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Thread: The Passive Female

  1. #1
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    The Passive Female

    Okay, I want to ask why in art, so many females are portrayed as passive. It sort of really irks the hell out of me and I'm noticing it a heck of a lot more recently. It's not just contemporary stuff, but goes back. Why? Take Vemeer, most of his females are actually doing something - beautiful. Bouguereau is a mixed bag in that department. Yet when a man appears, it doesn't happen as much - go google Bouguereau female and then Bouguereau male. Note the difference. It happens all over the place and there's no excuse for it other than voyeurism.

    Can't speak for other women, but I'm definitely not passive. And I can still be a sex object doing something. Vemeer rocks.
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    Forget paintings I hate them in real life. Always helpless and demure just pisses me off. Sigourney in Aliens or Linda Hamilton in T2 are a hundred times better. Bouguereau has and always will be vapid females painted well, Godward is just as bad just not painted that well.
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    donalfall is offline The Cat's Deputy (POW! Moderator)
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    I'd love to see a visual representation of the changing status of women over time as represented in paintings. Someone cleverer than me would have to figure out how to do it though.
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    Unfortunately you can't change a thousand years of cultural history in a heartbeat.

    In the western society, now almost more than ever, being psysically attractive is the trait that is most valued for women. If a woman has a whole lot of other nice traits that might be good, but it is not worth as much unless she is also attractive. It is of course also considered to be a good thing if a man is attractive, but only as a secondary trait. Ergo women are assosiated with beauty and men with something else.

    This has led to odd attitudes that you run in to constantly when people talk about art"The female body is art" "I like to draw women, because they are more beatuful than men" "The female body is more estetic than the male body because of the female curves" blah blah

    As a result all a female person has to do in a picture to fill her role is to sit there and be beautiful. But a man is never portrayed just to be beautiful without people making comment about homoeroticism.

    One thing with modern art that bothers me more than women being passive and sexy is that no matter what a women does in a painting or a movie the number one priority is always to look sexy.
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    i think it goes back a lot further than that. some animals pair-bond for life, and in this case, the males and femals are usually roughly the same size. other species mate through some kind of tournament, ie the males (usually) vie for dominence and breeding rights.
    humans tend to not really know which we are; some women like big powerful hairy testosteroney men to fight over them to reveal their ideal suitor., some like guys who are physically quite similar to them.. (i dont just mean little dumpy women with little dumpy men, i mean tall in-charge Ripley finds a natural affinity with tall in charge Hicks). the tension between life-time pair bonding and fucking everything that moves is where all that romance heartbreak shit in every song ever comes from. and all that stuff about chicks liking bad boys but marrying wimps and softies. a wimp is less likely to kill you or your offspring and a softy will probably make a good mother-surrogate when youre not around.
    really, we're usually serial monoagmists. one at a time, in succession, with a period of powerful physical attraction thats about long enough to get a kid made and started on its way. and on and on. my point is, the passive female is some probably artefact of the arms race in our history, just as secondary sexual characteristics and pretty much all our behaviours are. and its bounced back at us from the cracked mirror we've made called Culture. and art.i highly doubt it was just invented some day by some guy for the first time in some recent century, i bet youll find similar behavour playing some bonding role in our close primate cousins.

    one aspect is, a lot of male sex stuff is about showing dominance, look how strong I am!!!. from that tournament style procreative behaviour.. so it fits females in such a regime may have become sexually attuned to the inverse; look how weak i am, arnt we perfect for eachother?
    and sure enough, a common female sexual fantasy is being dominated. key in lock...
    only these days we use toilet-paper handcuffs or whatever instead of main force. because we're cultured, and can comprehend symbols and metaphor. the symbolism is the same tho. why do male peacocks have their magnificent feathers? because female peacocks find them beautiful. and they dont care about their men being expert fliers. female bowerbirds inspect the males attempts to create pleasing arrangments of stones and feathers in their bowers. a friendly affectionate strong guy with money and a good job will make a good father for my baby. if intelligent life had evolved from sex-swapping fish with 3 genders, theyd be humming and hawwing about their crazy disfunctional spawnlifes.
    id bet money its some mundane mechanistic bullshit like that and weve romanticised the fuck out of it because thats what we do. we're very clever animals but still absolutely, animals.
    i mean, thats why we love good art right? it seems to speak directly to something deep inside of us. literally, it does. thats why true fine art, things like like action movies and games are awesome, espcially for guys, you get all the cool excitment and action of the hunt and battle without the soul-wrecking horror and remorse! same for all art genres. Go art!
    some of my guesses anyway
    Last edited by Velocity Kendall; December 13th, 2013 at 01:47 AM.
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    Solution is simple. Paint more active women.

    Who wants to start?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Beeston View Post
    Solution is simple. Paint more active women.

    Who wants to start?
    I'll get onto it in the holidays.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    I'll get onto it in the holidays.

    you should deffo paint awhat you want, but the average, mainstream blockbuster stuff will aim by design to cover the most bases in terms of sales, broad appeal is where the money is, so no it wont move on, not for thousands and thousands of years, and not in any globally coherent way.

    anyway active women are highly visible and fashionable, like in Salt, Hunger Game, Haywire, Kill Bill, Tombraider, Battlestar Galactica, Jessica Ennis, The Last of Us, Game of Thrones, Wonderwoman is hip right now, everyone loves Ripley....
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    Yeah. I think that when we stereotype things we tend to take small biological differences and exaggerate them. Men are seen as actors, while women are seen as passive victims. Or if you look at comic book covers, women are seen as bendy and flexible, while the men are rigid and strong.

    Stereotypes are of course usually boring and limiting. But like Kendall says, I doubt you can ever become free of them entirely. But I also think there's something to be said about the complementary nature of all those traits as well.

    Conversely, I also think there's quite a history of "warrior women" if you go back and look. Even if it's not as common, I think there's allways been this fascination with the woman who takes on a typically male role. There's the Amazones of ancient greece, Valkyries and Shield Maidens of the Norse and so forth. And more grounded in reality there's Boudica and queen Zenobia. Maybe someone would point out that they're mostly meant as cautionary tales for what not to do. And to that I say, maybe. But I doubt that's what people find so fascinating about them. Today, more than ever, we tend to think of those as the ideal kinds of women.

    As a result all a female person has to do in a picture to fill her role is to sit there and be beautiful. But a man is never portrayed just to be beautiful without people making comment about homoeroticism.
    I don't know if I quite agree. I think men are portrayed in visually objectifying ways as well. I think the problem is that people simply have a different reaction to that kind of image. I don't think it's necessarily our culture per se that creates this problem. It's mostly that women and men are drawn to images of beautiful women in a way that they aren't to men. Women might look at such an image and think "this is how I need to look", while men see them and think "this is the kind of woman I should have". Even if studies show that men actually prefer a more healthy looking person, given the choice. If I would blame any external factor for this, it would be free market capitalism. Because it's all profit driven marketing which has no interest in anybodies personal well being, as long as they can sell their product. And I would argue the whole "super slim is the best!" culture is caused as a counter culture to obesity, which almost all of society unanimously seem to agree is something negative. Marketing might be the carrier and promoter of this culture, rather than the cause of it. After all, in cultures where overweight isn't easily attainable, the opposite ideals tend to arise.
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    Tribes that live today (and used to live) have a wide variety of power structures between men and women and an even wider variety of interpretations about what 'gender' actually is and how many genders you have. It has nothing to do with our evolution (monkeys fucked like this so we do this and this...) and everything to do with our social-political structures who 'till this day push our fine young men and women into gender-roles they don't fit in. That is because a lot of people spend a lot of time being afraid of tits, vagina's and penises instead of investing there time in creating a more egalitarian world.

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    Tribes that live today (and used to live) have a wide variety of power structures between men and women and an even wider variety of interpretations about what 'gender' actually is and how many genders you have. It has nothing to do with our evolution (monkeys fucked like this so we do this and this...) and everything to do with our social-political structures who 'till this day push our fine young men and women into gender-roles they don't fit in.
    Nah. There are certain constants that are found within pretty much all cultures. And when something seems to be the norm, even though there are a few exceptions here and there, there's a pretty strong case to make for something biological going on. Otherwise you're also faced with the problem of explaining how these differences came about in the first place.

    I also don't see how this is incompatible with making the world more egalitarian. I think the real question should be, "how do we live as equals despite being different?" rather than, "how do we prove that we're not different so we can be equal?" One of those assumes that a certain hypothetical condition has to be met for equality to take place, the other doesn't.

    And people are individuals. Just because the genders have general tendencies one way or another, doesn't mean we're all like that, or should be stuck within that framework.
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