Monday, March 12, 2012

Nude Debate

I received my invitation to the 2012 Re-Nude show benefiting Planned Parenthood, which will be Wednesday, March 21 6:00pm -10:30pm at REDUX. I wrote about it last year here, here and here, and I can't wait!
[Image: flier for Re/Nude event. Reads, "Re/Nude: Celebrate the Body / Support Charleston Planned Parenthood." To the right and underneath the text are the silhouettes of a thin woman with longer hair showing outlines of her head, upper arms, hips and calves, in purple/pink. Resting in front of her shins is a reclining thin male silhouette showing outlines of his feet and legs, torso, arms and head, in coral pink/orange.]

Around the time I received my invite I read this post by Twisty Faster. To sum up, a young Egyptian woman named Aliaa Magda Elmahdy posted nude photos of herself on her blog as a big old Fuck You to the Salafis, who are a strict fundamentalist Islamic party that seems to have come out on top following the Arab Spring. Her actions, and the considerable risk she's taking, have sparked attention and controversy a few months ago in Egypt, the Western media and feminist blogs internationally. To support Elmahdy a group of Canadian feminists assembled a nude calendar featuring a "nude revolutionary" each month with the proceeds benefiting something-or-other related to Elmahdy's cause.

Twisty compares and contrasts the contexts of Egyptian and Canadian female nudity and questions the efficacy of a feminist nude calendar within the Patriarchy. To those unfamiliar with Twisty's blog she advocates a hard-line radical feminist rejection of Patriarchy-- that is, the system of dominance, objectification and hierarchy embedded in every element of our global society: misogyny, racism, classism, and so on. (Spoiler: she finds the Canadian nude revolutionaries ineffective at challenging Patriarchy).

Drawing of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy by The Corpse Debutante.

So when I go see the artistic representations of nudity at Re-Nude this March they will be on display in the context of the Patriarchy.  I will be viewing them as a feminist and an individual person but I will also be taking into account the context of the Patriarchy. And here is where I'm torn.

Being realistic about the limitations of empowerment through nudity in a Patriarchy, refusing to gloss over capitulation to the Patriarchy, refusing to pretend a nude portrayal of a woman exists outside our tradition of oppression, pornification and objectification, is a feminist act. However valuing my own experience and POV as a woman, learning to think outside the confines of Patriarchy, and really listening to other women is also profoundly feminist. In the context of nude art created with at least some input from women and shown in a gallery for the general public, I am stuck. Ambivalent. 

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