A nude statue of Donald Trump recently made the rounds in numerous U.S. cities, and today, Hillary Clinton received similar treatment in New York, to the anger of female pedestrians.
A larger-than-life bare-breasted caricature of the Democratic presidential candidate, complete with hooves, a thong, and a Wall Street banker lying on her chest, appeared at around 6 a.m. downtown, reports the New York Daily News. The statue was soon toppled by a female museum employee and kicked by a woman in hijab, both of whom found the work to be offensive to women.
"To put something up like this in front of my workplace ... I shouldn’t have to see this," the museum worker, identified as Nancy, told the paper.
To be depicted nude without consent isn't just a female problem, though the implications of being depicted nude are generally different for women than for men. When women are depicted nude it is often to humiliate, while male nudity is frequently seen as comedic. Revenge-porn attacks often target women in the public eye, such as Leslie Jones and Jennifer Lawrence, who both fought back when their private nude images were placed in public circulation by hackers.
“It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime.” Lawrence told Vanity Fair.
In a recent music video, rapper Kanye West decided to depict himself along with former President George W. Bush, Amber Rose, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Donald Trump, Chris Brown, Bill Cosby, Anna Wintour, Caitlyn Jenner, Kim Kardashian, and Ray J, all in various states of undress. It is not clear if anyone depicted gave consent.
However, even if consensual, the video made a violent statement against the women depicted that was not made about the men. In placing Rihanna nude alongside her former abuser and depicting women nude near noted misogynist Trump or accused serial rapist Cosby, West sent a message of dominance based on gender. He placed these women's effigies in harm's way.
This message is similar to that conveyed when unmasking a lewd depiction of Clinton on a New York City street — among the last places a woman might like to be seen naked, due to rampant street harassment. The statue creator also realized what he was doing when he depicted Clinton as a sex object.
Just as the statue of Trump, titled The Emperor Has No Balls, sought to diminish him by shrinking masculine features like his penis, the Clinton statue sought to mock her body by exaggerating feminine aspects such as her breasts, even turning them into locations of corruption by depicting a banker resting upon her. Additionally, she was not depicted entirely in the nude, but with her shirt open and in a thong, suggesting the act of disrobing for an audience, rather than being shown in a state of banal nudity, as was the case with the Trump statue.
Following the depiction of Trump in the nude, body-positivity activists and writers spoke out against the fat-shaming they felt the Trump statue promoted. One person covered the statue with a sign reading "Shame Me for My Behavior Not My Body," essentially co-opting Trump's own Trump-style "humiliation" to make a high-minded point. While Trump himself may traffic in insulting women for their bodies, no one should follow his example.
While effigies have long been used to make political statements and while artistic expression is protected under the First Amendment, artists and creators should try harder. It's easy to depict a woman in the nude as a method of critique and humiliation, but as Americans and as women, we deserve far better political commentary.