Soo I think this two pictures very well represent a different attitude of woman and men’s art at the same subject.
The first one is Alfons Mucha. All woman at his illustrations are the same - highly erotic, almost unconscoious from the ecstasy. See the way she is keeping her head high and her half open mouth? Her half closed eyes? And her curve hairs? It’s sexual. The way she is looking at you is seduce.
Jane Atche (this same year - 1896, this same magazine) is different. Woman here is self confident, smoking isn’t giving her erotic pleasure but some kind of satisfaction. There is only she and her time when she can do whatever she wants. She isn’t object on this illustration, she is subject.
While I feel like this perennial argument in the art world is rooted in good feminist intentions, it mostly serves as a way to really piss me off. For one thing, it’s really easy to cherry pick an example that suits your argument. To say, “All woman at his illustrations are the same - highly erotic, almost unconscoious from the ecstasy,” is not only an intentionally inflammatory statement, but it also doesn’t stand up to any sort of analysis. You could have just as easily compared these two Mucha and Atché pieces:
Not exactly The Man trying to keep The Woman down, is it? In fact, in this example, I would say that Mucha did a better job of demonstrating a female as a powerful entity with confidence and clarity. By comparison, Atché’s woman looks positively weakened and frail, as if she has little better to do than regard this flower with some chagrin.
So, that’s my argument against comparing two artists based purely on a single example.
Now for my pro-/anti-feminist argument:
Even if you were to analyze the original two pictures and say, “hey, yeah! That’s really sexual!” What the hell is wrong with that? For one, say you’re trying to sell cigarettes and insist that they’re super awesome and taste great (I mean, they taste like butt, really, but say you had to prove otherwise)? Don’t you think illustrating someone who seems to be really into these cigarettes, and I mean really into them, is a more exciting selling point? Isn’t that sort of where the oversexualized cowboy motif came from in the 70s and 80s for cigarettes?
As a woman, I see no problem with women being sexual or simply looking sexy. Sure, certainly not to the exclusion of other good traits or as the only measure of their worth. I just feel the feminist culture-at-large often criminalizes any suggestion of a woman’s sexuality, because, and I feel this needs to be emphasized, they seem to think women are only sexual to titillate men and suit men’s standards. That mode of thinking is so black-and-white, it just doesn’t measure up to reality. For one thing, I check out ladies and happen to find the feminine look attractive. For another, being in a lesbian relationship, if I put on some heels and wear a bit of makeup to appeal to my wife, how am I conforming to male-created standards made only to impress men?
This baseless categorizing of “only MEN find this attractive,” or “a STRONG WOMAN never looks too sexy,” or even “SEX only objectifies women, it NEVER empowers them,” only serve as a detriment to the female community, in my mind. If you want to get down-and-dirty feminist about these issues, I say a woman should be able to look or act however the hell she wants, because that’s as free and equal as you can possibly get.
Anyway, where’s the outrage against this sexualizing shit?
(Reclining male nude, raised right knee (1815 - 1845). William Etty. oil on millboard)
Looks like some (post-)ecstacy to me. So objectifying.