In this lecture the particular concern is the relation between visual representation and the identity of the human subject. We will look at the transforming body within popular culture in the 20th and 21st centuries.
REPRESENTATION IS NOT NEUTRAL; IT IS AN ACT OF POWER IN OUR CULTURE. Craig Owens Craig Owens (1950–1990) was an American post-modernist art critic, gay activist and feminist.
A dichotomy exists between High and Mass culture which one can see privileges the masculine over the feminine High Culture Mass Culture (Art) (Pop culture) Masculine Feminine Production Consumption Work Leisure Intellect Emotion Activity Passivity Writing Reading
The term Patriarchy suggests a society ruled or dominated by men; patriarch means father, thus patriarchal relates to a culture shaped and governed in the interests of men, with women in a subordinate and, in some cases, subject role. Patriarchy is reflected in customs, norms, and values, laws, education, commerce, industry, the arts, sport and not the least language.
power. We cannot look at identity in isolation, we need therefore to place questions of identity in the context of history, language and power.
Areas of interest include: - Make-over narratives and ‘C inderella stories ’ - Gender and transgender - The transforming body - Medical/surgical narratives - The hybrid or obscene body - Body art, performance art and fetish culture - Monstrosity, plasticity and body horror - The body as sick/damaged or whole/perfected
The idea that equality and feminism could be achieved through socialism
Idea that after the feminist movement, we don’t need feminism any more.
Feminism for boys and girls
Common Themes of Normalization ▪ The body is pathological—it is diseased, sick, damaged, and in need of repair. ▪ The body is abnormal—certain bodies are considered in need of correction, such as overweight ones, non-white ones, wrongly proportioned ones. ▪ Certain bodies are normal—proportions, size, placements, and the like are deemed by society to be the models that all should replicate, follow, and mimic. Barbara Kruger (1989)
▪ The body is your enemy—people are told that their bodies are out of control and in need of punishment; the body is something that is to be feared. ▪ Technologies of correction are available—society provides people the appropriate means to correct their bodies, including cosmetics, surgery, dieting technologies, makeup, fashion, etc. ▪ Before and after—people are told "success" stories of how a person went from a wrong body to a right one; these stories are used to motivate people to act on their abnormal bodies. http://www.genderads.com/Normalized.html Caster Semenya. Following her victory at the 2009 World Championships questions were raised about her gender.
Problems with Stereotypes Women: • Very unrealistic goals for ideal body shapes, which lead to high rates of anorexia nervosa and bulimia • Make women believe they are valued based on their body, therefore their self-esteem is also based on how their body looks compared to others • Show that it is ok to treat women as objects, instead of humans • Show women as more passive and not in control of themselves • Give messages to women that changing their appearance, they will have a better life Men: • Show ideal for body type, also which can be unrealistic • Show men as aggressive and in control of things, including women • Women's problems are "fixable", you either fit the part of the masculine ideal or you do not
Analyzing the ways the body is portrayed, described and represented in culture. What is the body? What kind of bodies does our popular culture favour? To what bodily ideals do we adhere? How is the body shaped by such factors as sex gender, class, ethnicity and race?
Nan Goldin, ‘Klara and Edda Belly Dancing’ What is the body?
Robert Mapplethorpe “Man in polyester suit” (1980)
Postmodernism The arguments found within postmodernism suggests that there is more to the world than the western straight white male norm.
Three areas have been used to study the context of representation
Structuralism Pro Semiotics can be used to examine how people (specifically women) are positioned within advertisements and how this can inform the viewer about themselves through these subconscious cues. Con Concern that this can be arbitrary in conclusions and is a historical.
Consumption Is an important aspect of feminism to examine because women have been identified as the main consumers by advertisers. Women are both the subject and object of cultural production
Gender roles are closely linked with gender stereotypes. Gender roles are "socially and culturally defined prescriptions and beliefs about the behavior and emotions of men and women." (Anselmi and Law 1998, p. 195).
“ At a semiotic level there is disparity in the portrayal of men and women in popular advertising. When men and women appear in ads together, the women are often depicted as weaker than the male, either through composition of the ad or particular situations in the scene. When females appear in ads alone we again note the stereotype of the female as sexual, unintelligent and fragile. Males, conversely, appear as strong and cultured.” Thompson 1993:146-7 Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity
A common misunderstanding of the analysis of gender and popular culture is that normalization is limited to female bodies. In fact, as these images show, normalization is present in male bodies. Like the imagery of females, males are presented in "perfected" forms and are told that there are ways to improve their bodies. Normalization
Changing Concepts of the gaze Image culture tied to cultural practices that incite women and now men to view themselves as inadequate Today women increasingly defined by role in work in addition to appearance, men become subject to many of the codes of appearance management
The giant billboards show a very tough looking white woman, dressed in white, gripping a black woman, dressed in black, by the jaw with the slogan: "PlayStation Portable White is coming."
“ So what does it take to turn a stereotype around, to undermine a commonly assumed ‘r ealism ’? The options for breaking patterns, reversing stigmas, and conceiving a new and more just world picture are many and multifaceted. They range from opening wounds, to seeking revenge through representation, to reversing destructive developments so the healing process can begin. To turn a stereotype around, it is necessary to be extreme, to depart from, rather than merely engage with, accepted norms and romanticized aspirations. Stereotypes have the borrowed power of the real, even when they are turned around in the form of positive images by those trying to regain their pasts…Transformation of self and society is finally the aim of all this mobile work that spins the status quo around.” (Lippard 241)
Cosmetic surgery literally transformed the material body into the sign of culture. Unsurprisingly the ‘ideal face’ turns out to be white and Northern European Proportions of the Aesthetic Face Nelson Powell and Brian Humphreys. The treatment of race in this book on ‘ideal’ proportions of the aesthetic face reveals a preference for white, symmetrical faces (598) .
"'My work is not a stand against cosmetic surgery, but against the standards of beauty, against the dictates of a dominant ideology that impresses itself more and more on feminine . . . flesh'” Orlan
Adrian Piper, Self-Portrait as a Nice White Lady, 1995
Carolee Shneemann has spent several decades trying to destroy the taboo of the eroticized female, often by appearing nude in her own work. Carolee Shneemann, ‘Interior Scroll’, 1975 “… breaking the silence of centuries and getting the female muse to speak.” Parker & Pollock, ‘Framing Femininity, Art and the Women’s Movement 1970-1985’, Pandora, London, (1987), p291
Guerrilla Girls a group of female artists founded in NYC in the 1980s. This group appear in gorilla masks and attempt to expose the inequalities within the art world.
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick describes Queer Theory as: "the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonance, and resources, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone's gender, of anyone's sexuality aren't made (or can't be made) to signify monolithically" (1993:18)
"Pink economy" queer consumerism had brought with it magazines explicitly intended for a lesbian readership that have taken on fashion as part of their editorial policy.
“ I kissed a girl and I liked it The taste of her cherry chapstick I kissed a girl just to try it I hope my boyfriend don't mind it” Katy Perry (2009) Mainstream advertising and music videos reveals a significant presence of faux-lesbianism in ads, such sexuality is presented for the male heterosexual viewer.