New Works or My Recent Thoughts on Women

I am always thinking about women. About myself as a woman. About other women and how they might see themselves as women. And always, I am thinking about what that really means – to be a woman. It is a very difficult question to answer. Should I embrace my maternity and femininity, my strength, my emotional intellect, my scientific intellect! Should I embrace the way in which I am different or the ways in which I am equal. A wise (but boring politically correct) person would say “Embrace it all, all that is you, because all of you is woman.” That’s nice. That really is very nice and hippy dippy and accepting – but for me, and I don’t know about you, that just isn’t all that comforting.

The first thing that I always go to is the societal differences between men and women – the cultural “norms” that have shaped the female psyche for generations and continue to today in more than just the obvious ways. I can get worked up just like any other And because I am always thinking about these things some things appear or materialize all on their own. The below painting, for instance, came into fruition due to a fleeting thought I had while I was trying to fall asleep earlier this week.

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LITTLE RED HEAD

The head of Little Red Riding Hood appeared to me on a decorative display. Her head is not on a pike. She has not been executed and mounted to prove a point to my enemies. She has been, instead, preserved for future generations to enjoy and observe. Now, before I get into this too deep, here is another piece that poured out of me this week:

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THROUGH A KEYHOLE

Here we are taking the perspective of a peeping tom, or someone of that habit, through a keyhole to find a woman gazing into a vanity with a skeletal face gazing back.

There is something off putting about both pieces, I know. Showing them to my family I got double takes and looks of confusion. The two pieces seem unrelated other than their off putting nature. They are different in tone, mood, color palette, and subject. But in my mind they are two peas in a pod.

I did not start with their connection in mind, but after both had been conceived of I saw their relevance and it was ground breaking for me. Together they are Women on Display. A theme I think, if you think hard enough, you can locate in your own life.

I don’t care who you are or what your status on feminism is! You cannot deny that women are showboated more than men on a grand scale. Women are dressed up and dressed down to prove a number of points. They are beautiful always – if they aren’t beautiful they are not shown because “All women are beautiful” so why shouldn’t we gaze upon them! I am all for body and beauty positivity. But really, WHY ARE WE FIGHTING TO BE STARED AT!?  Why do we want to be on display? What kind of gratification or satisfaction or validation do we gain from it! Why do we need to be validated thusly?

These works are of women on display. But it is at the viewers prerogative. The subjects have not chosen to show themselves. For Red someone took the liberty of preserving her beauty, her story, her strength. She has been beheaded or stripped of her identity to be placed in the annals of time, to live on the mantel to serve as some sort of guide or warning or treasure – she is no longer a woman but a commodity.

For the other, she is unaware of being watched. She is found naked of even her face. She is not what is expected. She does not live up to the expectations of the viewer. She is other worldly, but not in her beauty. She is alone and the viewer has stolen that from her. Stripped.

There are arguments out there that say that women are just more prone to vanity. There are studies about the hormones in a woman’s brain that say women are born with the instinct to connect. Women do have larger areas for emotion but they also have larger brain capacity devoted to language and communication. It is not innate for a woman to throw herself up on a billboard to yell “Look at me! Aren’t I beautiful??” But a lifetime of magazines and beauty products and accidental, but harmful, words from everyone around us lead us to believe that we are beautiful, and if we aren’t there are certain people who will think that we are, and if there aren’t then there are products and tips and tricks that will make you pretty if not beautiful. Don’t worry, someday someone will just want to sit around all day and stare at your outer beauty or your inner beauty or whatever.

Accidentally harmful. But of course we want to tell the women in our lives that they are beautiful. But I wish we didn’t. I am tired of being on display.

 

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Spinning For Difficulty
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 05:17:03

    “….But really, WHY ARE WE FIGHTING TO BE STARED AT!? Why do we want to be on display? …”

    Because it’s a well established strategy for securing resources, which is the main motivation for most of our behaviour. IOW being a model can earn you decent money for just standing around being photographed. Men and women both value beauty. That which is valued by society can earn us a living, or if nothing else it can gain us favour, ‘free stuff’ and special treatment in society.

    The entire fashion/ cosmetics/ beauty industry is driven by women for women. Studies show the vast majority of men would prefer their partners spent a lot less time, energy and money on their appearance. The only group claiming women are forced into obsessing over their appearance (by the so called male dominated ‘patriarchy’) is feminists, but this is just another resource acquisition strategy based on presenting women as victims stripped of agency and thus responsibility and in need of ‘free stuff’ and special treatment from society, from men and from the state.

    Just as society (including men) respond favourably to beauty, society also responds favourably to those who are perceived as being vulnerable victims.

    Therefore to get the most resources and special treatment from society it pays to present oneself as (1) valuable (2) helpless or vulnerable and (3) a victim stripped of agency.

    In daily life these manifest as: (1) jewellery and other fine and frivolous accessories (2) restrictive, flimsy and impractical clothes and shoes (3) the feminist victim narrative.

    Claiming (1) and (2) are somehow forced onto women by men helps to disguise the real reasons behind those behaviours…….. plus it reinforces (3)

    “…..It is not innate for a woman to throw herself up on a billboard to yell “Look at me! Aren’t I beautiful??”….”

    See also: Being an advertising executive. Working in the stock market. Being a cab driver. Selling life insurance. Being a trapeze artist.

    Reply

    • missspentlife
      Jan 10, 2014 @ 14:47:20

      Thank you for your comment! I appreciate it.

      You have to understand, though, that is not the industry I am taking issues with. I understand the very viable career of modeling. I understand that beauty is valued. That is all fine. I as a woman use cosmetics and dress myself according to many trending fashions. I don’t have a problem with the industry.

      I feel that fashion and make up are a very distinct form of self expression that men in the everyday do not have the pleasure of. I think any real feminist will recognize this and express herself through words, actions and appearance. As a feminist today, I embrace my appearance whole heartedly, recognizing that I have this freedom of physical flamboyant expression that society has not made available to men. I do not have a problem with the industry.

      My problem is with the mentality in everyday women and their need to be seen a certain way in order to be valuable. I know, as you have said, this motivates many of our behaviors. But I am more than my outward appearance and that is what I want to be valued for – definitely not for being a victim.

      I am simply tired of women defining themselves and their self worth by how other people se them. That is the point. I say this because of the Anima concept. If you are familiar with Jungian Psychology you know the term. The Anima is the feminine figure in the male psyche. She often appears in dreams to either guide men to awakening or lead them to their deaths (depending on that man’s relationship with the feminine). The feminine in the male brain, and in society, is dominated by masculine values. We live in a man’s world. The balance is starting to tip, but we haven’t reached equilibrium yet. Now, men who do not understand that their anima is internal, trying to make them reconcile with their more suppressed urges or desires, tend to just see a beautiful figure down the road. Onto her they project all that is good or all that is evil, or whatever. This distant female figure holds a lot of meaning in their lives. If the anima is negative and the man is affected we get a misogynist. If the anima is good, but the man doesn’t fully understand, we get a hopeless romantic who dreams about this perfect woman. Men have been projecting their idea of women onto the women in their lives for generations. This leads to a lot of fucked relationships. They place women on pedestals waiting for the women in their lives to live up to these expectations.

      This does not victimize women. The problem is when women take what is projected onto them, try to live up to and define themselves by it. You have misread me. I am not looking for people to see that they have subjected women to scrutiny or any attention they didn’t want. THESE WOMEN DID WANT THE ATTENTION! They have learned to define themselves by how others (men and women) judge them. I don’t want women to be victimized or be constantly pathetic, I want women to define themselves by more than appearance. I am not a victim. I take responsibility for my life (see: “I am Existential Humanist or Why I Hate the Term Atheism”). I want women to take responsibility as well.

      If you do not think you are a feminist I would like you to take a closer look at your life. Do you live like a fifties house wife? That is the only way in which you could escape being a feminist. Feminism means that you expect respect and the opportunities just like anyone – not just like a man. You expect to be treated like a human being, not lower than. If you have a career and an education (it sounds like you do) you are a feminist. Beware of feminist bashing. Do not be afraid of the title. It does not make you a bitch. It does not dismiss you of responsibility. If anything it asks you to take higher responsibility in your life. I expect no handouts. I don’t want to gain anything because I have been wounded or subjected. I want to be heard. That is all a feminist wants. She wants value. And we both know how that can motivate behavior.

      Reply

  2. taoknitter
    Jan 10, 2014 @ 17:29:24

    Very well said, misspentlife. EXTREMELY well said!

    Reply

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