Women on the dock

I am not a fan of the breastarant, underclad cheerleaders, or Victoria’s Secrets ads. Also, let’s face it–bikini contests. It seems to me that the exploitation of women’s bodies is a sign of our reduction to cardboard parodies of self. We become less-than-human and objects.

So it is odd that this entire discussion was precipitated by IKEA’s (brilliant) idea to provide inexpensive temporary shelter to people in displaced situations.

I commented that this makes up for when they erased women in their catalogs…almost makes up for….

Erasing women. Hm…

IKEA had decided to market in Saudi Arabia. They digitally removed the women in their catalogs. Presumably because male customers would be offended?

My son challenged my outrage over this by asking what I would do about Victoria’s Secret models in a similar situation. I admit that I thought he was being snarky and that the image of disembodied lingerie floating in space does seem preferable to the VS ads I find so offensive.

Normal women in lingerie–no airbrushing or anorexia? I think real would be a good start.

Years ago I worked in an art gallery. Each year they hosted a show devoted to the human form. Self-portraits, cubist depictions, stylized nudes–you saw it all. My co-workers quipped that men always blurred their own groin region in naked self-portraits. I remember my favorite ever entry in this show was a self-portrait of a woman in her fifties or early sixties. She wore only cotton briefs and an unflinching honesty.

I loved that painting. She gave me someone to strive to become.

Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Virginia Woolf, Frieda Kahlo, Abigail Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Madame Curie, heck, Elizabeth the First, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc…Boudicca all give me someones to strive to become. Many of these women paved the road for me. Gave me dignity, suffrage, a moral, legal, and intellectual foundation.

You can make a woman an object by erasing her entirely or you can make her an object by making her into a sexual cartoon. Either way it seems to me we are complicit in the process of devaluing and commodifying women if we do either. If we accept either. And this comes with a simple test–would a man do this? Would he get erased from the picture? Strut around in his speedo? Wear his high heels and short shorts in a breastarant?

And what would we call it if he did? Are there gonadaurants? Should there be?