Friday, May 14, 2010

A discussion took place recently on I Blame the Patriarchy about Dorthea Lange's iconic "Migrant Mother" photograph, and an NPR expert who described, not the photo, but the woman in the photo as "very beautiful." One insightful patriarchy-blamer observed:
The camera caught her in a moment of vulnerability, resigned, anxious, which is viewed as quite beautiful in women, because it means you have no power.
Another examined the conflation of feminine beauty and vulnerability in more detail.

More than any other of my deeply-held ideologies (atheism, pacifism) I fear that my feminist beliefs are poorly served by my decision to be a visual artist. Visual depictions of women are steeped in sexism, odalisques and madonnas sneak into every image like strangers in vacation snapshots. Francisco Clemente said that an artist is someone who's made the choice to observe reality, rather than improve it. I would like to dismiss this as a cop-out but I do feel powerless.

Reality is an antidote for stereotype, however. So here are the five other photos Dorthea Lange took of Florence Owens Thompson and her children.

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