Thursday, December 31, 2009

All I want for Christmas is...a variety of sexualized images of women eating cupcakes for my art?


“… there are significantly fewer images of men eating cupcakes in Google Images than women, and only one with nudity I found, though my undertaking hardly constitutes a quantitative study.”

My artistic process is not very glamorous, as I get most of my inspiration from wandering around shopping malls while waiting for the next train. Suffice it to say, in the pre-holiday chaos, I steered clear of malls. Generally, though, they are a goldmine for me, because I can witness how gender construction is tied to consumerism. For example, while standing in line at Nordstrom Rack yesterday, I observed what I like to call colour-coded gender socialization: a young girl, about five years old, picked out a pink scrub for herself for the shower. Then her mother prompted her to pick out the blue one for her brother. It struck me that fashion is not the only way we cover our bodies with pink or blue–hygiene is another avenue. I know I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction with these things but it disturbed me that colour and nudity (and arguably by extension, sexuality) are associated so early on. If you think that the economy does not thrive on differentiating between boys and girls through colour, check out this New York Times article on the recent call for a consumer boycott in Britain by PinkStinks: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/22/boycotting-pink-toys-for-girls/ (Motherlode: Boycotting Pink Toys for Girls by Lisa Belkin)

I have actually just started looking beyond shopping malls as inspiration for a new series of works. In making two-dimensional embroideries with pink felt as a base and sexualized images of women eating cupcakes as the subject, I decided to use Google Images as a source rather than something like Xtube, because I feel it offers a cross-section of popular culture. The search string ‘woman eating cupcake’ retrieved some suggestive images indeed. Being a librarian, I indexed the images, and I must say, I was rather alarmed that terms like ‘nude’ were applicable on more than one occasion. Incidentally, there are significantly fewer images of men eating cupcakes in Google Images than women, and only one with nudity I found, though my undertaking hardly constitutes a quantitative study. I could not find sexually suggestive images of girls eating cupcakes, even though many of the details are the same as in the photos of their adult counterparts, such as icing around the mouth, fingers in the mouth, mouths engulfing the entire cupcake, etc. The closest I could find was an image of two adolescent girls flirtatiously sharing a cupcake, which my roommate found particularly disturbing because of their age. Had I found no difference between the representations of girls and women eating cupcakes in Google Images, I would likely have embroidered both and juxtaposed them to emphasize their similarities, but apparently it is not meant to be. Frankly I am relieved that the Internet did not live up to my cynical expectations.

Unfortunately, I am ringing in the New Year with a cold. It remains to be seen if I will be awake at midnight, but I am hoping Home Alone and the sugar rush from the gluten-free cupcake I had for dessert will do the trick. The latter was for research, naturally. Happy New Year, and thanks for reading over the past year…

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