Mixed reactions are pouring in with regards to HYURO, a Spanish artist’s, recent public mural in Atlanta, Georgia. Frame-by-frame, the mural depicts a nude woman dressing, then disrobing. Certain frames of the painting portray the woman as completely nude and a lot of the Atlanta citizens are outraged. Some called it “pornographic” and inappropriate, especially because of the mural’s logistics: it is located near a day care center and a church. The church itself has not complained about the artwork.
This is a common reaction to not only artwork, but to nudity in this country. Whether it’s in the media or on a beach, this country just doesn’t seem ready for au naturel.
I too have been forced to “censor” my work from the public eye. One summer, I was invited to display my artwork at a local street fair. After my space was set up, I was immediately informed that I would need to cover all the nude paintings. Since I was working on a nude series at the time, few paintings would be exposed once I had covered up the offensive ones.
The “contraband” pieces were simply studies of individual models reclining and posing alone. These nudes were not in the least bit sexualized unless you are the type of person who equates the concept of nudity with sex. I personally equate the word nudity with the idea of nature or something that is natural. The word itself is derived from the term “naked” which not only refers to lacking clothes, but also describes something that is “glib, without decoration, put bluntly,” “mere, plain, simple,” something natural, as I suggested.
Is it normal for our society to react this way when a nude shows up in art or on TV? The most interesting part of this news story is the fact that though some residents complained about the mural’s proximity to a church, the church said nothing.
Why are people offended by this artwork? Are they truly offended or are they acting offended because it is a learned behavior; something our culture has subconsciously drilled into their minds? If they stepped back and really thought about it, would they still be offended? Or are they just reacting in the way they were “trained” to react? During my art show, the host of the street fair barely glanced at my work before demanding I cover it. As they say, ignorance is bliss. But is it?
Should we be shamed by and hide nudity? Isn’t it ironic that during this mural outrage, the fifth annual Go Topless Day occurred? Doesn’t it also seem that the negative reaction to the contents of this mural reflect another hot topic in the public’s discourse: the GOP’s attempt to ban access to birth control and abortion? And Todd Akin and the GOP’s downplay of the act of rape?
Doesn’t all this coming together seem like an attempt to silence women, to weaken our opinions by taking away our choices? You may think I am overreacting, but the issues I am presenting are very real.
As American women, when we speak publicly about the need for birth control we are called sluts. And when we fight for the right to choose (a right that was granted to us 40 years ago), we are called murderers. Isn’t ironic that the 92nd anniversary of the end of women’s suffrage occurred on a week where male lawmakers in this country took another shot at a demographic of women that has experienced one of the most violent crimes known to humanity?
The puritanical thinking in this country is way out of hand. Next month in Atlanta they will vote on whether or not HYURO’s mural will be censored, yet there are no national movements on the docket to preserve our right to make decisions for our own bodies. When censoring offensive nudes is done with immediacy yet nothing is done about the misogynists dominating the public’s discourse about what women should and should not be allowed to do with their own bodies, something is seriously wrong. This is not only a War on Women. This is a War on Reason.
HYURO’s image of this transforming woman couldn’t have come into the news at a better time. The Christian right wants us to hide literally our bodies through the denial of certain rapes as “illegitimate” and through the seizure of abortion and birth control access by hiding behind the idea that a need for it does not exist.
A new woman’s movement is developing. We get closer and closer to it every time a stupid comment and caustic remark about women exits one of these politician’s mouths. We will not hide. We refuse to illegitimatize our rapes because the idea that they were real makes lawmakers uncomfortable and puts them in a position where they actually might have to do something about it. They can continue to ignore the facts and figures, that only 3% of rapists in this country ever see jail time, but that is shameful!
HYURO’s woman in transition should stay up. Not only should she stay up but because of the timing of when she has arisen into the news, she naturally represents the face of the new woman’s movement. We will not be silent nor will not be suppressed by ignorance.
Throughout history, human survival has been maintained through evolution: the idea that the strong and useful traits will continue moving forward and that the weak and useless will eventually be left behind. People like Akin and Akin-sympathizers are devolving. If they don’t want to move forward with us, I assure you, we will have no problem leaving them behind. We are going to continue moving forward no matter how long it takes.