CW: Discussion of current events in the context of certain forms of sexual violence.
I know most people who read this blog already know the statue to which I refer. Skip past the next pgph if you already know. But for those not in the know, and for those who might find this post a year or so from now and have forgotten (bless!), here’s a recap:
An artist/activist group called INDECLINE commissioned a statue of Donald Trump and put copies of the statue up in several large cities in America. The statue was a representation of the subject in a stance of power, while also making guesstimates as to what his naked body looks like. The statue was titled ‘The Emperor Has No Balls’ and expressed a vision of Trump’s nudity that included pink manicured nails (and, oddly enough, a Masonic ring) on the hands folded over his large belly, dark blue veins visible under his skin, curly gold pubic hair and a penis about thumb-size. No scrotum. It has been the source of public comment and mockery for a week now.
I’m having a pretty tough time with this one. There is so much that is drastically wrong with the sculpture that has been covered better than I can formulate. Encouraging people to body-shame, encouraging toxic POVs about human worth in relation to their physical existence, encouraging the imaginative plunder of someone’s privacy. At the same time, I am a fierce believer in free speech in art, and this sculpture is, despite my revulsion, art. (Sorry, The Guardian. You’re wrong about your categorization.) It’s also art that might have changed the artist from a Trump supporter to a Johnson supporter, per an article by Nicole Levy. I don’t know how true it is – seems kind of convenient but there are plenty of times I hadn’t heard something dreadful about a public figure. So two fundamental rights are at opposition – the right to privacy (including the right of publicity) and the right to free speech.
If I look at it only from the POV of the rights, I cannot choose between them. The cognitive dissonance just grows. However, I have a ton of comparisons I can make that angles me in various directions. I’ve thought through a lot of the ones that are out there on the think pieces I’ve seen (particular thanks to The Stranger and Slate) but they’re still not quite enough to make the dissonance go away.
The one that sticks in my craw? The one that pushes me fully to “this is too fucked up?” The one I haven’t seen so far, which is why I’m writing this now?
This reminds me a LOT of revenge porn. A lot a lot a lot.
Someone doesn’t like what an ex did/said/whatever so boom, nude pics go up on a site/usenet channel/etc with mocking commentary and sometimes their personal info. When this became a thing online, there were no specific laws about it, so it was super-tough to get the content taken down. Since then, 34 states and DC have created laws against it, along with Canada, the UK, and a few other countries … which kind of shows you how much is out there. The impulse to humiliate those with whom we’re angry by displaying their nudity is a sickening one, and right now, unlike people who are victims of revenge porn in the US, Trump has little recourse to get these images off the ‘net because they’re NEWS. That’s a violation of privacy I can’t stomach.
Pardon me while I go puke at the thought.
(For those who like the statue and don’t understand how I feel – imagine that’s your dad on that pedestal, there. And there’s no way he can get those images off the news websites we all read.)
What’s more sickening is that I felt such deep sympathy for Trump for having this representation out there – not that there’s anything wrong with the naked body, regardless of configuration, but that he was stripped* of the choice to reveal it or not, and to whom. This is a guy who I think of as one of the most awful humans of my generation, so to feel that level of sympathy and compassion for him was grosser than I ever thought it would be.
‘Scuse me again. *retch*
So, yeah, THANKS INDECLINE. You’ve made me feel sympathy for someone you call a monster. I don’t think that’s the result you wanted.
Now I’m off to watch the Tragically Hip’s last concert… *sob*
(* I swear to all gods I didn’t mean this as a pun when I first wrote it.)