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More PC issues

The heightened PC-driven media frenzy over such issues as transgender rights, the various (some seemingly contradictory) strands of feminism and of course the widening ripples across the pond of male/female relationships prompted by the #MeToo movement – and indeed the backlash thereto – have left us in some pretty strange places.

Yesterday morning, quite by chance, I happened to watch a bizarre segment of ITV’s Good Morning Britain, hosted by Piers Morgan and Susannah Reid, in which two mothers – one the mother of a son who identified as transgender, the other having just banned her daughter from joining the Girl Guides because of the organisation’s new policy which allowed transgender individuals identifying as females to sleep and go to the toilet in facilities hitherto reserved for girls only – clashed for several minutes over the new policy from their different points of view.

Morgan, the former disgraced Daily Mirror editor who lost his job (if my memory serves)  over a ‘doctored’ supposed scoop suggesting that British army soldiers had tortured Iraquis, later re-emerged in the public eye via blagging a job as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent, appearing in Donald Trump’s version of The Apprentice and then somehow getting hired to host a US high-profile chat show, is an acquired taste.

Some worship him, but others hate him with relish for his boorish, opinionated and provocative style of interviewing, albeit that (arguably) it is archly deliberate on his part and certainly brings in the ratings.

Yesterday he put it to the mother of the transgender child that surely she could see why mothers of girls might be concerned about – to be blunt – those boys who had decided to self-identify themselves as girls having the right to share tents and use the washing and toilet facilities previously (especially in the Girl Guides) reserved solely for females?

She couldn’t. Based upon her personal experience at home, her son (despite still being a full-equipped male teenager with a penis) had identified as trangender and therefore had the absolute right to join the Girl Guides if he/she wished and therefore use said facilities – and for anyone to object, or even express concern about this, was de facto outrageously non-PC, anti-diversity, and totally unacceptable.

I was left shaking my head in wonderment at where the world has got to.

Separately, overnight I came across a piece in The Guardian which I wish to bring to the attention (and recommend to) Rusters today.

It is written by art critic Jonathan Jones on the subject of Gustave Courbet’s famous, not to say notorious, painting L’Origine du monde and the news that a French researcher is now suggesting that the lady who posed for it was a dancer called Constance Queniaux and not a sometime lover of the artist as was previously thought to be the case.

The piece is interesting for three reasons.

Firstly, in terms of context, the significant media interest earlier this month in an initiative announced by the Royal Academy that it was going to redress a supposed ‘bias’ in exhibited art works towards female nudity over the male variety.

Secondly, the candour of Mr Jones in admitting in this article that he had just finished writing a book in which he identifies Courbet’s model for L’Origine du monde as his Irish mistress Joanna Hiffernan.

As a result, of course – if this latest research turns out to be correct – the fundamental of his about-to-be-published work may be terminally undermined.

Anyone who has ever spent months or even years researching a subject and then had its central tenet subsequently either challenged or proven inaccurate must feel a pang of sympathy for Mr Jones’ position and reaction.

Thirdly, the extent to which the issue of subject of the painting is or should ever be a gender ‘equality’ battleground given the history of the world.

These days it is common to learn of university student and other campaigns being mounted to remove statues and paintings of figures from the past who allegedly had colonial or pro-slavery connections. For me, however, a PC initiative designed to ‘equalise’ male and female nudity in art galleries is an absurdity.

As a heterosexual female of a certain age I have no objection to there being a greater proportion of artistic representations of the naked female form than of the male equivalent.

Some hold to the view that the female body is inherently more aesthetically pleasing than the male and – despite my own undisguised appreciation of the naked male form in both art and life(!) – I wouldn’t necessarily argue with that proposition.

And why shouldn’t beauty be celebrated for its own sake anyway?

See here for a link to Jonathan Jones’ article in – THE GUARDIAN





About Francesca Shawn

A former arts editor of The Independent, over the years Francesca has written for an innumerable list of UK arts and dance magazines. More Posts