Tag Archives: feminism

Tattoos: More Than Just Art

10 Dec

I have always been fascinated by body modification (re: Orlan post). While more extreme modification like scarring and implants worry me a little, I can respect someone’s decision to do it. My fascination has really been in tattoos. I wanted to explore this topic a little further for my final project in this course, so I chose to film a short documentary on women and tattoos. The quality on this video isn’t as nice as I would like, but nonetheless, here it is.

The Body as a Canvas: Women and Their Tattoos.

Orlan is the Media and the Message

1 Dec
Orlan

Orlan

Initially, I didn’t know what to make of Orlan and her “art.” Anytime I think of flesh being cut, pulled and reshaped, I squirm a little and feel weak. I don’t really know why either. I have two-gauge plugs in my ears, which I stretched myself, I’ve pierced my own navel before, and I have a tattoo that runs shoulder blade to shoulder blade on my back. I didn’t really think about pain so much when I did those things either, so when Orlan talks about her Carnal Art, I confuse myself with my reaction.

Orlan’s art is extreme though. It’s more than the typical body modification of a piercing or tattoo. She resculpted her face through a series of plastic surgeries to replicate various features of women represented in famous works of art. One resulted in the bumps she has on each side of her forehead, which hostile critics said looked like “demon horns.” However, she says her objective with the plastic surgeries isn’t to beautify herself. Barbara Rose, who wrote a piece on Orlan for Art in America, puts it best. Rose says Orlan’s art shows that the image of the ideal woman is unattainable and horrifying to try to achieve. By using her body to express her art, she becomes the media and the message. Orlan is the canvas and she expresses what she is trying to say through it.

Orlan is unusual. Some might even call her subversive for undergoing such extreme procedures in the name of art. These things have some truth, but her point is very clear and makes sense. If Orlan is OK with being the canvas, then I can only support her because I agree with what she has to say.

In an interview she conducted with the UK’s the Guardian, Orlan says she isn’t out to change the idea of beauty.

“No, my goal was to be different, strong; to sculpt my own body to reinvent the self. It’s all about being different and creating a clash with society because of that.”

Sexuality is on a Continuum, Regardless of Race

1 Dec
Sandra Cisneros on the cover of My Wicked, Wicked Ways

My Wicked, Wicked Ways

After reading Ana Maria Juarez and Stella Beatriz Kerl’s essay, “What is the Right (White) Way to be Sexual?,” I was relieved that someone had pointed what should have been obvious: Latina sexuality is neither repressed or oppressed as popular culture would have you believe. For ages, media have portrayed Latinas as either over sexualized vamps or virginal and religious. While media have created stereotypes of many groups of people, these images are particularly familiar to the public. The reality is Latina sexuality is dependent on how a woman was raised, her beliefs, and her self-perception. It isn’t always black and white (no pun intended).

Like the authors, I take issue with the perception that the ideal sexually liberated female portrayed in this instance by the American white woman is the “right” way to be sexual. They bring up a good example too: The writing of Sandra Cisneros. Cisneros, by all accounts, is a great writer and worthy of her inclusion in the American literature canon. However, I don’t agree with her interpretation of Latina sexuality and emulation of white models of sexuality. The authors bring up an excellent point:

“…Cisneros relies on ethnocentric, essentialized assumptions rather than examining Latina practices within their own context and on their own terms…Ironically, Cisneros exalts (the) medicalization of sexuality and the body, even as other scholars have begun to show how Western science and medicine have been used to create hierarchical sexual, gender, and racial identities.”

Sexuality shouldn’t be clinical. It should be something a woman owns, but on her own terms. Yes, conservative cultural and religious practices can inhibit understanding of sexuality, but whose to say the standard American model of sexuality is the one to follow? Sexuality really exists on a continuum, regardless of race or culture. A woman who is confident about her sexuality doesn’t always have to flaunt it because it is only a part of what makes her a beautiful human being. It is just another part of the many dimensions of a woman. Ultimately, if a woman chooses to “hide” in the bathroom stall to get dressed in a locker room, but she is still confident enough to portray her sexuality the way she is wants to and take control, than she is in a better position overall. This isn’t so much a race issue as it is an issue of attempting to place labels and define the feminist, which isn’t easy.