Trump Statues: Body Shaming Is a Weapon, Wherever You Point It

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Debbie says:


If you read the news at all, you know that large statues of a naked Donald Trump (not pictured above) have been appearing in several major U.S. cities.

The statues are the work of anarchist collective INDECLINE, which has done other political art projects, such as covering the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with names of African-American victims of police shootings. This project is named “The Emperor Has No Balls.”

“Like it or not, Trump is a larger-than-life figure in world culture at the moment,” said the spokesman, who discussed the project with The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity. “Looking back in history, that’s how those figures were memorialized and idolized in their time — with statues.”

The artist, known as Ginger, was specifically trying to emphasize unattractive features.

The goal was to give him the slightest hint of a scowl — a “constipated look” — that hinted at Trump’s implicit frustration with contemporary America, Ginger said. “He has a very distinct little mouth, the way his chin meets the jowl, it had to look right,” he said.

Also challenging was figuring out how to create unsettling body parts in a realistic fashion, a process that required extensive online research.

“If somebody were to look at my browser history, it would be a little disturbing,” Ginger said. “Turns out there’s not too many Google results for ‘saggy old man butt.’”

Some of the reaction to the statues has simply been that they are funny (and I originally thought they were funny). I changed my mind before I learned that INDECLINE’s website also showcases a billboard size graffiti piece entitled “Rape Trump” (really!). Marissa Jenae Johnson, writing at The Establishment, is among many critical voices:

The joke itself is bad. It relies on body-­shaming, fatphobia, toxic masculinity, and transphobia to take jabs at Trump. The “joke” behind the statues is two­fold:

One is that it makes fun of Trump’s body, and likely his weight. He is depicted completely naked, rolls and all, and his skin is intentionally blemished. Beyond clearly relying on beauty standards most progressives would normally reject, it seems pretty fatphobic. Even if the artist didn’t intend it that way, it has certainly made space for fat ­shaming.

The second part of the joke is about Trump’s dick, or rather, his “manhood.” The title itself is an attempt to emasculate Trump in the same way that his shrunken penis is intended to. The implication is that people with a small penis, or lacking testicles, are not real men and are therefore worthy of scorn.

One defense of the statues that I’ve heard is “sauce for the gander”: Trump, though sensitive about being body-shamed himself, is perfectly happy to shame other people about their bodies. He even thinks it’s disgusting that women pee.

While I agree that the statues raise issues like fatphobia and transphobia, that’s not my core objection. All body shaming, by definition, is about body characteristics that the culture finds shameful: otherwise, it isn’t shaming. You can’t effectively shame someone by poking fun at how muscular they are, how slender they are, or how clear their skin is. What bothers me is that INDECLINE thinks Trump’s body is a target for any kind of shame.

Listen up, INDECLINE: you are falling into his trap. You are playing his game. You are shaming him for things that are not character flaws, things that are only shameful because the wider culture says they are. The list of things Donald Trump should be ashamed of is encyclopedic; by choosing his age, his body configuration, and your slurs about his genitals, you are affirming his propensity to do the same thing. If you don’t want to ever hear him make cracks about Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle (and I don’t, even if you do), don’t give him permission. And while we’re at it, no “joke” about anyone being raped is ever funny.

6 thoughts on “Trump Statues: Body Shaming Is a Weapon, Wherever You Point It

  1. My reaction was not immediately political. My initial takeaway was to marvel at the way that large amounts of money and state-of-the-art tailoring, hairdressing and similar grooming can make someone who has the same kind of body type and is the same age as myself look presentable to a mass audience. Much as I despise Trump’s politics, my age and body type are similar. As one of my friends remarked, “everyone knows you’re a prude” and that’s not inaccurate. I admire the courage of those who claim space for their bodies through nudity (as in Women En Large, Familiar Men, etc.) I would never be comfortable doing that. So I can’t be wishing the kind of “below the belt” attack on anyone that would hate to have inflicted on me. But it took me awhile to sort that out and, though I’m not proud of it, I have to admit I took a rather circular route through the Valley of the Shadow of Whining to get there.

  2. That’s fascinating. It seems to me that, naked, he absolutely doesn’t “look presentable to a mass audience.” And even clothed, the jokes about his hair and hands are endless.

    I wonder what’s different between what you see and what I see.

  3. Probably just my own issues with clothing and “presentation of self in society.” The sculptor mentions in an interview that he made Trump look fatter so as to make him look more repellent. I’m sure that the many experts who design his clothing and hair minimize what they see as his flaws. The jokes about his hair and hands are aimed at getting under his skin–evidently he can be baited about those attacks. By contrast, much as I dislike Chris Christy’s politics, I’ve always admired the way he pushes back at people who (interminably) turn him into a walking fat joke. I don’t have any profound insights, just responding with how this made me feel. Not something rational, just my emotions. Of course, others will feel differently.

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