Is This Really Just Black and White?

While reflecting on our class discussion of The City  I know we touched briefly on the theme of violence/exploitation towards women, more specifically, the female body. Although we did not go into much detail or discussion about it, this topic does need more attention. It is fair enough to say that the violence against women is depicted through the text, but is it enough to say that this discrimination is only gendered based? We need to acknowledge that there is a class difference here, not just between men but the women in the text which enforces that the exploitation of women is based off of gender and class.

For example, one of the first pictures we saw of women/the female body in the text was the corset picture:

Not only is this picture exploit the female body but it totally erases the woman’s role. The focus on the body, specifically the breasts, without including the faces dismisses the agency of the female. Also, this picture, in particular, addresses the class difference. Typically, a lingerie/corset store would be for upper class women and the fact the man is gazing so intently at them infers that the upper class woman would be the “worthy” idealized woman.

Another picture that highlights exploitation based on both gender and class :

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In this clip the woman is clearly an upper class female considering her attire, transportation, and stares from all the men around her. Here there is not as much sexuality of the female being highlighted but still implies that the upper class female is valued somewhat higher but still seems like more of an accessory to the men.

The following clip insinuates exploitation on a more disturbing level:

These women flocked around the one man is interpreted, to me, as prostitutes, dancers, performers of some sort. The dresses they are wearing are simpler and more revealing than the other women who are pictures in lavish fur coats. The focus on their body parts is so intense in the text it is almost the only thing that grabs your attention. The man seems uninterested, not even looking at any of the women, even though in previous pictures they were interested in what seemed to be “upper” class women. Although the man seems to be uninterested in these women the focus of the female body remains an undertone.

The final picture I want to reflect on :

In this picture it is somewhat difficult to decided whether this woman is upper or lower but the violence against her is extreme! This picture totally insinuates rape culture through text. The choking, nudity, aggression, anger, rape in this text is allowing and highlight violence against women. In each picture there is something that perpetuates the exploitation of women and the female body. This text is not just white and black; not just gender and class. The text makes exploitation a reoccurring theme. With this text, and as well as many other graphic novels, ads, media, the impact that an image has is tremendous, almost more powerful than words could ever be. This is not the first text/comic to have violence against women as a theme and it will not be the last, but it is necessary to discuss why this has to be a theme? To reinforce the role of the Man? To reinforce the idea of gender and class differences? I can never understand why media/images/graphics have to include exploitation.The City is not just white and black, in fact, it perpetuates an allowance of violence towards women and a culture that will continue to grow more violent unless something changes.

 

  1 comment for “Is This Really Just Black and White?

  1. September 5, 2015 at 5:04 pm
    [The City] perpetuates an allowance of violence towards women and a culture that will continue to grow more violent unless something changes.

    So you’re saying that the violence against women presented in The City is actually a tacit endorsement of that violence? Or are you saying that Masereel depicts the violence of this city as an example or depiction of a violent society so that he can critique it?

    I think it’s the latter, that these shockingly violent images are supposed to shock us. I mean, there’s hardly any ambiguity about that final image you included here. It’s very obviously a rape and possibly also a murder. But having said that, the difficult balance one has to craft when reading a text this way is to find where it shifts from critiquing culture and back into simply amplifying the problems of that culture, and here I think one could argue, as you do, that the more apparently innocuous images such as the woman in firs or this night scene reveal how women are never afforded the same agency as men; it’s not simply that there are villainous bad guys out there doing bad stuff, women are second class citizens even in ostensibly neutral contexts and in public.

    Ultimately, and either way you read this overarching theme, there’s potentially a lot of nuance even within the limitations of a black and white pallet.

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