To the editors:
Bill Stamets shows us his hip “sensitivity” in his review (“Art Facts: SisterSerpents’ War Against Dickheads,” February 22) of the new SisterSerpents show, but his approach and the Reader’s attitude raise questions in my mind.
Why does the article focus on the pieces that include representations of male genitalia? Based only on the review, one would assume most of the art was about castration. In actuality only a small percentage of the exhibits have penises or testicles. Not that there is anything wrong with these artworks, but they were not the only kinds of art shown.
Why does the word “penis” appear twice in boldface? I like my penis, but I do not think it requires boldface, capitalization, italics, or other forms of typographical emphasis. As one of the motifs of the show was de-deification of the phallus, this stress on the word penis seems particularly misplaced.
Why does the author contrast the SisterSerpent show with that of Emil Slovack? Pornography is about domination of women. How can it be “turned against men in women’s hands”? Does the author believe the existence of magazines such as Playgirl (purportedly for women, in actuality purchased by men) make pornography OK? I do not believe SisterSerpents wishes to “inspire debate” on the question of porn. There can be no debate where there is no question.
Why does the Reader wait until two days before the show closes to run a review? The show opened February 1, your review ran on February 22.
And the biggest question of all–where are your women writers? Of 23 pieces with bylines in section one of the February 22 issue, only 3 were written by women, and none of these appear before page 32. Last year you also had a man review the SisterSerpent show. Maybe next year you will allow a woman to review SisterSerpents. Or are you afraid she might not be “sensitive” to the man’s point of view? I mean, you wouldn’t want to risk a citation in Mayor Daley’s hate-crime index, would you?
Bill Stamets replies:
Simone Weil defined power as the means of turning people into corpses. I would define pornography as the art and apparatus of turning corpses into sex objects. By fixating on fetuses and phalluses, SisterSerpents borrow the “masters’ tools of objectification” to disarm the patriarchy. However, as a tactic, art aside, some SisterSerpents’ imagery looks like the antiabortionists’ propaganda, which abuses fetuses in jars of formaldehyde and on full-color posters.
The reason a man wrote about SisterSerpents last time and this time is the same reason a man wrote a letter to the editor–because we all felt like it. The Reader did not assign him, me, or you. No woman turned in an article or letter.
Hip? Sensitive? I deny the charges. I have witnesses.