The Artsy Hufflehoe: “My Mother is Dead. My Father is Dead. I’m Gay. I’d Like to be A Poet. This is My House.”

I originally wrote this post for Stedelijk Journal and thought I’d share it here for this month’s Artsy Hufflehoe

Thus begins Female figure by Jordan Wolfson, just before “Applause” by Lady Gaga starts playing. According to Wolfson, the robotic figure is a sexual object and the work addresses “the violence of objectification”. Without being aware of this, the viewer can already feel it when standing in the gallery with the robot.

She is a blonde woman dressed as a hypersexualized pop star: she wears a semitransparent skirt through which her underwear is visible, thigh-high boots, and long gloves. She is completely in white, the color of virginity. Her body appears dirty, but the reason for this is unknown. Her face is concealed by a mask of a witch’s face — this symbolizes infertility, according to Wolfson, while the movements her body makes simply scream fertility.
Because her face is hidden, it feels as if the mask
makes her more of an
object rather than a person.

She is attached to a pole — as if it forces her to keep dancing. Even when no music is playing and she addresses the audience, she continues to dance. From behind the mask, her eyes constantly follow the crowd in the room, unnerving the viewer. She is fixed in place, and her audience cannot leave. She is continuously “performing” for the public. And, as a spectator, the viewer can do nothing.

When “Applause” finishes, she begins to whisper a monologue in which she says, among other things, “I’ll have sex with you, but that’s not my calling”. This capitalizes on the idea that women only exist to satisfy men. She constantly asks what to say, and repeats the words that were said by a man (Wolfson’s voice): “Touch is hate. Say feeling love. Touch is love”. She embodies the utmost submissiveness, just as women are also still often seen today. She says, “This is my house”, but in her own home she has nothing to say and is unable to leave.

During the “performance”, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” also plays, a song that became controversial as a result of lyrics that seem to condone or downplay rape. The words “touch is hate” could indicate this as well. Victims of rape often have difficulty with being touched.

She continues to repeat her dance moves. She is, of course, a robot that is perhaps incapable of performing many steps, but this can also be interpreted as a woman who is constantly forced to perform — to seduce men and to please them — but she is weary and hapless.

While Wolfson himself has said that Female figure is about the “objectification” of women, the observations given here are naturally my own interpretation. The emotions and ideas behind the choices Wolfson has made came to me when I saw the artwork. Perhaps the witch mask only stands for infertility, and the words “touch is hate” might have nothing to do with rape. Others may interpret the work differently, of course. Is Female figure really an effective way to expose “the violence and objectification”? When you are alone or with a group in the room with her, I think you will feel uncomfortable. Therefore, the message is still communicated, but whether the work can help put an end to “objectification” is another question entirely.

The Discussing Hufflepuff: Am I Overreacting?

Something that I often think when I see something sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. is: ‘am I overreacting?’ This has lead to me not pointing these things out, not tweeting about it, not writing blog posts about it… Nothing.

Last week I wrote a post on The Feministas about sexist Dutch magazines, and honestly? Before I wrote it I wasn’t sure if I should. Was I making a big deal out of nothing? Was the way women are being portrayed in these men magazines the same way women’s magazines portray men? Even though my female friend was just as outraged, even though I discussed it with the other members of The Feministas first, I still felt like maybe I was overreacting.

Now this doesn’t always happen. I know my reaction as to what happened to Arden Cho on Teen Wolf wasn’t an overreaction. I know that when The Real O’Neals made a biphobic ‘joke’ I was right to be angry and hurt (if you missed it, the protagonist Kenny was afraid that what his new boyfriend was going to tell him would be bad news. He was like ‘what if it’s money problems or webbed toes. Or worse! Bisexual!’)

So why is it that often or not I feel like I shouldn’t say anything? Is it because I grew up in such a sexist, racist, homophobic etc. society? My mom always taught me to speak my mind and is very outspoken about these matters as well. Did our society, that is constantly trying to silence minorties, get to me anyway?

Or is it because of my PTSD, because I’m terrified people will get mad and yell at me?

I don’t know why, but it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while. There are so many things that I’ve wanted to discuss before, but I was scared. Scared that I was wrong, scared that I was overreacting. Scared that people would attack me.

But if I felt hurt, violated and disgusted at seeing the way women are being portrayed as objects, sexual fantasies and entertainment for men, shouldn’t that count? Shouldn’t it count that my friend, another woman, also felt this way? Shouldn’t it count that my fellow Feministas were also disgusted after hearing about it? Why did I still worry about it?

Do you ever feel the same way? Let me know in the comments.

The Feministas!

Last night 10 amazing bloggers and I came up with an amazing idea: start a blog together where we’ll talk about issues in the world that we don’t agree with and that we want to change. It started with sexism, but there are so many more problems in the world that we decided not to just leave it at that. And thus The Feministas were born!

As we just started last night, there isn’t much there yet. We’re still working out all the details, but I’m really excited and I hope we’ll be able to inspire others and make a difference!

Visit the blog and have a look! You can also follow us on Twitter.

Again, I’m REALLY excited and can’t wait to start.

– The Writing Hufflepuff