Things got more than a little heated on Tuesday when Anthony Scioli (which may or may not be his real name) put up a statue of a mostly naked Hillary Clinton in downtown Manhattan (you'll have to follow the link to see the whole statue. Just because I don't think it's intrinsically sexist doesn't mean I'm going to indulge the artist and spread the image):
The grotesque caricature of the Democratic candidate appeared outside the Bowling Green station during morning rush hour on Tuesday and shows Clinton with hoofed feet and a Wall Street banker resting his head on her bare breasts.
The statue was up for less than three hours before an enraged woman toppled it over and started yelling at the statue’s creator.
But is it a case of sexism? Is it biting satire? Or does it fall somewhere in between? And is the nudity distracting from the more dangerous point of the statue? Via the Washington Post:
As Carin Kuoni, a professor of contemporary art and political engagement at The New School, told the Associated Press, the Clinton statue can be easily viewed as offensive rather than satirical.
“The history of how the female body appears has clearly been so negatively coded and inscribed that it makes for a completely different intervention when you see the sculpture of a naked woman than when you see a naked man,” she said.
This is true. The female body has been objectified and shamed for centuries with the trend only accelerating in modern times. You cannot ignore the historical context.
Think of the difference between showing a white president and a black president being hung for "treason". One is just distasteful, the other is deeply offensive. No such distinction exists if both were to be burned in effigy. The history of lynching black people in America is unavoidable. Context is important.
For example, if the Hillary statue was erected in a vacuum, it would be unarguably offensive. But it wasn't. It followed the widely applauded statue of a naked Donald Trump which makes condemning the Hillary one a bit hypocritical.
On the other hand, Donald's nudity had a specific purpose. Trump is a man who judges women solely on their physical appearance. They're either "10s" or "dogs" and he treats them accordingly. Making an anatomically correct (with a "little" guess work) statue of the obese Trump with no clothes on speaks directly to his shallow hypocrisy and serves to humiliate him in exactly the same way he humiliates others.
Hillary's nudity is seemingly gratuitous. It's clear that a Wall Street banker-type is supposed to be getting ready to suckle, a visual gag that didn't require her breasts to be exposed to get that particular point across. But at the same time, the artist has her wearing underwear and her backside is covered so it's not clear that humiliation through nudity was at all the goal.
A more pressing concern that's been overlooked in the scuffle over the nudity is the statue having cloven feet, a visual short hand for the Devil. Jen Froderman wrote about the dangers of dehumanizing political enemies, and depicting Hillary as Satan is about as dehumanizing as it gets:
Once you get to the point on dehumanizing "the enemy," the next step is unrestrained violence without guilt. In this case, it is important that we realize that words have the power to do this. Words are how we frame our thoughts, and how we think about others is how we treat them. Trump is finally going there.
Trump has taken an already paranoid and violent crowd and whipped them into a frothing rage. Republicans spent the last 8 years training their base to embrace fear and anger and Trump has turned it up to 11 with loose talk of "rigged" and "Stolen" elections.
There's already a strong possibility that there will be widespread "retaliation" after Trump loses the election. It sets a dangerous precedent for her opponents to start viewing her as The Ultimate Evil during a time of intense rage and growing political violence.
But maybe that was the point.