Tag Archives: masculinity

Manhood? Or Penis-hood?

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Debbie and Laurie say:

Photographer Laura Dodsworth has completed a major project on penises (following a project she did on breasts). She calls the project, and accompanying book, Manhood: The Bare Reality, saying “One word for penis is manhood, so it seemed a perfect starting point to talk about being a man.”

Dodsworth did some admirable things for this project: she went looking for a wide variety of models, including trans men, men with micropenises, disabled men, and at least one strap-on. If you want to learn about the variety of penises, this is great. The Guardian article linked here includes interviews with several of the models, and the book probably has interviews with all of them.

This is a project we want to like. Familiar Men taught us both a lot about men and their penises, and the subject is under-explored, especially visually. But Dodsworth made two choices which deeply undercut the value of her work:
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First, she chose headless, and surprisingly bodiless, photography. Because all the men are standing in the same position, the same distance from the camera, with their hands in the same positions, the message is that the penis is the only differentiation, and thus the penis is the man. Anything else that might be of interest about each man is invisible, and thus unimportant. (Her breasts project is done in exactly the same format, equivalently making the breasts the only interesting thing about each woman.) In the same vein, she chose to make all the men nameless: not only no full names, but no first names, no initials, no handles, no aliases. Just their age, and the picture of their penis. Dodsworth succeeds in dehumanizing her models, reducing them to a single view; the interviews dispel this a little, but not enough.

Part of Dodsworth’s narrative about both of these projects is how brave these people were to have un-airbrushed pictures of their sexual organs shown in public. It’s always brave to tell your story; nonetheless, when we read these stories and the only visual context we are given is a picture of the penis that goes with the story, we lose track of the full humanity of the person behind the interview.
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Familiar Men exemplifies photographs of men of a wide variety of ages, ethnicities and body types, showing their entire body and face to the world. In Laurie’s photography and our joint work, the penis is not the man. Where Dodsworth anonymizes, we strive to personalize.

Thanks to Lisa Hirsch for the pointer!

What’s a Defiant Girl For?

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Debbie says:

First, kudos to State Street Global Advisors for putting up the statue of “Defiant Girl” (also “Fearless Girl”) facing the famous Wall Street bull. The statue went up on International Women’s Day last week. State Street’s intent is to shame more firms into including women on their boards. Personally, I can think of more important issues to defy Wall Street about, but I’m still glad she’s there.

She wouldn’t be making anywhere near as much news as she is, however, if a drunken Wall Street bro hadn’t made an attempt to screw her, apparently to impress the people checking out the new girl on Wall Street.

Plenty has been written about this photo, taken by Alexis Kaloyanides and shared publicly everywhere.

The man in the photo is such an amazingly clear example of several cultural phenomena:

1) He has clearly and unambiguously demonstrated what he and millions of men like him think women are for. The fact that the statue is really of an underage girl rather than a woman only underscores how unacceptably gross the inside of his mind is. It would be lovely if male minds like that were rare, but we all know better.

2) He has clearly and unambiguously demonstrated how completely safe he feels. I don’t think anyone has released his name, but you can still bet he’s licking his wounds and whining about how people aren’t being nice to him. Meanwhile Kaloyanides is the one who bravely put her own name out there, and it’s just as safe a bet that she is actually getting vicious responses from internet trolls.

3) He is in the process of clearly and unambiguously demonstrating the value of defiance. Fearless Girl would have gotten a few days of press, and a small steady stream of people coming to look at her, if he hadn’t brought his dick into the story. Now, she’s the wonder of Wall Street, and no TV station or newspaper can avoid talking about her.

Obviously, we dream of a world where no man would even think of such a disgusting display. But in the world we live in, I can only be grateful to Mr. Bro for making sure the whole world knows about Defiant Girl, and the millions of defiant, fearless girls and women who stand behind her.

He’s probably even more uncomfortable being thanked by radical feminists than he is being trashed by us, so I hope he reads this post.