Art of Woman

Christmas Greetings

Christmas is a time to give all people on earth good wishes and encouraging thoughts.

Again we consider the Christ child, the incarnation of God. In this child we see the wonder of God’s creativity and compassion combined. We see God becoming human, experiencing all the joys, excitement and wonder of a human body as well as the irritations, limitations, frustrations, pain and emotions of living in a physical body. This experience sanctifies all our bodies. God truly knows what it is like to be us! And God has compassion for our troubles and experiences.

God coming to earth as a baby makes parenthood a sacred calling. Unfortunately, despite a rhetoric of equality, mothers still do most of the organising and physical work of child rearing. This results in fewer hours available for their careers, so mothers take a career hit when they have children. Employers say they support families while at the same time implying that reduced hours means a lack of commitment.
(http://www.bnet.com/blog/business-strategy/women-still-pay-a-big-price-for-motherhood/981).

It is hard for mothers to feel respected when their careers crash or are blocked and the skills of mothering are disregarded in the workplace.

I am in awe of how wonderfully the human body is made. I aim to articulate the magnificent way that God made the human body through my art. The more I learn about the intricacies of how we are made the more I respect God’s creation and the more motivated I am to articulate that respect in my art. Looking forward to a productive year.

“You made all the delicate parts of my body and knit them together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!” Psalm 139:13-14 Living Bible.

Christmas is also a time to re-connect with family and loved ones. We have time off work to celebrate Christmas and this gives us time to reflect on other aspects of life. It is not good to be tied exclusively to the working world and risk neglecting friends, family and other connections. It was a great joy to us that modern technology enabled us to see our son who is living overseas. May you all have enjoyable times with your friends and family over the holiday break.

Wishing you all the strength and resources to fulfil your aims and goals in the New Year.

Anatomy For Beginners - SBS

On Tuesday evening 18 May, I watched a programme on SBS TV, “Anatomy For Beginners”.

This has been a fascinating series of documentaries showing how our bodies work by dissecting plasticised cadavers and by skilled painting on live nude models. Presented by pathologist Professor John Lee, Dr Gunther von Hagens expertly and deftly dissects the human body in a way that shows how the various organs and systems connect.

I watched the episode titled “Reproduction” and was amazed at the intricacies of the inner working of a woman’s body. Dr von Hagens had a series of foetuses in different stages of development. I was looking forward to the different phases of the womb during the menstrual cycle.

Yet not one word was spoken about menstruation! How can a programme about human reproduction ignore menstruation??? Menstruation is fundamental to both woman’s fertility and her sexual availability. We were told the full workings of ejaculation. Why not menstruation??

Dr Gunther von Hagens dissected a womb yet did not explain about the lining and preparation for implantation, nor the menstrual cycle that cleans and replenishes the womb.

This oversight confirms to me that there is still a great deal of silence and denial of menstruation. Despite our scientific culture, there is still an unwillingness to acknowledge this important part of a woman’s body. Menstruation occupies up to one quarter of a woman’s life during her fertile years. This is a lot of time and it impacts on a woman’s life in important ways.

But Professor John Lee and Dr Gunther von Hagens did not think it important enough to even mention during an episode devoted to reproduction!!

You can see the episode here.

Labiaplasty

Last night I watched “Hungry Beast” on ABC TV. This program, presented by plucky young people, picks out interesting and controversial snippets of news and themes. To quote from their website, “ It covers everything from the silly, to the serious, to somewhere in between; always from a different perspective.” Last night was an article about labiaplasty. You may view this online on the following web address. I am writing this link out in longhand, separately because the clip contains images of genitals and talks about genital surgery. These images are rated as M15+ and if such material offends you, do not click on the link;
http://hungrybeast.abc.net.au/stories/labiaplasty

There were two aspects to the report;
  1. the censorship laws that allowed full frontal nudity only if labia are not visible
  2. the increase in the number of real women having plastic surgery to cut off their perfectly normal, healthy labia.

The censorship laws are accommodated by some magazine editors by manipulating photographs of women and trimming their labia digitally within Photoshop. The women models remained healthy and intact, but of course the image is a construction, not a true representation.

Unfortunately the publishing of these altered images gives the public the impression that labia are not normally visible. Normal women are seeing their genitalia as ugly and in need of modification. The plastic surgeon called it “surgical improvement”! Of course he would, it helps his business to call it improvement. I am horrified by this. Surely labiaplasty is genital mutilation. All surgery carries risk, infection, poor workmanship, healing problems, scarring, loss of sensation, even death from complications. This is a lot of risk for something that is not even a true representation of women and is totally unnecessary.

Censorship laws are supposed to protect the population from damaging sexuality, not promoting genital mutilation!

There is also a possible connection with pedophilia. Sexually immature girls have small labia that are not visible from the outside - “a single crease” to quote the Photoshop artist. When a woman reaches puberty, she grows breasts and labia. These are normal secondary sexual characteristics of womanhood. The censorship laws are requiring adult women to look like little girls! If men become habituated to these images, it is a small step to finding under age girls themselves sexually arousing and desirable.

Censorship laws are supposed to protect under age girls, not turn them into objects of desire!

Our culture already sexualises under age girls to a great extent causing enormous suffering to women. This is one more example. You can read more about the sexualisation of girls in, “Getting Real” edited by Melinda Tankard Reist, published by Spinifex, 2009.

Child nudity

On 6-7 February, The Weekend Australian published a Getty Images photograph on page 17 (editorial, 4 Feb 2010, #964628761 by Mario Tama), from earthquake ravaged Haiti. The picture featured four children in a tent city constructed as temporary shelter for the homeless. Two of the children were nude.

I have written about different types of nudity before (10/07/2008). Child nudity has been discussed a lot recently in Australia especially in relation to art. The discussion centres on the idea that if a child naked and is under 16, which is the age of consent, then, by definition, the nudity is pedophilia. As stated in The Independent, 8 July 2008, “But for Ms Johnston, and like-minded people, all nude images of children are sexual and should be banned.” I disagree with this simplistic explanation. I am not excusing pedophilia. Sexual exploitation is a serious crime and can have serious developmental consequences for growing children. However it would be sad to be so afraid of sexual exploitation that artists and journalists are not permitted to explore other meanings. Nudity has many meanings and purposes.

If children are told that their body is shameful and they need to be embarrassed every time they have their clothes removed, then later when they are adults, sexual relationships may become difficult. When shame is imposed upon children without also an obvious respect for the human body, they loose respect for their own bodies and become uncomfortably self-conscious and may develop body image problems. This is a loss of innocence.

In fact, nude photography can enhance a person’s body image and can be a healing tool. Ellen Fisher Turk has been photographing young women with eating disorders for some fifteen years. Fisher Turk’s therapeutic photographs show the young women’s bodies in a new light and they begin to see themselves as beautiful. It is a healing process.

In The Weekend Australian the children’s nakedness expresses vulnerability and loss. Their nakedness emphasises that they have lost everything. There is no hint of eroticising the children. They are photographed in a documentary style. The photographer has a high viewpoint as if he/she is much taller than the children emphasising that the children are small. The children’s lack of clothing is not contrived nor staged, it is simply how they are. They really have lost everything. These children truly are innocent and the photographer has captured their innocence and vulnerability with great skill and respect.