Representing Women – An Article From OCA

I get stuff from the OCA regularly in my email inbox. Yesterday, this article arrived written by Sharron, about women in photography, in art and in society in general:


Vanity (c. 1485) by Hans Memling

“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting Vanity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.

The real function of the mirror was otherwise.  It was to make the woman connive in treating herself as, first and foremost, a sight.

From Ways of Seeing by John Berger

“From toilet walls to looming advertising billboards women have been sexualised and objectified in the name of art (and commerce) since man could scribble on dirt. I have my doubts about contemporary visual culture too. There is the fashion scene where emaciated adolescents represent the national desirable body and there are the kick back campaigns by ‘real women’ like Colleen Rooney bringing size 14 back to the beauty industry.

“How should women be represented in visual culture?

“After the recent furore surrounding John Inverdale’s sexist comments about Marion Bartoli it seems our society is still struggling to figure out the answers to this important question.

“Some might say that the problem lies in sex. When a women is represented as being a confident, thinking, independent creature in control of her sexuality then the balance is being restored. A popular feminist view is that women need to be represented as powerful and successful and that passivity is the issue that needs to be challenged.

“The problem is that whatever side you support you end up propagating a myth.

The myth that women can have it all.  Or that they can’t.

The myth that women are there to be looked at.

The myth that men are the powerful sex.

The myth that ‘real’ women have stretch marks.

The myth that in order to do justice to women they have to have lawyer potential and resent living at home with their 2.4 kids. Implying that all clever women suffer from Housewife Syndrome.

“It’s reductionist and we are bombarded by it. The common denominator is that both men and women have been guilty of discriminating against the other sex but I can’t help but think that throughout history and in a patriarchal society / world, women have had it worse. Dustin Hoffman experienced a revelation in a particularly unique way.”

[At this point in the OCA article there is a click-on video clip. I’m not sure how to do this so I’ll just supply a Dustin Hoffman link.]

“Given the challenges, can you think of any photographers representing women in an interesting way?”

The article then has quite a number of comments (19 at the time of posting this blog).

Parallel to receiving and reading this article, I’m also periodically receiving emails from Pinterest about some of my pins as I “may have pinned content we don’t allow”. I originally had a board simply called ‘Nudes’. I have renamed this board as ‘Tasteful and Artistic’, adding the subheading ‘Someone at Pinterest equates nudity with obscenity. This goes against centuries if not millennia of art.’ Their policy does state that they allow ‘works of art’, which then brings up the question of what is a work of art ……..!!


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website
This entry was posted in Art, Artists, Photography, Reblog and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Representing Women – An Article From OCA

  1. coastalcrone says:

    A very thoughtful article! “Tootsie” is one of my favorite movies but I had not seen the interview with Dustin Hoffman. I agree that it was more than a comedy. Good post.

  2. Many interesting, diverse viewpoints, manyof which are valid. They illustrate the notion that there isn’t an ‘absolute truth’ to be found on this topic. Each of us will assess the way woman is represented differently, not necessarily a bad thing. At the extremes we find ignorance and bigotry, somewhere in between we, the rest, have our views, none of them ideal…but ideals never have worked thus far. We have to agree to differ without malice I guess.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s