Bodies and entitlement

CW- non-sexual nudity in photos, body fascism, misogyny, sexual harassment, sexual assault. Don’t even think about leaving a creepy comment.

I’ve been thinking a fair amount lately about bodies and entitlement to them. Mostly fuelled by a combination of being cat-called on the street a lot lately, and meaning to start going to life drawing class again but not being able to afford it/getting round to it.

I started going to life drawing classes as a teenage art student, and I think it did me the world of good even outside of the art training. Spending an evening every week staring intently at some naked middle aged hippies gave me a far more realistic idea of what bodies should or could look like than the media ever could, and a lack of concern about taking my own clothes off (aided by a lot of medical appointments over the years that have involved getting naked, and sometimes being watched by a load of medical students). The weird squeamishness about nudity is always something that has annoyed me about the culture of the UK.

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Hiding in plain sight

(image from a 1960s ad for Smirnoff Vodka- with added text)

CW- sexual abuse, sexual assault, harassment, misogyny, racism, silencing- nothing described in graphic terms, only in outlines

I’ve wanted to write about some happier things for the last few days, but my mind has been very much consumed with the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal. I have never worked in the film industry or had much to do with powerful millionaires but the constant stream of new testimonies of abuse by Weinstein and other powerful media figures that are now coming out are a daily reminder that there are a hell of a lot of men out there in all kinds of settings who absolutely get off on humiliating you and feeling like they have power over you, no matter how small, safe in the knowledge that society always lets them off the hook in the end. It reminds you of the times these things happened to you. I’m not alone, it’s stirring a lot things up in a lot of people.

There’s a lot of pressure to keep silent about these things. As Stassa Edward’s  Don’t Make A Scene article states:

“‘Don’t embarrass me in the hotel,’ Harvey Weinstein commanded model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez … ‘You’re making a scene,’ is a phrase that nearly every woman is familiar with. It’s invoked to command a kind of moral authority over women’s behavior, quickly coding it as irrational and veering towards crazy. To ‘make a scene’ is a series of ever-changing images, flexible enough to be used to describe a range of behaviors.”

Rose McGowan was vocal for years about her abuse, and mostly was just dismissed as crazy and hysterical, a washed up star bitter she wasn’t more famous. Terry Crews, a man with a super-masculine public image, revealed this week that he was groped in public at an awards show by a Hollywood executive, but knew that if he reacted or caused a fuss he would probably be the one to get in trouble and labelled with the stereotype of the aggressive or hyper-sensitive black man.

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