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Beauty vs Sex

There is an ongoing discussion about what constitutes art and what is sexual exploitation.  Maybe the following two portraits will shed some light on this.

Portrait 1: Emma Hart, the future Lady Hamilton, painted 1790, by Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun

Portrait 2: Miley Cyrus at her Vanity Fair 2007 photo shoot with Annie Leibowitz.

If art is in the eye of the beholder, I call them both art.

Your mileage may differ.

Now, onto sex.

Video 1: Madonna’s Justify My Love (johninca, you may want to look away)

Video 2: Britney’s Spears’ self directed Gimme More

Ok, here’s my take.  The Madonna video is definitely shocking.  It’s almost too much.  But in the end. can you really tell who was using who?  Well, it’s clear to *me*.  She even ends the video with this: “Poor is the man whose pleasures depend on the permission of others”.  Um, yep!

Britney’s video is disturbing.  The first time I saw it, it struck me that she is not at all confident about her sexuality.  She seems almost desperate to reclaim it but it is all about her being a supplicant.  Like she is trying to deny the fact that she is now a mother and wants to just be a sex symbol.  I dunno, maybe it’s the lyrics.

There is a way to be a sexual being, to take charge of your sexuality and not be exploited.  Madonna seems to know what she’s doing though she really pushed the envelope.  Well, the envelope needed pushing.  Britney is a lot more insecure and a lot more exploitable and it comes through on this video with a bullhorn.  I don’t think we should be at all surprised by her inevitable breakdown which happened shortly after this video was shot.

Once again, your mileage may vary.

So what does this have to do with Hillary?  Nothing, really.  Jon Favreau’s infamous picture had everything to do with power and disrespect of physically less powerful people, many of them women. The physically more powerful can do whatever they want to the bodies of others.  Jon Favreau and his buddies have been taught that it is OK to behave like tribal males because no one has held them accountable for their behavior.   He is just the most visible manifestation of the whole Obama movement.

But in general, we need a whole lot more Annie Leibowitzes and Madonnas and a whole lot less pre-institutionalized Britneys.

39 Responses

  1. I agree. And I still feel sorry for Britney.
    You know, I danced to that song at my homecoming while bumping and grinding my female friends?
    At least I was in control, but I would have preferred to dance to Moddona.

  2. I would like to know, where are the rest of the Jon Favreau pictures featuring his misogynistic antics? We hear there are more, however the media decides which ones we see – or do not. It is disgusting – the Press is virtually dead in this country. We have a right to know!

  3. Littleisis: I feel sorry for Britney too. It wasn’t until she was hospitalized that I started to listen to her stuff. And I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the songs that she has written herself are her best music. They are very sad, intimate and reveal a lot about what it must be like to be a celebrity who is never allowed to be herself. She is a person of some talent who was forced into the limelight before she was ready. Madonna was self-directed and that’s why it looks like she’s never been exploited by anyone. Can you imagine someone hitting on Madonna or behaving disrespectfully towards her? Nah. Gah. Happen.
    But Britney seems painfully vulnerable.

  4. Let’s substitute MO in place of Hillary in the Jon Favreau pictures and here what the media and others have to say then.

    This is just despicable.

  5. That’s what I always thought too RD. I was around eight years old when Britney came out with her first album and she was still very young. I was a Britney fangirl back then, and I always felt sorry for her, even at a young age. She was Miley Cyrus back then, all cute and singing adorable little songs, but then the press got a hold of her and I think that celebrity, what you talked about, made her snap. My girl friends were always putting her down in pretty sexist terms and it bothered me even at that age. (There is something so wrong with our culture, and it makes me really sad sometimes. I want it to change so bad but it makes me feel so helpless because it is so engrained in the patriarchy, people don’t know how else to think.)
    She’s come out with several CD’s and I have listened to all of her albums, mostly, because my sister likes her music too. I had long since learned to never pay attention to her personal life, until it got really bad. She is very vulnerable, and I think it will probably be even worse with Miley Cyrus (You know what the Onion says, right? Sources say Cyrus Use will be drained by 2013.)
    Modonna is another woman that always inspired me. I know she isn’t perfect, but you’re right. You could never see any guy pushing her around. I live in NorthEast Ohio, so I got to see her exhibit at the rock and roll hall of fame. I read a letter they had on display that she wrote to a friend and it was insightful to the type of woman she is. And they had a display with the coolest pair of sequined leather pants I have ever seen, and they were hers.
    I wasn’t surprised to learn that she is kin to Hillary. Those two are a lot alike, I bet. 🙂

  6. I think the kind of power that Madonna’s sexuality reveals has to come from the inside. You have to be really comfortable with your body and who you are. That isn’t easy, especially in a sick, materialistic, misogynistic culture like ours.

    I think Hillary projects that kind of confidence–not necessarily in a sexual way at all–but she has an inner confidence about her own self-worth that makes schoolboy game like those by Obama and Favreau look weak and lame.

    This photo needs to follow Favreau around for the rest of his life. It should be mentioned in his obituary. That should be the price he has to pay. Unfortunately, Obama will most likely not pay any price for his woman hatred other than the twisted inner self he has to live with.

    and this has everythying to do with Hillary .
    Sexuality and Beauty are intimate and public parts of our culture .
    Hillary has chosen to project herself in HER way , not the exploitive male owned and operated disgusting way she has been portrayed to ridicule her and every other power owning female that might be found threatening to the current male paradigm .

  8. Great post RD.

  9. Also, the music and entertainment biz is the LAST BASTION of the macho male to the max imprimatur …. so there is where is found the most resistance… to “change”

  10. cnn has picked up Favreau story.
    It’s also on the home page as a headline:

  11. Swanspirit, I agree with you. It has plenty to do with Hillary because as she said, “I can’t be anything other than a woman” and sexuality is such a big part of being a human being.
    I think men like Obama and his minions hate it when women are confident, because if a woman is confident in who she is, she is likely confident about her sexuality too.
    And some men, like Big Dawg, like that a lot. But for men like Obambi, it drives them crazy because it threatens their power both in and outside of the bedroom. And a man who is threatened by powerful chicks in their everyday lives are likely threatened by powerful chicks in the sack too. That is how psychology, sociology, and the patriarchy works.
    Men lash out at women the most when they feel threatened, sometimes, as we see with Obama and his juvenile speechwriter, in grotesque ways.

    Here is one of the better songs that Britney did, one that I think shows how vulnerable she is:

    Good video too.

  12. I am afraid that I am posting and running, I try not to do that. My only question is if being a very public sexual object is so artistic, why are most of the naked people female? I agree that the female body is beautiful, but so is the male. Classic art shows much more evenhanded display of ‘physical’ beauty of both men and women. (David, etc.)–now I really do think that it has a lot to do with sexual exploitation.

  13. And in that analysis, I momentarily feel sorry for Michelle. It must be boring for her, since Barack undoubtedly has to call all the shots for her between the sheets.

    (remember he went to her job interview for her?)

    Poor Mom in Chief.

  14. Well the last bastion of male macho to the max also extends to the media mongrels as well ; They are perfect examples of old jowly men surrounding themselves with young women who outlive their usefulness at the sign of the first wrinkle Campbell Brown should look around at her own place of business if she needs to talk about sexism so badly , and has anyone else been following the slow but surely stereotypical make over of Candy Crowley ??

  15. honorara, that is a good point, but I have always thought that it is because women give birth and are the sources of life, so that makes it very beautiful in a mystical way.
    Of course, male sexual art is lovely too, it just doesn’t get as much fame.
    I think it is good when people can see how a female’s body is beautiful in an artistic, albiet beautiful and respectful way.

  16. Bonita, on December 6th, 2008 at 12:58 pm Said:
    Let’s substitute MO in place of Hillary in the Jon Favreau pictures and here what the media and others have to say then.

    This is just despicable.

    I fully intend to do that later today 🙂 and do it well 🙂

    I have to go out for a while but when I get back I will do it 🙂

  17. I have been following Candy Crowley in this way too.
    Andersoon Cooper is an older man that is supposedly sexy, but he has white hair.
    Can you imagine a white/light haired, beautiful older woman like Hillary reading the news on CNN?

  18. Interesting to note that Arnold Schwart…., OJ and smelly cows are still on Drudge, but the Hillary story has already had its 15 minutes of fame.

  19. Look at Playboy and how many famous women have posed nude for it.

    Then look at Playgirl and how many famous men have posed nude for it?

    How many famous actresses have bared all in film?

    How many famous actors have bared all in film?

  20. I missed Candy’s makeover
    let me guess
    blonde and lipo-ed?

  21. DYB, yes, you are right.
    Playboy is an example of a magazine that puts women under patriarchal control, because these women pose for men in whatever ways they want to, often degradingly.

    *is impressed with own analysis*

  22. omg sod
    “drop yer drawers, stud!”

  23. now is anyone going to dish about candy crowley im dying here

  24. Judy Woodruff was the last “older woman” person at CNN. She left the network a long time ago. Now it’s men of all shapes and sizes and women cut to order.

  25. SOD:
    You make me laugh

  26. Gay men don’t generally buy Playgirl. It’s so sanitized.

  27. Oh, it’s around. I’m not really sure who it’s supposed to appeal to!

  28. Interesting diary about the idiot speech writer at MyDD

    speechwriter’s sexism against Hillary

    by Nancy Kallitechnis, Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 12:01:32 PM EST

    A speechwriter for the new administration is showing he is a member of the old boys club. Jon Favreau posted a photo…”where he’s dancing with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of secretary of state-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and another where he’s placed his hand on the cardboard former first lady’s chest while a friend is offering her lips a beer.” There are a lot of levels of hate speech and each level worse than the last indicates how much a person hates an oppressed group. You know a hater is filled with extreme, visceral hatred when they use sex to harm the oppressed group. Click here to view the hate speech against women and girls: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/the-tra il/2008/12/04/one_more_question.html

    Favreau portrayed an image of himself in sexual foreplay with the image of Clinton in a public place. He is lowering Hillary Clinton’s status in a vicious, cruel, and extremely disrespectful way. Women and girls are the most oppressed group in the world. Men dominate women politically, economically, and socially. Women have a long way to go before we achieve political equality with men. Thus, harming women politicians by lowering their status in this way is morally heinous (http://journaloffeministinsight.blogspot .com/2008/11/women-and-girls-are-most-op pressed.html).

    A person who has used hate speech to lessen the status of a protected group, be it women, blacks, jews, etc. has no place working in the government.
    Per request of the administrator I will explain in more detail why the Favreau photo is hate speech. In the second paragraph of my diary I had explained why it is hate speech:


  29. I am in moderation

  30. Don’t forget brit’s I’m a Slave 4 u … that one is worth 10 years worth of psychiatric evaluation for her and any young girl that likes it

  31. and i put a new thread up

  32. What did Candy Crowley do now? I’m so out of touch, because I simply don’t watch cable news at all anymore. Did you know that Candy Crowley once lived in a hippie commune?

  33. Madonna is very talented and important in her own mind.

  34. There is Art
    and then there is all else.

    Still, those child stars have a tough life — worse now with the 24/7 media swoon and fixation. I read a really interesting piece by Naomi Wolf on the sexualization of this gen — once. They looked at too much, too soon, and so? We see what they saw reflected back. Madonna I think was out to be scandalous from the start — part of her gig?

    Like Boy George?

    I feel sorry for kids who have to grow up too fast — they are believing botox is right starting in at 16 or so? Yuck, and also a little scary when you think about it.

    Being an older feminist role model would teach them not to try and compete with a Barbie — the advertising messages have so much power to shape what goes on — or the films or TV in the milieu they are watching — what is the message, you know?

    And, are feminists working in the industries that are supporting positive messages for girls?

    I think the mags we grew up on — mine was “Seventeen” as a kid had very different messages for us as kids — also, TV was much less available to us — and there was NO internet.

    If you really want a glimpse, check out the “emo” kids for a kind of portrait of teen culture. Circa 2008.

  35. I’m not a big Madonna fan. I get the impression that she does what she does for shock value and I am not keen with that.

    That said, I love the song Christina Aguilera and Lil Kim did. Can’t Hold Us Down. It exemplifies woman power IMO.

  36. Using borderline hardcore-softcore sex to make millions of dollars for oneself and others in the business (the men behind the cameras), is something I have always found boring and morally questionable.

    Madonna likes to tart up what she does in an Art form, then leaves her husband and goes onstage to tout for Obama.

    Britney has obviousle been exploited big-time.

    What happened to feminists when this was happening?
    When kids have cheap sex shoved down their throats continually, basically simply for other people to make big dollars from it , of course fratboyz like Favreau see nothing untoward in posting such pictures on facebook.

    Like Murphy said, women must go back to being persons. Men and women must be persons together.

  37. As a female singer and songwriter the thing that has always bothered me about Madonna, aside for her unexceptional abilities at both singing and songwriting, is that even though she sold her sexuality, she still sold it. She’s little more that the pimp to her own streetwalker. The only thing I admire her for is her ability to make money. It is about the only thing she does really well.

  38. SoD, not me. I love male flesh. Particularly when it’s well formed. I find men much easier on the eye then women. They say that sexuality is not black or white but on a sliding gray scale but I’m one of those people way over on one end of the scale. The funny thing is that the women I’ve met who share my sentiments are all “low key” and “practical” (like me). We’re not the flirty, kittenish kind of women.

    Also, it is theorized (and I think correctly) that the reason American women “buy” Playboy is that they’ve been conditioned to become aroused by a man’s arousal. As opposed to their own innate desires. Our culture literally sells the idea that sex is naked, or partially dressed, women. Don’t even get me started on what the narrow restrictions of this “ideal” have done to our cultural female psyche and ability to enjoy our own sexuality.

  39. Miley Cyrus is a child. Vanity Fair exploited her horribly and should be held accountable for publishing the photos. I won’t buy the magazine anymore.

    Annie Leibowitz is a pig. I’ve lost any remaining respect for her. Not that I had all that much for her anyway. She always sexualizes women, no matter how powerful, famous or vulnerable. She never does that to men. Her photos of them are always respectful and dignified.

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