This morning, an artist named Anthony Scioli staged a political protest in downtown Manhattan by erecting a mostly-naked statue of Hillary Clinton near Bowling Green park. The move appears to be a reaction to the naked Donald Trump statue displayed in Union Square in August by an anarchist collective called INDECLINE.
Note: I could find no photos of either the Hillary or Trump statue that I could use without violating the photographer’s copyright; click the links above to see the statues for yourself.
Politically, Scioli has every right to stage his protest. New York City requires a permit for such a display, and counter-terrorism(!) police reportedly told him he had to remove his statue less than three hours after it went up, but not before morning commuters tore it down and engaged in a street-brawl about whether it belonged.
As an artistic and political statement, Scioli’s statue is troubling and speaks to much of what’s wrong with the way Hillary’s critics approach her, especially in contrast with the artistic choices around “Naked Trump.”
Let’s begin with the most obvious and attention-getting aspect of Naked Hillary: Her swollen, naked belly and exposed breasts. The artist who created Naked Trump crafted a very realistic human form that, while overweight, closely approximated Donald Trump’s actual physique. The one (likely) exaggeration was the statue’s obvious micropenis.
Naked Hillary, in contrast, has a body resembling a fertility goddess or R. Crumb cartoon, a grotesque parody of the female form. It bears almost no resemblance to Hillary Clinton’s actual figure. Instead, it is a commentary on the female form itself. The statue’s shape reflects the way Hillary’s critics view her: Burdened and disfigured by her femininity. Were this the artist’s primary statement, one could almost see this as a commentary on the way our society regards women; in combination with the statue’s other aesthetic and symbolic choices, however, such a reading is impossible.
Naked Hillary is posed mid-gesticulation, her arms spread wide as her mouth and eyes expand in wild-eyed frenzy. Once again, the choice contrasts with that to depict Naked Trump at rest, a placid if somewhat self-satisfied expression on his face. Especially when one considers that Trump is by far the more bombastic of the two, this choice again says more about the artist than about Hillary herself. Hillary Clinton is many things, but frenzied is not one of them. Instead, the wild expression and contorted open mouth reflect a primary objection from her critics: She is an outspoken woman.
From behind her belly and beneath her open shirt emerges the glib face and hand of her husband Bill; because god forbid any woman, even the likely first female President, be regarded as an individual human being apart from the man who defines her. It’s not entirely clear what purpose Bill serves; his expression and reaching hand likely hint at his well-known reputation, but in a surprisingly subtle move (considering the other symbolic choices) he is sans-cigar.[EDIT, 12:30PM: From the photos available earlier this morning I took this to be Bill Clinton, but from later photos, it’s clearly not. It appears to be a banker fondling her and kissing her breast, adding another layer of troubling symbolism to the piece (why must alleged corruption be portrayed via sexual symbology? Because she’s a woman??) but doesn’t much alter the overall thesis as I’ve laid it out here. Just note that it is definitely not Bill.]
Below Bill’s hand, Hillary’s nether-regions are clad in a simple pair of white panties, because even in retaliating for Naked Trump, the artists regard female genitalia as too vulgar and offensive to be exposed in public. From there down, Hillary is transformed into a literal devil, her human legs replaced by hairy goat legs and hooves. Beneath her left hoof is a pile of papers; it’s hard to say with certainty from the photos online, but they would appear to be a mountain of emails. Her right hoof crushes a Google-style marker denoting a location on the map she stands upon, soaking it in blood that spills into the ocean.
Though the map is distorted, it’s almost certain that the marker denotes… wait for it… BENGHAZI.
The Naked Trump statue that made headlines in August was a simple artistic statement: It stripped The Donald of his glamor, of his character, of his bluster and his dignity and depicted him as nothing more than a man. Yes, the representation was distorted in some subtle ways to embarrass him: the tiny penis, the saggy skin and hanging jowl. But the artistic statement was to emphasize his humanity.
Naked Hillary, in contrast, is anything but human. She is a cartoon, so burdened by the symbols of right-wing knocks against her that no actual person remains. The statue’s artistic choices illustrate more about her critics than the candidate herself. Hillary’s attackers see her female-ness, they see the manufactured scandals they’ve associated with her, they see her refusal to sit down and keep quiet, and they see her husband as an intrinsic part of her personhood. The thing they are incapable of seeing is her humanity.
In the end, the Naked Hillary statue shares much with the right-wing movement against Hillary. It is wholly unoriginal and reactionary, exaggerated until it has little resemblance to reality, and based more on an imaginary character named Hillary Clinton than on the actual human politician by that name. It is fundamentally misogynist, and so burdened by decades of talking points and fake scandals that it can’t make an original statement of criticism. It’s less a “protest” than a political cartoon, one that repeats the same tired message Republicans have been reciting for the better part of 30 years.
As the election draws nearer, and evidence mounts that Donald Trump really is the worst candidate ever to have a real shot at President of the United States, one common refrain from those who still support Trump (and those who intend to vote third-party or stay home) is that they just don’t like Hillary Clinton.
I am not one of those people who thinks it’s unreasonable to dislike Hillary. And we’ll tease that apart in a moment to consider the factors, fair and unfair, that make Hillary unlikable, but first I want to make this clear: Hillary Clinton is arguably the most qualified and competent person ever to run for President. She has dedicated her entire life to public service, and part of the reason she fails to connect on a human level is that she’s just so damn caught up in policy details. Oh, and her opponent is a priapic sex-monster who is either virulently racist or willing to embrace virulently racist voters to win, an irrelevant distinction.
The point is, you don’t need to like Hillary Clinton to think she’s the right choice in this election, or to cast your ballot for her. Continue Reading
No one looks forward to accusing a national celebrity, a candidate for President, of rape or sexual assault. No one WANTS to be in the national media talking about a violation of their body, to be asked probing questions that violate their privacy, to be called a liar and an opportunist and a slut.
No woman in the country is ignorant to the experience of such an accusation, even when her abuser is not famous. Your life becomes defined by the worst thing that ever happened to you, your identity buried beneath that of the person who violated you. And for every woman who came forward and was believed, there are dozens, hundreds maybe, who came forward and were ignored.
In my near-38 years on this Earth, I have never learned to appreciate one of the most popular and commercially successful agricultural products our planet has to offer. Coffee is woven into American social fabric like almost nothing else, to the point where the word is almost synonymous with conversation; and yet for the last decade or so I have begun each morning not with a hot cup of Ethiopian Coffea, but a cold can of Diet Coke. Which, frankly… people look at you funny.
So I have embarked on a quest to learn to love the roasted black bean, though it’s not the first time in my life I’ve made such an attempt. I’ve tried coffee drinks a few times in my life, usually getting them to within a half inch of my face before recoiling. In the early 2010s I went so far as to purchase a bag of blonde roast beans (having heard those were less harsh and more friendly to beginners) and brewed them up in the French press I keep at home for guests. It didn’t go well. This time, I will succeed. Continue Reading
Just a quick note that I am now a certified personal trainer (based in New York City), and posting regularly regarding health and fitness at RewriteFitness.com. I will continue posting here, too, but I would invite you to come check me out over there.
First Release: They Might Be Giants (AKA “The Pink Album“), 1986
(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)
One of the early songs that defined the band’s sound, with a video that defined their artistic look, “Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head” is an anti-conformity anthem that showcases their ability to be simultaneously obtuse and profound. With an upbeat sound and dark lyrics, this is one of those definitive They Might Be Giants standards–it comes in at #25 only because of the band’s prolific output and my personal tastes.
Every now and then, I appreciate a good Internet meme. My friend and former boss tagged me to name ten books that have had a meaningful influence on me. I’ve presented my ten below, in no particular order. I have a terrible memory for exercises like this one, and I’m certain I’ve forgotten some very important or influential books. I’m also a little ashamed that my list is so damn white and so damn male. Out of ten authors, nine are white dudes. Poor Cacilda Jetha is the only one to check any boxes on the diversity chart. I even managed to work in an outspoken homophobe. Jeez.
Partly I can blame that on the fact that many of these come from my childhood or adolescence, when women and writers of color received less prominence, but mostly it’s a reflection on my reading habits.
I was tempted to massage this list a little bit, dropping in One Hundred Years of Solitude or Wild Seed to make myself look more inclusive, but decided to go with the ugly truth. I never finished the Marquez in its entirety, and while Octavia Butler is a genius and her book was terrific, it just doesn’t have the same long-standing influence on me that these ten do. The ugly truth is that, while I join the calls for more diversity in fiction, the books that shaped me most were by white dudes. But I’m working on changing that.
1. Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton 1990
This book will always be dear to me, because it’s the book that made me want to write novels. It came to our house via book club, and sat on the shelf for a few weeks before that Tyrannosaurus silhouette wooed me into opening the pages. If you’ve only seen the film and never read the book, you’re missing out on the complex, nuanced plot that first inspired me to try it myself.
2. Small Pig, Arnold Lobell 1969
The book that taught me to read. I made my parents read it to me over and over again, even after I’d memorized it all so I could recite it along with them. To this day, mentioning “Small Pig” will get an eye roll from Mom and Dad. Continue Reading