Feminist Photography in The “Pictures” Generation

Posted: April 16, 2018 in Uncategorized
  1. natquayle says:

    “Your gaze hits the side of my face” is a great poetic expression of Laura Mulvey’s theories on male gaze which I read about last year in COMM 3070 (Communication and Gender). The visceral hyperbole of the male gaze as a violent physical force, is great, and I like that piece.

  2. Uyen Hoang says:

    Laurie Simmons is a photographer I had never been introduced to before. Her images that you posted portray a very clear critique on housewives and women’s roles as the homemaker and sexuality. In one of her photos, she literally turned the “mass manufactured idea of female homemakers” on its head. I have not done any further research on her, but analyzing her art really intrigues me. Her use of plastic dolls, of which are mass manufactured products (typically over seas) symbolize the perceived innocence women are supposed to hold in their abstinence, and “ladylike” attributes society enforces upon the stereotype. Even the fact that they are made of plastic is a statement in itself: plastic does not degrade. It’s lasts far longer than it’s purposed lifetime and continually rots in our wastelands. Just like this stereotype of women that lasted far longer than it needed to. Furthermore, they are cookie cutter pieces. Each ideal house wife is supposed to hold the same characteristics: obedient, submissive, passive, sexy, “All American.” A home is held up by the woman of the home, for she is the one who slaves away at the most unaccounted hours of unpaid labor to serve her husband, family, and community in the most nuclear sense. She portrays images in a domestic and familiar setting to us, yet she portrays it in a form that creates a foreign feeling through controversial undertones. On another note, these issues should not just be domestic issues held in the confines of our home, but brought to light to the larger audience of the community. The last image serves as a more empowering image. To me, I perceive it as a use of women’s sexuality and their “homemaking” abilities as a weapon, an asset. Women hold this sort of leverage over men in a sense, for what is men’s greatest weakest but desire, lust, and greed? And of whom do they need to accomplish such desires? Women.
    The three images really embody the themes most prominent in second wave feminism, but what both the movement and the photos lack are intersectionality. To me, what is entailed in the image is important, but what is missing is an even stronger statement in my eyes.

    I am truly fascinated with the image you posted for the week: “Love Doll.” Being a female Asian American, it kind of hits close to home for me. “Yellow fever” and the fetishizing of asian women is highly detrimental to the identity of asian women. In the photo, what is so eery about it is the anthropomorphism that oozes from its central point: the love doll doing human things. Her painted eyes and hollow body. It’s haunting. How society has perceived the female asian body has perpetually stolen the human soul of the very beings of these women.

    • I think the last image, of the gun wife, is the most powerful of the three. The other two are less ambivalent, and depict women in decidedly passive and submissive terms. By contrast, the last shows women both as passive object and fetish (because American men love guns) and activated victim in the process of seeking revenge. I would suggest the truth does lie in the middle between these two extremes, but rather in their forced, uncomfortable and discomforting merger in a single powerfully uncanny image.

  3. Ivan Lee says:

    Laurie Simmons’ work is something I haven’t heard much about before looking at this post. Yet her use of “feminine” objects such as plastic dolls and doll houses strikes a chord when she uses them to embody the “ideal” woman. Furthermore the elimination of distinguishing faces makes these images almost a universal image of the household wife, with every wife being the same.

    This may be a stretch but is there any relation between the third piece by Simmons and the use of media and images of the American household during the Cold War? To me it looks like Simmons is trying to illustrate that the “plastic doll” house wife can be used in warfare and has in the past, as a weapon to sway the public of the Soviet Union and as a weapon of reinforcement in America, to prove that everything in the US is much better than the rest of the world.

    • I think your associate is correct. Simmons point seems to be the women or expect to turn themselves into trophies for their husbands, and in general to serve as trophies of America’s triumph over Soviet socialism. The thing is the real living persons can play that ideal role only so well. At some point it becomes necessary, or even preferable to replace the real woman with an artificial substitute. It functions more seamlessly, to say nothing of more economically. Because Simmons makes her point implicitly through seemingly-commercial images, she can manipulate the complex mixture of allured, repulsed, and shocked reactions all the more effectively.

  4. Grace Lebrecht says:

    The images depicting women as objects such as guns and houses illustrates perfectly how women are seen by some. To some, we are merely objects to be possessed, a gun to be held, a house to be owned. In reality we are so much more than that.

    • This is a fine comment. I think the precise word you want here is ‘fetish’. To possess a fetish makes the owner, in this case a man, feel simultaneously excited and safe. Is just this kind of ‘reduction’, or simplification, which Crimp tries to address the essays assigned for today. I hope you found our discussion of them interesting.

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