naturalized’ the nude woman looked–almost as if her lack of clothing was nothing surprising, in the same way that a pet dog’s lack of clothing is not surprising. one of my art professors discussed the painting as a showcase of the beauty of the female form and told the entire class that it had been painted as pushback against the very Victorian idea that the body was shameful and disgusting, but all that was running through my mind was the thought that it had to have been some sort of sick joke. i also wondered why, if the painting was supposed to show the (human) body as being natural and normal, as the professor insisted, only the woman was naked.

    i like some anime, but a lot of it alternately depresses and disgusts me. the loving detail with which the underpants and crotches of pre-pubescent girls are rendered in many popular anime makes my skin crawl, but it doesn’t surprise me that those are the ones that made it to America and into a museum, where they will be held up as shining examples of Anime as Art.

    and of course guys are surprised when women are outraged by things like that! –but i would bet money that he would have been disturbed if the painting had been of a naked, murdered man on a bed, and a group of women standing nearby, casually chatting as if HE were no more important than a pound of fresh, bloody steak.

  60. Helen Huntingdon

    I wonder if there are any other animals that refuse to think of themselves as animals.

    Cats.

  61. wiggles

    CrazyQuilter – I googled and the Magritte painting is titled “The Menaced Assassin.” It’s not exactly like I remember; the men are more scattered around the room than huddled together chatting, but they’re all standing around fully clothed and with relative nonchalance while a dead naked woman reclines on a bed, bleeding. I gather this is supposed to “shock” us or make us “feel something” or we’re supposed to speculate on the narrative or some crap. It just makes me despair. I’m sure men look at it and feel all powerful and bonerific.

  62. mearl

    CrazyQuilter – Bitch magazine calls the “rich people with time and money to live in yurts and buy all organic coffee” phenomenon a byproduct of priv-lit, also produced by members of the same class. Example: “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, privileged ashram-infiltrator extraordinaire. The joys of neo-imperialist capitalism are endless.

    Or how about good old Banksy, or Princess Hijab? ART! Art from the underdog! Statements! Questioning the dominant order! Notoriety! Ideas that a two-year old could never, ever have come up with!

    Due to my propensity to vomit at the sight of fuckwaddery, I’m slated to hide out in my room until the revolution begins.

    On a positive note, the Whitney Chadwick book is sitting on my bookshelf and I love it. Only Google would be able to crew it up with things like a naked-woman Dali mousepad and rubber leggings.

  63. Saurs

    Nothing pisses me off more than the attitude that Art and Art Dudes of yore ought to be congratulated for, ostensibly, their oh-so earnest and totally selfless attempts to hip non-Art folk to the radical notion that the Naked Female Human Body (there is only one! it is zaftig or it is waifish depending on who’s in charge and how much they’re eating!) is not “disgusting” and ought to be “celebrated.” Meanwhile, outside the fantasies of Art Dudes and their fanboys, real live women were going about their fucking business, very much unconcerned with prevailing attitudes regarding their inherently “disgusting” forms, very much not giving a mad fuck whether Art Dudes’ missionary work on behalf of their naked bodies was successful. The grand battle fought by art dudes To Make Naked Ladies Totally Acceptable is an ahistorical, self-serving myth.

  64. Jezebella

    As a licensed and accredited member of the Artocracy, I am going to recuse myself from much of this discussion so my head doesn’t asplode. I would, however, like to offer a few reading suggestions:

    Linda Nochlin’s germinal essay, “Why have there been no great women artists?”, the founding document of feminist art history: http://www.miracosta.edu/home/gfloren/nochlin.htm

    and the Guerrilla Girls website: http://www.guerrillagirls.com

  65. AileenWuornos

    It’s like how people think that things are “organic” – when really, anything that is carbon based fits into this category. Art, like writing, is just about as wanky and pretentious as one can get. Fortunately for one, I like being wanky and pretentious.

  66. thewhatifgirl

    “I would argue that our patriarchal Western society is unnatural because it is dominated by the male sex and caucasians and therefore out of balance. There are many indigenous societies where women have more of a voice and who are more in harmony with nature.”

    Nope, sorry, that’s a pipe dream, commonly called “the noble savage”. Women’s role in the world hasn’t improved much from hunting-gathering days; we just have more media (and art!) now to reinforce it all.

  67. Jill

    “I would argue that our patriarchal Western society is unnatural because it is dominated by the male sex and caucasians and therefore out of balance. There are many indigenous societies where women have more of a voice and who are more in harmony with nature.”

    Nope, sorry, that’s a pipe dream, commonly called “the noble savage”. Women’s role in the world hasn’t improved much from hunting-gathering days; we just have more media (and art!) now to reinforce it all.

    Thank you. That noble savage matriarchy myth is on my last effin nerve. Show me these mellow, herb-based, peaceable, lady-happy cultures. Show me just one.

  68. speedbudget

    Interesting how the nude woman was used in those two paintings. They are used very similarly. Set pieces. Depressing.

    What’s “funny” is that somebody was saying how people still refer to her as Oriental, or in some cases Ornamental. I almost spit my coffee out. That’s quite a Freudian slip, eh?

  69. Liberality

    What I want is for the human community to live sustainably. We are not living that way now. We are screwing over future generations. Hell, we are screwing over poor people right now whenever we consume more than we need. So yes, I admit to being one of those vegetarian (going vegan) hippie liberals who wants to save the world.

  70. agasaya

    Re: The Nobel Savage myth.

    My assertion is that patriarchy has survived to this point only through the influence of women keeping males from killing each other off (along with ourselves) in a final blaze of glory. We have influence; it is just devoted to the full time job of life in most cultures and life-style in our own culture. Not much left over after that to stop the downward spiral.

    On that cheery note, have a pleasant day.

  71. wiggles

    Re Noble Savages
    Was there a pre-patriarchy time before metallurgy and agriculture, when earthy fertility goddesses were as important and authoritative as male sun and river gods?
    I’ve heard mixed things and I prefer to believe in this magical time rather than believe that this shit is all biologically determined and that there was never a time when female humans weren’t oppressed.

  72. Laughingrat

    Refusing to believe in a time in the dim mystical past when earthy fertility goddesses* (why always “earthy fertility goddeses,” incidentally? Why not “goddesses of empirical observation and making useful things”? IBTP) reigned is not the same as believing that Patriarchy is biologically determined. Patriarchy is not biologically determined. It’s just a really longstanding, crappy addiction that humanity is finding difficult to break.

    *Until convincingly proven.

  73. wiggles

    I’d assumed, perhaps wrongly, that the only thing early humans had much time to observe empirically was how to survive, which means food, which means fertility. So they put a lot of thought into this. Male fertility would be equated with the sun, which plays an arguably equal role in fertility and food-production, and look how big a part phallic imagery plays in theology and politics and everything “important” now.

  74. Jezebella

    Why do you assume male fertility would be equated with the sun? I see no logical connection there. Why not the rain pissing down? Why not the stars or the clouds? Humans have been around for tens of thousands of years, and we only know a fraction of our own history. There have been plenty of cultures in the last four thousand years which were not devoted entirely to bare subsistence, and there’s no reason to assume that every human community prior to known history was a subsistence culture.

  75. CrazyQuilter

    mearl – the entire phenomenon of neo-imperialism makes my blood boil; we seem to have devolved to neo-orientalism, as well. only now, when Other/”exotic” races are mystified and put on a pedestal, but at the same time reduced to set pieces for the REAL people (white, wealthy tourists) to act around, or upon–now, the culture tourists pat themselves on the back for how ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ they are for being willing to ‘experience’ other cultures. instead of what they would have done in the past, which would have been to shake their heads at how backwards they were, and then attempt to “civilise” them “properly”. NOW, we have culture tourists who want to keep certain places looking as if they never advanced not for the good of the people who live there, but to preserve their own ideal of the location–a sort of way to make sure that there are always “exotic” places to go with their money, when they get tired of looking around at the wreckage have created in their own homelands.

    it is immensely depressing to know that people can go to such lengths with the claim of “exploring others’ culture”, yet have so little real empathy for the people who actually LIVE in those cultures.

    have you seen the way tourists from rich countries will step over beggar children on the streets in poor countries? have you seen them turn up their eyes at the buildings and declare the local architecture “charming” or “quaint”, while ignoring the pinched, thin women and their children who hide just around the corners of some of these very buildings? it crushes me every time i think of it, and know that to these people, it IS all a ride–Disneyland’s “Small World After All” De-luxe.

  76. CrazyQuilter

    to Saurs–
    i can never help but notice how these Art Dudesirs, while claiming to appreciate “the human body”, seem only to appreciate “the female body” in and with their art.

    i think this has a bit to do with them believing that there is nothing to appreciate about “females” BESIDES our bodies; meanwhile, male bodies belong to more “important” creatures, with more “important” things–like minds, and thoughts.

    also, the male body has lots of ‘icky things’ like penises and too much body hair, and after all, what heterosexual, red-blooded, sane-minded man wants to look at THAT?

    now, don’t misunderstand the Dudesirs of Yore, please–i mean, it isn’t as if they were only painting naked ladies to get their jollies off, OH-HO NO! that was Serious Artly Business they were doing, there! they had to take the burden upon themselves to PROVE to all men how sexy Naked Ladies Were! don’t you understand how difficult it was, trying to convince men that naked ladies were sexy?

    also, Real Live Women going about their everyday business isn’t as sex–i mean, as WORTHY OF ARTISTIC ATTENTION as paintings of naked women. yes. at least, that was what it said in the books; didn’t you read it too?

  77. Le Chat Noir

    Re The Noble Savage Myth

    I don’t know what is so mythical about the existence of different human societies living more in harmony with nature and/or not as patriarchal as “ours” (and by ours I mean Western modern society and in specific speaking from my own experience in the United States)?

    Not all human cultures are as patriarchal. What about the Mosuo culture?
    http://www.mosuoproject.org/mosuo.htm

    Actually, I think it is precisely because these other cultures are not as patriarchal as Western culture that they often get “wiped out”.

    Regarding pre-patriarchy, I suggest checking out Riane Eisler’s book “The Chalice and the Blade”.

  78. joy

    As an artist, not an Artist, and appreciator of art but not Art, I too am staying out of this, but wished to say:

    saurs, mearl, CrazyQuilter, you folks have said some thumbs-up worthy things and hit that proverbial nail right on the head.

    Also, kristinc: THANK YOU! for articulating that. Jesus. I wore crazy shit when I was … eleven, or however the fuck old she is, and yeah. Beaten. Shamed. Called ‘dyke’, also ‘whore.’
    Because when a rich white girl does it, awww, look how creative she is! When the ambiguously ethnic girl from the wrong side of the tracks does it, get her to therapy posthaste and for godsakes, call her mother to see if she doesn’t have anything else respectable.

    For other examples of this same principle, applied in slightly different ways to fit the circumstances, see, everywhere else in life.

  79. Saurs

    male bodies belong to more “important” creatures, with more “important” things–like minds, and thoughts.

    Sing it, CrazyQuilter. Dude’s bodies were, are, and forevermore shall be mere fleshy and functional handbags toting ’round their huge, pulsating Dude Brains. Once they reach a certain, comfortably mature age, they are simply not ornamental, and every male appendage by definition possesses an important and earth-shattering function, including their wangs, which exist solely to punish or please ladies, depending on how bad or good the former have been. Dicks are given the shaft (if you will) in important art, however, barring the occasional reclining god, because they’re simply not “aesthetically pleasing.” Sez heterosexual dudely experts, either oblivious to the obvious or willfully insincere.

    Is the plight of art dudes trying to empower naked ladies at all substantially different from the plight, say, of the pre-Raphaelites trying, in a totally socially conscious way, for real, to “capture” the beauty of their fallen women, or porn apologists trying to empower ladiez who make it their life’s work servicing violent male fantasies?

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