I was still awake after a day of sitting in a hot living room. The cutlery had been licked by my grandmother and I had sat watching her while watching my computer screen balance out numbers. Old lady needs and scrutinizing finances never quite alleviate the heat. The day had been long. I had explored the bank. All of my bank’s tools on expense tracking and devised a budget. A budget I’ll have to get 30 Catholic candles lite just to keep on track (the religious in my family would be happy too, I am sure).
The day had been so booooring that I started re-reading a journal I started while in Paris. I really hate finance and I am sure the sentiment is felt among many of my peers who are having their fair share of finance drama (I know quite a few of humanitarian studies’ majors).
The journal turned out to be the money maker of the day. It triggered thoughts that I was beginning to explore while touring the Louvre, D’Orsay, Musee Rodin and the small crowded rooms of Marmottan. I remember starting the entry at a cafe nearby my place of residency, where upon first landing I had an opportunity to feast on this, uuuuuuuugh. But the waiter was cute enough so I kept coming back. It was an afternoon spent alone to write down a couple thoughts.
The trip had afforded many experiences to write about: an escape from an Amsterdam flight scam, being harassed by two young boys (who had mildly stalked a friend and I while on our way to the local flea market) and of course, breathing/experiencing historical art.
The stalking incident, I remember, had turned into a detour to a positive experience of hot coffee and croissants (even though our coffee cups quivered a little on the way to our rouge lips). The morning, the trip had left me buzzing. I had just been stalked (as a JOKE..?), had had the French coffee piss scared out of me; but had surprisingly bounced back…local Parisian flea markets will do that to a girl. The incident was just a reminder of these “minor” incidents that become normalized into a girl’s daily experience. We bounced back, no biggie, nevermind our shakes…right.
Looking over the journal, one of the main things I had managed to scribble all over were the words BREASTS, NAKED and GLARE.
We had taken two days to tour the Louvre and on each of the days we had seen countless naked women mostly portrayed in a fashion that caused me to yawn. “Here we have woman, naked, back turned to us, elongated neck and backbone to derive eloquence, eyes looking downwards to evoke submissive pose” was one dominate example of an examined naked woman. The Louvre also had: Saintly here is my boob; I am Mother, I breast feed, boob; Hi! we are Royal cousins and she is with-child nipple pinch, boob. Boobs everywhere.
It comes to no surprise that one of the biggests cultural institution has kept the classification of woman as modern as old as its 910 year old structure. It hasn’t bothered to put ancient ideas to bed, just women. And really, why should it? It continues to ignore the feminist outcry just as the mass majority of women in today’s world do. I know many women who do believe in feminism but find it difficult to admit it or even define it. No wonder our idea of Woman is slightly skewed. Cultural institutions are mirror reflections of society; sooo, what’s up Louvre? Even after the Guerrilla girls had invaded the space, it continues to define women as Daumiere’s caricatures.
The work isn’t displayed in a manner that challenges the idea that woman is object. Displayed as a historical moment in history? Yes. But when will we retire this perpetual image? And what does it say to mount such images as beacons of historical thought? Don’t those beacons bleed into modern mainstream outlooks? When will we discontinue disguising art history’s misogyny with the rise of technique, form or style? When will we stop upholding a sexist history?
October was Violence Against Women Awareness month. Statcan states that “Gender-based violence is perhaps the most wide-spread and socially tolerated of human rights violations. It both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims.” Like it or not, when big boys like the Louvre keep perpetuating images of docile creatures of “Woman” it becomes increasingly difficult to change the inequalities of society. Art is suppose to be the forerunner of ideas, innovation and style. Is it so much to want to see the institutions of art reflect that? The Louvre was a major disappointment. Thank God for the Marmottan.