Class thoughts on “Images, Power and Politics”

“Nell” tied to the railroad track, still from the video performance, The Great Train Trickery (Andre and the Giant)

The concept that the act of looking, or looking as a social practice (Sturken and Cartwright)  is in itself a power dynamic. Who is looking? Who is looking away? Who is showing? What is the viewer being made to look at or look away from? Is the image pleasing or disturbing (and why?) ? Is it pleasing or disturbing to ME only (because of my particular point of view or circumstance) or is it disturbing to all?

Who has sensitivities? For example when I see Melania go from excited to distressed in this 2017 mime (shown below a public appearance with her husband), I have a familiar sense that I relate to her, as I think many women probably do.

An unexpected result of the 2016 election that is greater sensitivity to the plight of subtle (and not so subtle) common occurance of uninvited touch that women in our culture experience as a matter of everyday course. As a response to the US president’s vulgarity, writer Kelly Oxford tweeted this invitation to women inviting them to share their “first” (of many–always) experiences of sexual molestation:

The solicitation reeived 100,000 in the first 24 hours, currently over a million.

The significance of this story to me is that these experiences are so common and so relatable that I wasn’t surprised to read them.  (I would venture to say that every woman in America experiences these sorts of acts). What surprises me is my acceptance of it! I never thouht to point this sort of abuse out, because it seems so common, mundane and ordinary to me. By naming the act, though, the experiences came to light–and I was surprised to see the astonishment of my male friends. They had no idea of these everyday assaults on their sisters, friends, mothers, girlfriends, grammas. (yeah, grammas). So here’s a silver lining: the new presidency has made visible language previously seen as taboo, which becomes a platform to discuss the frequency of such demeaning “locker room” behavior, that has been a hidden oppression, something we were not heretofore allowed to discuss openly or in public without shame on ourselves. Strangely, the president’s uncivility is making a case for civility.





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