Feminist Photographs Show The Dark Side Of Beauty

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In a startling critique of the ways in which images of women’s bodies are consumed, the artist Jessica Ledwich presents “The Fanciful, Monstrous Feminine,” a collection of surreal photographs documenting the psychological consequences of contemporary beauty standards and practices. For Ledwich, female sexuality is viewed as “threatening” and is therefore oppressed; here, she exaggerates the femme fatale image, showing her red-lipped, square-nailed protagonist engaging in violence with her own body.

The female form, shiny and lacquered, appears like a hybrid, part human and part domestic cyborg; her youthful flesh is overtaken by the mechanics of beauty. In one image, severed and still-wriggling fingers are replaced with tweezers, and in another, she uses a vacuum cleaner to suction fat from her thighs, injecting it into her lips.

Improvements to the home and domestic realm take a literal toll on the female body and self; after awkwardly sculpting a just-budding lemon tree, a matriarch forces her own natural body into an hourglass with restrictive garments. The monotony of the daily grooming routine turns brutal and dehumanizing, and with each ritual, our subject sacrifices a bit of her identity until, like slabs of lifeless meat, her limbs, brains, and heart are sold off at a butcher shop cleverly referred to as “Limbsons.”

Tied to this endless pursuit of female perfection is the idea of motherhood, presented without an ounce of warmth or sentimentality. A C-section yields only an endless stream of identical plastic dolls, each removed with the same sterile, unfeeling determination that we see with the surgical implantation of breasts. The mother, robbed of her sexuality, is shown inserting biohazards material into a cooked egg, an uncomfortable action we might presume to represent her own impregnation. This bleak, unromantic portrayal of female beauty and fertility serves to remind us of the physically and psychologically painful demands placed on modern women’s bodies, leaving viewers yearning for a more humane world. (via Lost at E Minor and Design Taxi)
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  • NovusPopulus

    I love how some people feel the need to shame and attack others because they do something they don’t, well done so called feminists for further shaming your own gender into even more self hatred…

  • Mar

    Nobody is shaming women. If you can’t see the way we’re objectified, you’re being willfully blind.

  • Laura

    I choose to wear make-up and nail polish because I like colour and it’s fun! I see the point some of these pictures attempt to make. However, I found myself feeling irritated more than interested and supported. I found myself thinking: Ah, there go the aggressive drama-fuelled feminists again. That was my honest reaction to these. I will never call myself a feminist. I may have feminist values, but honestly I think feminists these days take things too far. Kind of like PETA using shock tactics and causing sh*t in the name of helping animals, when they have the power to do far more good by being a bit more measured and sensitive to the way people receive messages. Aggression is never the answer.

  • Krs

    If you believe in equal rights for women and men, you are a feminist. That’s it. So call yourself a feminist. This is one artists response to cultural expectations of femininity. It does not speak for all women or for all feminists.

  • Laura

    You make a good point. I like how you phrased that, Krs. When I read over my comment again a while after posting it, I actually second guessed myself a bit.

  • Eve

    I love how everyone is getting worked up over the feminists angle-what this artist is doing is showing the crazy things women so in pursuit of beauty. To say that they don’t do these things is naive. What she is doing just putting a creative and provoking take on it. Yes-women have absolute right to do it but that makes it no less monstrous. To label a woman who holds up a mirror to the realities of modern women’s pressures as nothing but cheap shock tactic has CLEARLY missed the point. Anyone for a vampire facial?? Yep-that’s right -that exists.

  • NineKeys

    I agree about the shock tactics. But like Krs, I think it’s important that you call yourself a feminist simply because you believe in the equality of genders. Feminism shouldn’t just be made up of extreme views and loud messages, feminism should have views like yours as well because that’s how equality can eventually be achieved. Else equality will continue to be shunned by people who think it’s too extreme for them because of its label/associations.