Legs Akimbo, Fish Woman! The Art of Being Offended

zine cover

This is the cover artwork for a free community zine I contribute articles to – needless to say it caused a bit of controversy. Is it a great piece of surrealist art or a pornographic image which denigrates women and represents oppressive patriarchy?


21 responses to “Legs Akimbo, Fish Woman! The Art of Being Offended

  1. That’s an amazing drawing, I love it. I’m not to sure if it is denigrating to women. If ones head is full of mince, then maybe it appears to be denigrating. The waters of life flow from the cross.

  2. Putting this artwork on the cover of a magazine is bound to offend people but to say it denigrates women and represents oppressive patriarchy is bizarre if you ask me. That says a lot about the mind of the viewer.

    • Yes Martin it does, especially when the viewer is a woman who has been harassed, sexually assaulted, spat on and treated like a sexual object for most of her life. These images just add to the sexual objectification of women. Check out the @everydaysexism #shoutingback twitter feed.

  3. ”Is it a great piece of surrealist art or a pornographic image which denigrates women and represents oppressive patriarchy?”
    Both, but not simultaneously. Some people are repelled by it and some like it. Predictably so.
    Very few actually LIKE it. Quite a lot of people defend it as art. Some people defend the zine’s Freedom of Expression. The vast majority do not like it. A few quite passionately hate it, especially, but not exclusively, feminists.
    Personally, I dislike the picture. I appreciate art but I don’t think this is it. The woman has a nice body. I don’t appreciate the cross in the vagina which is a direct theft from the Exorcist, a horror film.
    The deformed octopus-like head, which is very reminiscent of The Elephant Man does not add to the appeal of the image, to any normal person, unless of course, he or she were determined to be as outrageous as possible.
    To sum up, from an impersonal point of view, the ‘art’ of the pic is debatable and it should definitely have a place in the zine, given it’s anti-censorship stance. Putting it on the front cover was a mistake.

    • ”Is it a great piece of surrealist art or a pornographic image which denigrates women and represents oppressive patriarchy?”
      Neither. It’s a piece of slightly tacky pop-art guaranteed to annoy and attract attention.

  4. ”denigrates women and represents oppressive patriarchy” is straight out of the Feminists’ Text Book! I think Orwell is being provocative.lol

  5. Not my cup of tea…I don’t think it denigrates women but instead I think it denigrates the artist, confusing “evoking emotions with art.”

  6. I think it’s a fantastic piece of artwork that has served an excellent function of provoking thought, discussion and controversy. The subjective, ambiguous and symbolic nature of the piece makes it easy for the audience to project their own meanings on to the piece. That anyone can say that it is ‘objectively’ about anything or that it definitely ‘means’ this, that or the other, suggests to me that they don’t truly understand the piece nor know anything about the artist or the artists intentions behind the piece.

    That this piece has caused so much discussion and therefore a variety of perspectives to be shared regarding peoples stance on freedom of expression, censorship, the impact that art can have on people, what is or isn’t art, what do we find more offensive in everyday life than this piece, etc, etc, means that it has served as a great stimulus for learning as many of us have been forced to identify our own values, views, opinions and beliefs whilst also taking on board the myriad of perspectives being shared by others.

    I believe that although it may well be true that the choice of City-Zine to publish this as their front cover may have alienated certain people and caused a certain level of disagreement and disapproval I think that it’s ultimately been a positive thing. The Zine has stuck to it’s principle of anti-censorship and stood in solidarity with the artist and their right to be an artist regardless of those that think that they shouldn’t be allowed to be. Also, the level of discussion and the amount of awareness that this has raised regarding the associated issues and City-Zine itself, is in my humble opinion a truly positive and constructive thing.

    Check out some of the comments from a facebook debate:

    • You need to change the privacy setting to ‘public’ on the picture to which this link leads.

    • What’s ambiguous about a naked woman in heels spreading her legs?
      Or her vagina gushing gallons of fluid?
      Continuing to claim that this image is inoffensive is a bit silly when so many people have objected to it.
      Are you still mystified as to why it might not be suitable for children?

      • Is it a naked woman? Is their anything else in the image other than heels, spread legs and a vagina gushing gallons of liquid (again, to make a very important and relevant point about interpretation, we don’t know if it’s gushing, we don’t know if it’s gallons of liquid, it’s all interpretation).

        Most of us have been raised in a very repressed society that taught us to associate certain normal, natural, healthy things with sin, immorality and the like. I believe this is playing out to some degree or another in this dialogue.

        It says more about us than it.

  7. As a piece of art I really liked it. Imaginative, thought provoking, well executed. Someone above thinks the cross is in the vagina. Is it? I thought it was the vagina. Pretty bold statement by the artist that, with lots of symbolism and ways to interpret. As with the single eye in the forehead of the ‘squid’ head! More than anything it reminds me of Dali’s work. As for the controversy…well, surrealism like all art is subjective, but sometimes more so. It can evoke far more from the viewer than a traditional piece. You bring you’re own baggage with you when you view art…or anything for that matter. You are the sum total of your own experiences, and therefore you will ‘see’ many things within an artwork thats others won’t, because all art is a mirror to the soul. The artists, and your own. If you get offended by art, or anything else, then its ‘you’ that has the issue. Not the ‘thing’ that has offended ‘you’. There’s nothing wrong with finding something offensive either…it means you’re alive! 🙂

    • Ho hum, Ted, I think you are trapped in your own personal view of the world. It is a question of degree as to how upset people will be at the sight of a naked woman withan octopus-style head with her legs spread and blah blah blah. Just because someone calls it art doesn’t mean that people won’t quite rightly object to it.
      How far will people defend this Freedom of Expression bollocks?
      Artistic pics of steaming turds, dead bodies, rape, paedophilia?
      You can look at whatever you like in private but you must have some consideration to other people in terms of what you push in their faces.
      And having this as the cover picture really does that.

      • Freedom of expression bollocks? Did you really just say that? Wow. Okay.

        How would you feel if you were prevented from expressing these opinions of yours that come from your subjective perspective that are inherently based upon the way in which you have been raised, conditioned, socialised and educated in the world?

        How would you feel, Ken? It is you after all, not the artist in question, that is undermining the right of people to express themselves. In that sense, it would seem to me at least, that you are taking the most oppressive stance with regard to suggesting that freedom of expression is bollocks, as long as you get to express yourself about how bollocks it is.

        Should we censor you? I imagine you think not as I imagine you think you’re right. I doubt you think ‘No, not at all, my view is just one subjective view amongst many and we all see the world differently, which is great.’, for some reason, I seriously doubt you think that.

        I think you think you’re right and others are wrong and shouldn’t necessarily be allowed to express themselves about certain things.

        Am I right?

  8. The reason I call it bollocks is because it’s jargon that for some reason, in your mind, over-rides the consideration of other people’s feelings.
    I’m not ‘undermining the right of people to express themselves.’
    I’m questioning the right of people who are ‘expressing themselves’ to do so in the face of the general public [from the front cover of the zine rather than from inside it]. Would you in the same way defend your right to express your penis at them? Try that with a magistrate lol
    You find my opinion offensive? It’s only words.
    A picture is worth a thousand words.
    You need to be careful what you express and to whom.
    Especially in a community zine which will be visible to the general public..

  9. I agree with freedom of expression but there is a line after which images should not be published, and that line is somewhere before something extreme and damaging like child porn. However, I’m still undecided where that line is and I try to keep an open mind because that line has be be carefully drawn or it will mean that intelligent and thought provoking art could be caught in the cross fire. However, that line does exist and I would be interested to know what opinions people hold as to where this line should be. Censorship is a dangerous game, and like all rules that are made, with (perhaps) the best of intentions, is open to abuse and manipulation. If you 100% agree with total freedom of expression than is there really no line at all? What about a line where someone has suffered against their will? What about digitally manufactured ‘photographs of abuse’? Maybe that’s ok because no-one suffered but it might be a really disturbing picture to some viewers. But the fact is, what is disturbing is a subjective thing based on the viewer’s own emotions and experiences so we have this ongoing debate… And so we’re at this point where we have to achieve this balance between freedom of expression and disturbing people. I personally feel that you have to have a struggle because both sides push and that is what achieves the balance. Discussions like this one are what achieve the balance – because there is the extreme of disturbing imagery – but the more disturbing stuff people see the more they will be desensitised and the boundary of what is ok gets pushed. However without people pushing the other way we’ll end up with no freedom of expression at all and no-one challenging or provoking debate or new ideas. So the line has to remain fluid and difficult to define, with people alert, engaged and willing to discuss.

  10. http://czderby.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/marmite/
    It’s a lot better than my original ranty plan which in a nutshell was ‘er do you all want to stop being on your fucking period about a drawing, you bunch of dicks’

  11. This is really about being sensitive to triggers for people who either are more sensitive because of not being exposed to such stuff [children] or people who HAVE been exposed to this kind of stuff [victims].
    I, myself, fall into neither category [as far as I know] but it seems to me that we should be cautious in drawing such images into common awareness without consideration for the negative impact that these controversial images might present.

  12. I am appreciative of porn, hugely lol, and am not a prude. I think we should just be very careful of how our licenscienciousness impacts on innocents and damaged people.
    This was not a discussion of simple Freedom of Speech, which I utterly uphold, but a discussion of the standards we maintain to avoid the denigration of values which is ongoing by media’s constant upping of the ante.

  13. I really didn’t want to start this whole thing up again, but, it [again] seems to me that I have been painted in false colours. I’m not taking my own pov here, I am standing for ppl who *might* find this image offensive.
    The ”art” of being offended is not art. It is opinion, and who are you to say that opinion is not valid?
    I think that we should be aware that ‘opinion’ is related, commonly, to a general concensus which changes as the exposure of the people to extremes changes. So, what was considered extreme becomes ‘normal’.
    This is progressive for sure, but is it ‘positive’ or ‘functional’?
    What was considered unacceptable becomes acceptable.
    Is this ‘progress’?

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