For March 2006
March 1st, 2006
Crossing The Line That Isn't There
Up until today, page 158, 'Boiling Away', I have carefully avoided nudity in Pastel Defender Heliotrope. In retrospect, I realize that this is a bit of personal hypocrisy for me, in a way.
The reason I show the poor unfortunate, Glinu Chartreuse naked is becase she has been reduced to a state of pure and total innocence, as well as stripped, literally and figuratively, of anything which has been touched by sadness, by cruelty, or which serves to perpetuate same. She is devoid of grief, of bitterness, of the experience of painful or tragic events, and of all forms of shame or guilt.
I had originally posed her, in each of the panels, so that her arms carefully covered her nipples and crotch, but my Eldenath pointed out to me that such poses imply shame, body shame, as derived from the corrupting influence of her religion and the power it has over culture. A true innocent would have no notion that any part of her body should in any way be shameful, and she would open her arms to the world.
Why this was almost hypocrisy:
You will notice that nowhere, on any comic or website I create, do I post any message equivalent to:
WARNING! This comic contains bisexuality, homosexuality, transgenderism, nudity, and social and political commentary and therefore may not be suitable for children!
The reason all of my works lack this warning is because such warnings are utterly offensive to me. Many other comics and websites, even comics and sites I value and otherwise respect, have such warnings, and I have to say that seeing such warnings, seeing that the authors felt them necessary, both appalls me, and makes me feel very disappointed in those authors. It makes me sad, and it offends me. Why?
Because any person who is attempting to write about such matters, to create positive portrayals of transgendered, lesbian and gay characters, to speak about such issues in any sort of powerful way, betrays themselves, and betrays just such people, with such a disclaimer. To have a disclaimer at all directly implies wrongness. Either choice, to have a disclaimer or to not have a disclaimer is a political act.
WARNING! This comic contains people of color, Jews, Asians, Muslims, and social and political commentary and therefore may not be suitable for children!
A person cannot choose their ethnicity any more than a homosexual can choose their sexuality. Both are a matter of birth. Yet one is something children need to be warned about, and the other...is something that white children were actually warned about not that long ago. Bigotry is bigotry.
Why are bisexuals wrong for children? Gays? Lesbians? Nude bodies? Why are any of these natural world things wrong for anyone of any age? Where does that wrongness, that controversy come from?
It comes from only one source. Arbitrary and narrow religious dogma, dominating the culture. People are born gay or straight, and they are born transgendered, and all people are born naked into the world. Only arbitrary moral inventions insist that such natural things are somehow capable of 'tainting' people. Societies, such as tribal societies today, or entire civilizations of the past, free from such moral fictions go, or went, about their daily lives without a thought to nudity, or sexual preference as being anything other than normal. Their lives were rich and good, and their children turned out, and turn out, no worse, and sometimes arguably better, than ours today.
To put a disclaimer up is to say "I buy into the idea that it is my problem that the arbitrary beliefs of other people may be offended by my work, and so I accept my enslavement to the act of protecting them from accidentally being disturbed."
This is cowardice, it is bowing to the enemy. Those same beliefs, those same religious morals that are appeased, are also the same beliefs that are the foundation of the oppression of gay, lesbian, and transgendered people...and more than that, of all women, and especially women of color, too.
All women? Of color? How so?
Simple. A man may, in our western culture, take off his shirt and expose his breasts and nipples with little or no shame. Indeed, the topless Rambo image of the beefcake male is a standard in action movies and television programs. But, should a woman be topless, and show her breasts and nipples, instantly great fuss is made, the incident becomes a horrific event, and words such as 'shocking' and 'terrible' are used, along with grave intonations about damage to children. Children, who, oddly enough, are brought up suckling those very same breasts.
There is no difference between the male and female breast, save that one is developed and the other is undeveloped, and as the Male-To-Female transsexual (or gynocomastic male) can demostrate, a course of hormones can close that gap entirely within but a year or two.
Yet a Nature or Travel program, on the television, or at the movies, can show a tribal society in Africa or South America, where women and men run about naked, or with their genitals illuminated with paint or decoration, and it is fine. I have seen just this in 'daytime' television during 'family hours', and there was no outcry. The reason? Quite blatantly obvious, really...the tribal people are black, or brown. They are not Northern European white people. They are not white women. They are....not held to the same rules, because they are not equal, they are less, even if that is not stated openly. Less technological, less 'cultured', 'savage', less white, less...human. Less.
But, you never see a white woman visiting such a place take her clothing off. That would be offensive.
The only time that non-white breast exposure becomes an issue is when the woman of color is rich, powerful, or otherwise granted a higher status than her sisters out, if you will excuse the expression, in the bush. Wealth apparently confers honorary whiteness in our utterly racist society.
To play along with any of that, to join it, to provide warnings against the accidental view of breasts, to warn against natural states of being of any sort, is to support, and definately to reinforce, the beliefs and attitudes that oppress women, that make them less than men, that inculcate body shame and subservience. Only men have the privilage of bearing their breasts. Women, white women, or rich women of color, are not allowed to do this. It is a moral outrage for them to do this. It corrupts the young. It incites passion. It is a freedom they cannot be allowed.
And all people must be warned about it being potentially present, because it is so dangerous.
So very dangerous to ever allow the sight of a female -as opposed to male- nipple.
So dangerous to have a gay character, or a lesbian character, or a transsexual character.
So offensive to risk a child being corrupted by exposure to such things, or an adult disturbed by them.
It would be terrible if their arbitrary moral hatred and narrowness was shaken or broken, if their body shame was lessened, if they came to question why such shame and guilt and loathing even exist at all, wouldn't it?
I have been avoiding any nudity in my comics because I have uncosciously bought in to the idea that I need to keep my comics 'family friendly' by their terms, by the terms of the bastards who oppress me, who oppress all women, who oppress those of non-hetero sexualities. I write about gay, lesbian, and transgendered characters as positive beings, as role models and good people, and I imagine that by not showing a single nude female breast, my works will be considered clean and safe and wholesome. That I will get my simple message of acceptance and humanity across that way. Ridiculous!
The same source that makes monsters of Queer folks also makes a horror of the female, but not the male, breast and nipple. It is the same books, the same fount of mythology based morality, and it is oppression itself.
I put no warning on my work because I do not draw anything that requires anyone to be warned about. I do not write anything that demands a warning. I do not draw or write things that should offend anyone, ever. I refuse to accept that it is my responsibility to uphold the empty, arbitrary, and racist morality imposed on me, and on others. Indeed, it is my dearest hope to erode such vileness with my work.
After all, why write positive roles for Queer folk, unless it matter to you to dissolve away bigotry? Why create powerful women in stories, unless the goal is to dissolve away bigotry?
And as for nudity? Context and intent alone determine whether this naked woman is art and valid, and this other naked woman is pornography. Though I maintain that there is nothing wrong with pornography in and of itself. Better to drown in images and words of people enjoying each other than pictures and images of endless violence and hate. Better...by far.
No one should ever have to apologize for art, or for the positive portrayal of a person, or for the factual existance of the natural human body. The very ideal of having to warn against such things...or to fear dealing with them...is insane. It is not rational. It is oppressive.
So in today's page, Glinu Chartreuse is naked. Her nipples are clear and her hands open. She is wide-eyed and utterly, utterly innocent. She no longer comprehends shame, or guilt, or the arbitrary vilification of the body.
And I have drawn her fearlessly, and there is no warning to anyone upon my page.
As it should be.
By Jennifer Diane Reitz
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