Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Puritan Pensioner
That aged, crotchety maiden aunt of the baby-boomer academic set, Germaine Greer, has been blowing the dust off her Sixties' hard-line feminist ideals to ask, with pursed-lipped disapproval, in a weekend edition of England's Guardian newspaper, "why so many female artists put themselves in their work, often with no clothes on"?Ms. Greer disapproves – with a puritanism that would do a Southern-born Baptist minister proud. The trouble is, Greer is so busy showing off her intellect she misses the obvious: female artists use themselves in their work to explore and rewrite the ways they have been exploited and objectified, and in so doing, re-assert control over their bodies and their sense of self. Male artists don't do this because, simply, they don't have to. Art has been a male perogative since prehistoric man took to daubing the walls of his cave. Men have never suffered the various sorts of drooling, debasing, denigrating, dismissive depictions that woman have had to. One reason women make naked pictures of themselves, especially younger women, is so that the audience can see the difference (which is one of physical expression, emotional candour, and subjectivity) between what women see – and feel – and what men imagine. Does Greer really think age-old male ignorance might be rectified by women only painting themselves clothed?