art · Feminism · Issues · student

Seminar Thoughts 

This week’s lecture and seminar were about iconography in art, something that is extremely important as an art student when critiquing artwork. I found it interesting, however, it was something said by a fellow student in a follow up seminar that led me to write this post. 

The particular painting we were referring to at the time was The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck.


Painted in 1434, this painting holds different cultural values than today’s world. At first it seems the woman is pregnant however she is just wearing her clothes in a time appropriate fashion by gathering the material. They are wealthy, as shown by the decor and the man’s fur coat. He holds his hand and the hand of his wife as if showing her off to the viewer. This analysis got my class talking about male/female stereotypes and sexism. 

A lot of the paintings we looked at placed the man in a position of power and the woman was his possession he was showing off. 

Another example of this is The Toilet Of Venus by Diego Velázquez where Venus is portrayed as an object for the viewer to look at. 


Our lecturer began talking about feminism movements and sexism in the modern day and I even found out this painting was damaged by a suffragette and has since been repaired. 

Women are still portrayed as objects for men to look at within the media. They are still seen as desireable when dressed in revealing clothing and it’s even been used as an excuse for rape if a woman happened to have left the house in a short skirt. Women have never been fully respected. Thankfully things have come a long way since the dates of these paintings but there is still a long way to go. 

Men have now become objectified to a certain extent and muscles are desireable on a man. The media also uses famous actors etc for campaigns and advertising due to their looks and desirability however this hasn’t yet developed to the same level women are at. 

A classmate of mine piped up and said ‘but don’t we ask for it?’ Baring in mind this was a mature student I thought maybe she would be all for feminism as in previous years women have been bound to the kitchen and meant for child rearing but no, this woman actually tried to blame the younger generations’ actions and outfit choices for the sexism they face. 

I see where she may have gotten this idea as many women do use their bodies as a way to entice men and get attention however the only reason they do this is because society has said it’s okay to use your body in that way. Frankly I think everyone is in charge of their own self and can do what they want with their body as long as it doesn’t do harm but it is used a lot for the pleasure of men rather than for ourselves. 

Wearing a particular dress and heels does not give anyone, man or woman, permission to stare, make comments or touch in any way. Fashion choices are not an invitation, they are simply a preference. I don’t wear dresses, skirts, tight clothing or heels to entice men or women. I wear them to make me feel good and because that’s what I want to wear. I do not invite men to grope or squeeze my backside or any part of me when I go to a club but on a night out this often happens three or four times. This is not okay and if people are using the excuse of ‘we ask for it’ then there is something seriously wrong with society. 

Everyone has a body. That body is there to sustain life, simple as. It is not for other people to look at, comment on or touch. It is not an excuse, it is not an invitation. It is for one single person and one only. 

http://www.themasterpiececards.com/famous-paintings-reviewed/bid/27677/Famous-Paintings-Arnolfini-Portrait
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/diego-velazquez-the-toilet-of-venus-the-rokeby-venus

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