Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pin-up Piss-Off

May 1971: “Male supremacy is all right — but I favor a different position.”

Dissatisfied with the rigid standards of beauty and thinness that are sadly de rigeur in Western culture, many grrrls have turned to the vintage pin-up as a alternative representation of the female form. Appropriating cheesecake images that were once only intended to titillate heterosexual men, this remixed celebration of the work of artists such as Alberto Vargas has emerged alongside a slew of art forms which make old new again.

What then, are we to make of these Vargas prints which take the empowering slogans of 70's era social movements and transform them into sexual invitations directed at the (likely white) male audience of Playboy magazine?

March 1969: “What sort of peace did you have in mind, Mr. Smith?”

April 1973: “So you’re from the Bureau of Indian Affairs?”

September 1970: “I believe in black pride, but there are some things I’d rather take lying down.”

November 1967: “And that, Mr. Bigelow, is yet another definition of black power.”

Clearly influenced by the "sexual revolution" that emerged temporally alongside grassroots liberation initiatives, such as the feminist and black power movements, these drawings water down political struggles and appropriate them in a way that is only humourous to those who have a stake in the status quo.

But, what about today? Looking at these prints, I can't help but think of other problematic campaigns that have appropriated images from different social movements in order to forward their own rights--most recently the pro-gay marriage movement's use of pictures of water fountains and benches marked "gay" and "straight" that attempt to bring home the gravity of their cause by likening anti-gay marriage sentiment to the kind of pernicious racism endured by African Americans through racial segregation.

What do you think?

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