She decided that “I’m an artist, so my weapon of choice is art,”
She “wanted to find a way to make these men feel objectified in the same way that they were making women feel.”
So she decided that she would create naked drawings of them, created based on their picture but drawn to be “fat and not very well-endowed.”
So what Ms. Gensler decided to do is attempt to make guys who are being jerks feel bad by drawing them to look more like guys she assumes they stigmatize for how they look. Basically, she’s trying to combat sexism with sizeism. The idea of drawing guys who are being jerks to look more like guys who aren’t being jerks but do deal with a bunch of societal crap for the size of their bodies and the size of their dicks is seriously problematic.
The argument I’ve seen in support of this is that art, and especially art combined with humor, needs leeway. I would argue if even if we agree with that, we should consider the use of what I’ve always heard of as the “Court Jester Rule” (though I don’t know and can’t find who to credit for the terminology) which is to say that in mocking someone as a form of humor – especially for activism – you want to move up the chain of social power, not down it (such that it’s one thing for the Court Jester to mock the King, another for the King to Mock the Court Jester because of the balance of power between them.) I think that the idea for the project is great, I think that including weight bigotry/sizeism is not.
In general I would suggest, no matter what their transgression, it’s not cool to try to make someone feel bad by comparing them with, making them into, or wishing them into, a group that is oppressed, even in an attempt at humor.
Marilyn wrote a beautiful e-mail about it that she agreed to let me share here. If you would like to e-mail Anna with your thoughts, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (as someone who gets tons of hatemail everyday and someone who has definitely committed all kinds of -isms (racism, ableism etc.) out of ignorance and been (rightly, of course) called out on it, I would request that you consider writing from a place of education, but of course we each get to choose how we deal with oppression and The Underpants Rule applies here:
I came across the Buzzfeed story today about your clever response to online-dating creeps.
I certainly share your vexation at these energy-drain wankers, from both personal experience and feminist principle. And I applaud your public critique of them.
However, I am opposed to your choice of using weight variation as a putdown in this project.
I’ve been a fat rights activist for 20 years. It’s a classic form of weight bigotry to imagine that being fat makes people who identify as men less manly and people who identify as women less “feminine.” That’s a great example of the intersectionality and mutual reinforcement of sexism and weight prejudice.
I see that you’re quoted in Slate as saying your drawings were “all based off of these guys’ profile pictures, so their faces and their general positions are the same, but from there I tried to make them look a little chubbier or scrawnier or just not particularly well-endowed.”
By using stupid mainstream ideas as a putdown (i.e., fat people can’t be hot or sexy; men should be big, not “scrawny;” men have to have big dicks to be good lovers), you’re reinforcing the same system of yuck that prompts men to be creeps online.
I’m sure that you can find a creative way to overcome such unnecessary and hurtful concepts in your art.
As my friend Jonny Newsome says, “The freedom bus doesn’t leave until we all get on.”
Wheee! – Marilyn Wann, author of FAT!SO?
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