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The Case of the Disembodied Woman

Stereo

This is an installation by Detroit artist Bob Turek. His description for the piece (of ass) says, "As part of my object remix series, this stereo forces the music source into the center of attention and creates a radically new user interface."

Oh, vom, Bob. Your user interface is not radically new, because its totally derivative of the "art" from the Korova Milk Bar set of A Clockwork Orange. And seriously, when the aesthetic you achieve is the sort that fits nicely with that of a protagonist who delights in brutally raping women, you may want to go back to the drawing board. Just sayin'.

I'd just roll my eyes and forget about this, except that I come across objects like this in my feed reader on a weekly basis, and I think we too often dismiss this kind of portrayal of the female form as harmless. And, you know, I just don't think I buy that.

Gizmodo, Engadget and other techy sites with primarily male readership are constantly showing cool new ways that women's bodies are being literally objectified. They're made into pencil sharpeners and bicycles and coffee tables. The reader comments in these threads usually indicate that these are awesome and clever manipulations of the female form, and if I have a problem with these objets d'art, it's because I am an uptight feminist bitch with no sense of humor.

And they're, like, two-thirds correct. I am a proud feminist and an unabashed bitch. But I have an awesome sense of humor. Yet, I fail to see what is funny about these constant representations of women's bodies as disposable objects to be used, consumed, even penetrated. Here are some examples to illustrate my point:

Bitchcruiser

This innovative cycle is dubbed "The Bitchcruiser". No, really.


Pencilew_2

See, it's clever, because you stick the pencil in her butt. Ow, my sides.


Toilet_2

Yeah, this one pretty much renders me speechless.


Doggiestyletoilet

*sigh* Okay, can someone please get me a cocktail? I'm depressed.


I guess one could argue that a bust of a woman with speakers for boobs and a headphone jack in her cooch is not as bad as a Doggy-Style Urinal, but I'm not interested in splitting hairs. The attitude that drives this kind of "art" is the same, regardless of the level of obscenity it reaches. These objects portray women's bodies in the most demeaning and compromised way: usually headless, often limbless, nude and vulnerable, and patiently waiting to be victimized every time you have a dull pencil or a full bladder, or a hankering to blast remastered Rush MP3s. It's not funny or clever. It's just another example of misogyny in action, and no matter how you paint it, misogyny is way too tired and played out to be a "radically new interface."

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Comments

Marmite Breath

If it makes me actually recoil when I look at the photo, it's not art, it's bullshit.

Carmen

I totally agree with you.

Robyn G

So much fucking word. Feature?

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah

Oh.My.Fucking.God.

I feel dirty.

Janna

Just vomited a little in my mouth there. Oy vey.

baltimoregal

There are some artworks, statues mostly, I've seen where the "disembodied woman" can be more of an homage than misogyny.

HOWEVER, none of the above are in this category, along with SO MANY more you spared us and didn't feature. And your are right. They are not funny, or sexy, or interesting. They are sick and a violation.

Girl's got guts. I like it.

ML

I'm offended. That is all.

Sarah

Another great post Snarky Amber. Add me to list of those who are totally disgusted.

jacki

more yay for Detroit. Except not. My city seems to like keeping itself down.

Katelin

I just can't get riled up enough to be offended. It's art, whether personally found repulsive or not, it's art. And if it's drawing out an emotional response from people, it's doing its job. Art, regardless of medium, should be powerful. Granted, I find the bike and pencil sharpener to be cheap, bobble crap, but it doesn't make it any less 'art' than something else.

I don't know, I think I fail at being a feminist. Objectification doesn't bother me. We all do it, whether it's when we look at a man's ass and make a lewd comment about it or we create a sculpture depicting a woman being defiled by antelope. It's all objectification, just different levels.

Sure, women had it pretty hard for a long time, but even then, I guarantee you, we were guilty of it, too, just ..more subtly.

But that's just me.

AzRN

so how do these ideas even make it to the boardroom? i cannot imagine the purile minds that actually manufacture this crap. i imagine they are guys similar to the patients who think it's ok to pat me on the butt as i walk by their hospital bed.... what dorks!

baltimoregal

I'm sorry, calling these products art is a bad excuse for facing the truth.

ASJ

I agree, Katelin, that art should evoke an emotional response, and that it's ok if the response is discomfort or repulsion.

But stuff that is, as you say, cheap bobble crap, is NOT art. I say this having several friends who are actual artists-- who make their living making art.

They work really hard at it. Their art has intent, a story, and/or a well-developed original aesthetic.

This stuff has none of that. And the part I think is most indicative that it is not art is the fact that it does not challenge viewers. It basically says "we like sex with no consequences, with no say from the one we're f-ing." That's not art. That's stupid and juvenile. There's nothing to think about, nowhere to grow. Certainly nothing innovative.

If we're going to stand up for real art, we gotta call out crap when we see it. Free speech goes both ways.

Katelin

No, I do agree with you, ASJ. I was more irritated at the general attack of 'shocking' or 'revolting' artwork.

Then again, a little part of me says, 'Even the cheap and juvenile has a place...' So I'm a bit torn on the subject, I will freely admit.

GhtoPrincess

It completely fails to be "art" when it's a uninal, pencil sharpener etc. That's not art that's some jackass with a middle school sense of humor who watches those Girls Gone Wild pieces of trash and thinks - Heeeyyy now you know what would just be HILARIOUS down at the office. Well it's not. I would like to think there are some guys out there who would walk into a bathroom like the one pictured and walk out or just use a stall. Disgusting.

C. Christy Concrete

Well said. There's very little gray area when it comes to objectification, if any at all.

=]'

Liana

Right on, Snarky Amber!

michele

well, that just depresses me.

FM

I agree with Katelin's definition of art. IMHO it is all a matter of taste. There is plenty of "objectification" of men out there too - by male and female artists.

Question: If any of this art(stuff) was actually made by a woman - would it make a difference to you.

Some of this made me laugh, some of this was tasteless, but isn't it all objective?

What about stuff that people call art - picture of jesus made out of feces? Some would say it's horrible.. others would say it is AWESOME..

Katelin

My point exactly, FM.

Dogwood Diarist

Dare I say, don't post this stuff for any and all to draw inspiration from? It's out there, but the less advertised the better.

Sweetney

sorry i'm late to this, yesterday ate my brain.

awesome post, amber. FEATURED!

Sarah

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Amber, for this post. I see this stuff on Feminist and Progressive blogs all the time (have seen those urinals many times, unfortunately), but rarely to never on a pop-culture blog. Posts like these keep me coming back to MamaPop:-)
I also want to say Right On to ASJ. My thoughts exactly.
FYI, it makes absolutely no difference if the "artist" is male or female. Misogyny is misogyny. The patriarchy is a tricky little thing;-)

Jason

I feel compelled to apologize for my entire gender. We invented war and the Bitchcruiser.

rebecca

I love this post...very well done, Snarky Amber.
now, as far as art goes...art is subjective. Art is anything created. this is not a question of whether it is art, it is a question of the process behind the art. What about the female form 'inspired' these pieces? what makes them different than, say, the Venus De Milo?
I feel like it comes down to how the creator feels toward the female form. Are they praising the beauty of the form, in all sizes? Are they heralding what a women's body can do...concieve, birth, feed, sustain, carry, lift, hold, love? Or perhaps they are grieving for what that woman has lost?
There are many onderful pieces of art that evoke good, thoughtful discourse.
I think it is safe to say, these are not it. The common thread in these are that a women is 2 things...her breasts and her vagina...and those are the only two things worth documenting. And you can pretty much do anything you want to those things, if you are a man, or a woman with a 'sense of humour'. even the speaker set, which seems like the least tasteless, is basically declaring the female form useful only for his entertainment. How awful.
ok, I'm done now.

Kara

I have to agree with Katelin. While the objects depicted in this post are not to my taste, they are variations on the female form. Another commenter said something fails to be art when it's a urinal or pencil sharpener. Works such as Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duchamp#Readymades) still cause debate and discussion by scholars today. If that's not art, I don't know what is.




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