An interesting article by Lauren Mayberry, lead signer of Chvrches, which ties in quite nicely with my blog post on freedom of expression: ‘Spotted – Insidious Societal Discrimination’.
As a space in which all the differences, variations and interactions within our world can make themselves evident, social media can only play a positive role in society. The virtual world can provide a freedom which is too often denied to many millions of people in the real world. Social media is the ultimate champion of freedom of expression and is the hallmark of generation Y.
Or is it?
A recent and heated debate between the Feminist society and the library Spotted page at my university, provoked me to question the limitations of the value of freedom of expression in our shared virtual world. Has freedom of expression become harmful to societal progression, and if so how?
Spotted is an intriguing phenomenon which acts as a kind of snapshot of the role social media is currently playing in our society. It can demonstrate the positive aspects of virtual interaction: the communication of useful information, the exchange of friendly compliments, and even the sparking of romances. However, it also demonstrates how generation Y are as much the perpetrators of gender, racial, and social discrimination as generation A were.
I would argue that discrimination has barely been touched upon as an issue in our society; it has, in fact, simply changed location. I’m not saying things haven’t changed for the better in the real world, which is perhaps what matters. What I’m saying is that the virtual world provides the perfect forum to fuel the prejudicial opinions, which are the foundation of discriminatory actions in our societies.
Just because discrimination has become more nuanced and less noticeable on the street, in the workplace, and at home, doesn’t mean it’s not there. The internet has provided a space for the outspoken, yet often anonymous, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and all the other forms of discrimination which were rife on the streets in decades past. This change in location has not resulted in a decrease in discrimination in the real world, it has simply allowed it to become much more insidious.
But what I find most worrying about online freedom of expression, is the backlash towards those who are attempting to counter its harmful effects. I believe in freedom of expression and am incredibly grateful that I live in a country which respects this right. I therefore resent being told that I am squashing such freedoms, when I red flag a post or comment for its blatant demonstration of prejudice and discrimination. Too many people are being taken in by the necessity of freedom of expression in our virtual world as justification for discrimination.
I believe in freedom of expression. You’re free to be a virtual and/or real perpetrator of discrimination of you want to be. But next time don’t red flag me just for calling you out. I am as free as you are to argue that my opinions are right, which they are, because discrimination is always wrong.
Emily Bell demonstrates how the internet is failing to provoke a regime change for women in journalism – but where are her alternatives?
A love of art comes with a love of exhibitions, in their many forms. However, I have a terrible tendency to leave going to art exhibitions to the very last minute. So, in traditional fashion, a couple of weeks ago, one week before it closed, I visited the exhibition Jack Vettriano: A Retrospective at Kelvingrove Art Gallery on a very, very busy Saturday afternoon.
I went in with an open mind, having never been exposed to much of Vettriano’s work. Nonetheless, the first bay of paintings proved to be very familiar, most depicting scenes of windswept couples or groups on the beach in 1940’s/50’s clothing. Moving quickly on, having been fairly un-enthralled, the next bay seemed to focus more on portraiture, in claustrophobic, dimly lit settings. I would say the paintings were sultry, sometimes verging on the seedy. However, as I came to realise on moving into the next room, the ‘red room’, this was merely meant as preparation for Vettriano’s most controversial and erotic work.
I felt like I was entering some kind of brothel, an experience which provoked some excitement, an excitement which certainly didn’t fade on deeper observation of the paintings which surrounded me. All of the works within this room consisted of either couples involved in sexual play, or nude females prior to or after such action. One of the most controversial paintings, entitled ‘Game On’, pictures a female pressed up against a wall by a man, whose has one hand holding her wrists while the other strokes her inner thigh.
Suddenly, from being fairly un-enthralled, I was exhilarated. What a fantastic and very real display of the heterosexual relationship today. For me the paintings exhibited the reality of male domination in sexual pleasure, and of the female role as supplement. So, I left the ‘red room’ and I continued wandering round the exhibition, still feeling extremely excited but also satisfied with the effect of Vettriano’s work and what I saw in it.
You can imagine then how disappointed I was when I came to watch a video interview, a few rooms later, in which A.L Kennedy insisted that Vettriano was in fact not a sexist, despite what his critics say, because the women in these paintings are sexy and want to feel sexy. How is it possible for Kennedy to see sexual empowerment in these paintings, when all I see is the reality of ingrained societal misogyny?
Now I wouldn’t go as far to say that Vettriano was a misogynist or a sexist. He very evidently doesn’t hate women, or hold any contempt for women kind; on the contrary, he idolises them. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that, more often than not, his erotic paintings depict scenes of male domination in terms of sexuality and sexual pleasure. In my opinion, to label these depictions empowering for both the women in them and the women observing them, is to simply veil a harsh reality.
And it is for this reason exactly that I believe the critics are wrong in dismissing his work. Indeed, Vettriano’s most provocative paintings are an example of the necessity of art in societal discourse. He has painted scenes which have provoked his male counterparts into calling him a sexist, and his female contemporaries into denying the sexist nature of his work. The art itself reveals so much about the reality in which we live, but so does the peoples’ reaction…