medievalrosalie

Art censorship and women

As many of you know, I've been desperately unhappy about the unnecessary censorship of the beautiful artwork by Tania Crossingham on the cover of my book. So much so, that I have printed dust jackets with the untainted artwork and shipped them world wide to those who want them; women and men who also feel that it is completely unnecessary and not the lest bit obscene.

Left: Censorship hard at work! Right: A trauma-inducing image of an uncovered nipple.
Left: Censorship hard at work! Right: A trauma-inducing image of an uncovered nipple.

On Thursday 18th March, 9.20am you can join me chatting to ABC Sunshine Coast Radio Morning host, Sheridan Stewart about art censorship, whether nipples are shameful. Oh yes. We're going there.

It makes me cranky, it really does. This is a picture. It's not fabulous 3D like the Venus de Milo  by the sculptor Alexandros of Antioch and we all love her, don't we? This is a book which we find in the History department in the non-fiction section of the book store, not the Toddlers Storytime section. Many toddlers (and indeed babies) I am fortunate to have known are keenly interested in breasts, and have more than a nodding acquaintance with their beauty and usefulness. I feel in my heart they would not be traumatised in the least to see one on the front of a book if they were browsing the History shelf unattended.

Michaelangelo must have been frustrated when his Sistine Chapel art was carefully censored with artful drapes of fabric and flowers when his male figures weer based on classical Greek figures and were not the least bit portrayed in sexually suggestive poses. At least it was well before the 20th century. You'd think we've moved on a little bit since then.

It's kind of appalling that we haven't. 

While it's entirely appropriate to think of the children, and be mindful of over-sexualising images or explicit photography or images, it's also appropriate to not go overboard when it comes to artwork which is not graphic or realistic.

In 2015 concerned persons cast their eyes over Pablo Picasso's "The Woman of Algiers" quite a bit angular, and when the painting was shown on Fox network, her nipple dots (not even real nipples) and in other cases, her entire breasts, were blurred.

Woman of Algiers, painted by Pablo Picasso, censored by Fox.
Woman of Algiers, painted by Pablo Picasso, censored by Fox.

More recently than that, the USA Department of Justice spent time and money purchasing drapes for two of their art deco statues so they could be made "decent" in the eyes of people who have issues with art deco sculptures. I'd like to point out that the statues have lived unmolested since the 1930's. 

In the scheme of things, covering up a drawing of a medieval nipple which, quite frankly, looks more akin to a cow's udder than an actual woman, seems such a little thing. In a way it is, but it's the 21st century. 

Getting hysterical about nursing mothers having breasts isn't okay. Making young women feel that their body parts are somehow shameful isn't okay when they're already anxious that they aren't thin enough or curvy enough or not tanned or too tanned. Covering up line drawings of the female form when they are not sexually suggestive is also a bit stupid. 

Left: Needs censoring. Right: Same publisher, apparently okay.
Left: Needs censoring. Right: Same publisher, apparently okay.

In my particular case, I'm super frustrated that my publisher who decided that the nipple on MY book cover was not acceptable, approved this other one for release merely months after mine. 

It's coloured. 

And squirting milk. I have no words.

Insult added to injury that the Publishing staff who Zoomed in to talk to me about this were women. Midwest American Christian book shops won't stock it, they said. I had been blissfully unaware that this was my target audience, really, because I had thought that other History Nerds (I'm a card-carrying one myself) were. Since then, I've posted out many uncensored dust jackets to sad Mid-west American Christians who had no issue with the cover and thought the whole thing was a bit silly.

I was disappointed that other women in the publishing industry hadn't gone in to bat on my behalf. 

I was already super frustrated with the font and text and had, at that point, already decided I was going to print dust jackets, so it seemed like a war I wasn't going to win. We'd previously tussled over who owned the image and I was afraid they were going to pull it altogether and run with some less wonderful one. I failed to see how a stuck on star couldn't have been a solution for those handful of places who might be scandalised. 

There were already mutterings that I was being difficult about a number of things which were important to me and the words we can't see a way forward had been uttered. Having the words SEX LIFE in enormous letters seemed a bigger problem to displaying in book shops to me. I'm all about the medieval women

Half the world are owner-operators of breasts. I am confident that none of us would be horrified to find nipples on them. Screening services which check for breast cancer would actually like up to get to become quite familiar with them. 

I am reasonably sure that the uncensored version of my book artwork wouldn't actually have traumatised anyone at all. Anyone. Actually.

Can we just please stop it?

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