The paintings for class today capture a common theme: the fallen woman. The women in these paintings are immortally captured as disgraceful. They are shown as the shame of their families for their sexual digressions, one woman suffering the consequences of infidelity in a three-part series of paintings by Egg and the other shunned from her family because of her illegitimate child. The caption for the Redgrave painting states that this theme was popular as “the twentieth century came to embody a heartless and puritanical Victorian attitude toward sexuality.” Egg’s paintings specifically warn of the dangers of sexual deviations. While I see the themes in these paintings as socially outdated, I don’t think that they are completely obsolete.
There is more freedom in sexuality in contemporary America at this point. Pop culture media, specifically music and film, show this. Burlesque and Chicago sexualized women in an empowering way rather than degrading. Allowing that sexuality didn’t cause scandal like it did in the Victorian era. Instead, it inspired women to express their sexuality. Artists like Rihanna and Nikki Minaj show how culturally acceptable it is for women express their sexuality to the point of being graphic in their songs. As a woman, the lyrics they sing are a little on the vulgar and crass side for me. I think that by talking about sexuality in that way, it’s objectifying your own body which makes it okay for others to do that same.
I have more of a conservative view on sexuality. I don’t want to it to be scandalized, I just would like it to be more of an equal expectation between the genders. All of the paintings showed fallen women, no fallen men. This message is also made in contemporary pop culture. Christina Aguilera’s “Can’t Hold Us Down”, echoes that societal pressure and difference in sexual expectations. She sings, “The guy gets all the glory the more he can score/ While the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore/ I don’t understand why it’s okay/ The guy can get away with it and the girl gets named.” My friend from back home, Jeff Bethke, makes YouTube videos that have a religious connotation behind them but highlights that same cultural phenomenon.
Men are touted for their sexual conquests while women are defined by theirs. Another pop culture example would be the affair of Kristin Stewart and her Snow White and the Huntsman director, Rupert Sanders. Stewart gets a lot of the heat for the affair, while in reality, both are equally guilty. Sanders, in my opinion, should get more of the blame as he had a wife and children and Stewart only had a boyfriend. He gets almost forgotten while she get demonized. I even had to look up his last name because she is getting so much more attention for the incident than he is. The scandal is her treachery into adultery, not an affair they both had. If any aspect of sexuality should be scandalized, it should be the inequality between sexes, not a question of the moral turpitude of women.