Art to Arrest: the ‘good-for-nothing-girl’ stirs an issue in the history of mankind

Gender inequality has plagued our world since the beginning of time. We only have to look into the first chapter of the Bible – a book in which around one-third of the global population adheres to – to see negative connotations regarding the ‘nature of women’. Art historian Dr Christopher L.C.E Witcombe says “Eve represents everything about a women a man should guard against.” The ‘untrustworthy, deceitful, seductive and disobedient’ associations in Genesis have strongly influenced the art world. Destroy the image and you can control the narrative thereafter.
In particular, arts representation of genitalia is a demonstration of male and female roles that systemised a powerful social order. One only has to venture into an art museum to see Ancient Greek sculptures where the men are confidently, physically depicted – or as The Guardian columnist Syreeta McFadden Greek explains it “the male statues rock out with their cocks out.” However, when it comes to the ladies most are robed. The ones that are shown in their birthday suits are all ‘Barbie-doll blank’ down there. Where is the equality in that? Patriarchy has attempted to obliterate imagery of the feminine since long ago; nevertheless male sexual organs were, and still are today, a proud statement of reality. McFadden explains that ‘scholars believe that this tied to the patriarchal urge and successful campaign to erase goddess cultures in antiquity.”
It seems this social order still persists today, where women who are ‘out there’ sexually are universally penalised for it. “Cultural norms expect women to be modest and discreet and paragons of virtue and chastity and, yet, men are universally assumed to be seeking sexual relations. This then relates through to how it’s portrayed in the artistic world.” says Social Psychologist Professor Barbara Masser. The world has recently witnessed this in Japanese sculptor Megumi Igarashi’s obscenity conviction, after she endeavoured on a mission to demystify female genitalia in the art world. A vulva-shaped kayak based on a 3D scan of her vagina led to her arrest in Tokyo.
The judge, Mihoko Tanabe, said that the data, though “flat and inorganic”, realistically portrayed the shape of a vagina and could “sexually arouse viewers”, as stated by Kyodo News. She has been shunned by the law for testing social standards. Tanabe, known as Rokudenashiko (roughly translating to “good-for-nothing-girl”), hasn’t harmed or hurt anyone in the process. It was merely an innocent creative expression. In an online post, she said: “Because female genitalia were ‘overly hidden’ in Japanese society, I did not know what a pussy should look like.”
What is more obscene is the Japanese courts’ hypocrisy where recently authorities resisted pressure to ban pornographic images of children in manga and animated films, citing concerns over restricting freedom of artistic expression, Fairfax Media reveals.
“We are a really long way from equality. What we are seeing in the art world is a systematic, general opinion of genders,” says Masser. Art News highlights that works by women artists are still worth far less than similar works by men from the same generation and locale.
Artist Martha Graham once said “No artist is pleased. There is only queer divine, dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others.” May future artists use their artistic ‘unrest’ to change the ingrained, unequal views in our world? Only time will tell.

Feminine Symbol

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