What do GQ and Edouard Manet have in common?

Miss Representation posted this collage of GQ’s men and woman of the year.

You know what these absurdly sexist covers remind me of?

“Picnic in the Grass” by Edouard Manet.

I just saw this painting at the Musee D’Orsay in July when I was visiting Paris with my eight year old daughter. She asked me why the men were dressed and the woman was naked.

Here’s Miss Representation’s answer:

On the multiple covers of their latest issue, all of GQ’s “men of the year” are dressed exactly the same, while their singular “woman of the year” – singer Lana Del Rey – is not dressed at all. The implication is that the men here are valuable for something beyond what they look like (since they are all presented almost identically), but that the woman is valuable only for what she looks like (since she is visually presented so differently from the others).

Manet’s painting was completed in 1863. We’ve been looking at this same old image of dressed men and naked women for years before and years since. We’ve been looking at it for so long, it seems normal to everyone except for crazy feminists or little kids.

It’s only “normal” because throughout history, there haven’t been enough recognized women artists. In 2012, there aren’t enough women on magazine covers who are celebrated for their achievements and not “beauty.” Lana Del Rey, by the way, is a singer. Do you think that if she’d refused to pose naked, GQ would let her on the cover? Or would GQ’s response be more like Vanity Fair’s when Rachel McAdams wouldn’t shed her clothes for that magazine’s cover? There’s Scarlett Johanssen and Keira Knightley, but McAdams went missing.

That naked woman in Manet’s painting? Her name is Victorine Louise Meurent. Besides being Manet’s favorite model, she was also an artist. She had a self-portrait at the 1876 Salon when Manet’s submission was rejected. Ever heard of her? She died an alcoholic, in poverty.

And Manet? We’re still imitating him on the cover of GQ. It’s time for a change, a little more originality, please. Isn’t that what art is supposed to celebrate, after all?

The year is 2012. Women shouldn’t have to get naked in order to get acclaim. Please Tweet GQ Magazine that you’re NotBuyingIt. Do it for your daughters.

6 thoughts on “What do GQ and Edouard Manet have in common?

  1. Oh wow, she showed at the Paris Salon and Manet was turned down. And yet he is the one getting the glory? Margot once again gets it right.

  2. Manet’s painting references a work from centuries before by Titian. More importantly, the women in Manet’s painting depicts two prostitutes; that’s why they’re depicted nude. Manet was a ground-breaking modernist who shocked Parisian audiences with this particular work. When looking at some of the most famous paintings in the history of art, it helps to consider them within their time and not just though our contemporary, feminist rubric.

    • Julie, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but you don’t have to be naked to have sex? Why are the women naked and not the men? It takes two to tango. It wouldn’t have been any more complicated for the men to strip off than it would for the women. So while I appreciate your point about the context of the painting, I don’t think it detracts from the point – prostitutes or not, they’re naked, the men aren’t. Also prostitution is surely the ultimate sexualisation of women – even if the writer had known the story behind the painting, what was she supposed to tell her little girl? That these women were used purely for men’s desires and it shows their degradation? I don’t think so.

      • So many people have said that to me to explain the paint– they are prostitutes. So what? As Zosie writes, that is the ultimate sexualization, and also, if you read my blog, she is an artist.

        Margot

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