When is “art” actually just sexist tripe?

When is “art” actually just sexist tripe?

FOR six years, men entering the toilets in the Gold Coast’s popular Platinum Nightclub have been greeted with the floor-to-ceiling mural featured above. It reads ‘NOTHING BEATS A GOOD SLUT’.

Classy, eh?

Feminist campaigner and Women’s Agenda editor Jane Gilmore says she’s seen some pretty awful things on pub walls over the years “but that’s got to be high on the list”.

“It was almost difficult to know which thing to be shocked about first.”

But in an interview originally planned for broadcast of The Project, Jane set about cataloging the mural’s many nasty elements.

It suggests women are “sluts”

“The implication is that a woman can be ‘a slut’, that someone gets to decide that she is.”

The word “beats”

“It’s using the words ‘beat’ and ‘slut’ in one sentence, which is at least giving the implication of violence”

“Even if it’s not intentional, certainly by accident the implication is there that the slut is getting beaten.”

It’s a masterclass in objectification.

“It’s a woman who is naked with her breasts prominent, not her face, so she is body parts not a person.”

That lesbian pash and the male gaze.

“It’s a lesbian image there to titillate the men that will see it, not women.”

“And I think that could potentially be dangerous when you mix young men and alcohol and late nights all in together,” Jane said.

  

But perhaps of most concern is that the image has been there FOR THE BETTER PART OF A DECADE without anybody kicking up a fuss. Good work, Queensland!

The mural was brought to The Project‘s attention when domestic violence worker Jelena (surname withheld) saw a photo on Facebook and complained to the club.

She told them that intentionally or not, the mural supported a culture of disrespect—and even violence—towards women.

“The words which have been chosen to display across the picture of this woman are not only degrading and sexist, but the very reason that Australian culture believes that this is an okay way to treat and speak to women,” she said.

In a Facebook tirade the nightclub labeled Jelena a “fucking idiot” who needed to “get a life”. Oh, it also rejected her criticisms outright.

“Under absolutely no circumstances do we condone any form of domestic violence. That photo is art. The human body has been depicted in art form for 1000s of years,” it wrote.

Aaaahhhh yes… the old ‘it is art’ defence.

Australian actress and herself.com creator Caitlin Stasey doesn’t think that excuses the mural.

“If it’s ‘art’, what is this ‘piece’ trying to persuade the observer to feel or do?” she asked from LA.

“Because it looks like it wants to empower it’s audience to subjugate women.”

Stasey is no stranger to using the naked human form for personal or artistic expression. She generated headlines this year with a widely read essay about her own sexuality, which also features a series of nude photographs.

“And if we can credit great art with inspiring or moving us, we can also credit violent/bigoted/aggressive art for producing the same result,” she said.

“So if [the mural is] art, it’s in a super inflammatory environment, where men, who are already entitled to women and their time, will take that energy out into the bar.”

But fear not, for this story has a happy ending. Hooray!

These days we quite rightly call out people and organizations when they’re in the wrong. And whoever thought this “artwork” was acceptable should hang their head in shame. But we must also praise people when they get it right.

Last week, in an amazingly timely outbreak of common sense—obviously in no way connected Jelena’s complaint or phone calls from the mediathe Platinum Nightclub covered up the offending mural with black paint.

It’s almost enough to make you sing.

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