Social Issues

Gender, Sexuality and Art

In art theory, there has always been the never-ending narrative of comparing the value of the artwork to its creator. While there are many examples in art history of this issue, internet discourse chooses to focus on the most contemporary ones like J.K Rowling and her infamous war against the trans community or Woody Allen and the accusations of child molestation, especially compared to the motifs of his movies.

However, other topics have been severely overlooked. While it’s a fair point and a valid reflection to question the ethics behind an art piece, especially with a focus on the author; gender and sexuality themes are often left out of the puzzle.

When approaching gender and sexuality, there are many ways to engage in its discourse. Many scholars choose to reflect on the lack of power of group minorities in mass media culture, but the focus of this article is to get closer to those ethics I previously mentioned but in the form of gender and sexuality theory.

When it comes to gender, it’s very clear that women in history were left out of the equation of arts. Even today, if you go to a museum, you could observe the beautiful bodies of naked women… all painted by men. So, it’s valid to sexualize and portray women in different art pieces but it’s not valid that women are the brains behind the artworks. This happens in almost every art field. One perfect example are the Oscar nominations for best director. Ever since the award ceremony started in 1929, only 7 women have been honored with the nomination. The meaning behind the overuse of women in art but their lack of participation is clear, women are better represented by male authors. This is not only misogynistic towards the many women who work in the different art industries but presents another problem, the wrong portrayal of women's goals, desires, and character that leads to different stereotypes and the infamous male gaze.

Interestingly enough, the phenomenon of the male gaze reverts itself when it comes to sexuality. While it would be wrong to say that there is no representation of different sexualities in the art field, the problem here lies in where it is coming from and what purpose serves its narrative. Here, I would like to give credit to the YouTuber and filmmaker James Somerton that has been explaining and pointing out the issue of gay male representation in some specific fields of media. Somerton explains that there is a women's gaze in gay representation as most stories with gay male protagonists are made by straight women. Unfortunately, this is not enough to give good representation to the gay community as straight women will most likely miss many concerns that gay men have towards their bodies and sex lives. Also, the problem with these types of stories, especially in Asia, is that their purpose is mainly profit. Gay males are the new marketing of teenagers. This is because shipping has become a very big phenomenon online, and even boy bands and male singers lean into the ambiguous bromances to get more views and profit.

So the invisibility of women in cinema goes hand in hand with the fetish of gay males in certain types of media. Both groups are portrayed in a cliche and stereotypical way that does not match the reality that they suffer. So maybe, it’s finally the time to give these groups a platform so they can create their own stories.

Clara M.

April 22, 2022

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