In 2013, French photographer Olivier Ciappa did a set of shots with celebrities to help dispel homophobic rhetoric. In the series, called “Les Couples Imaginaires” or “Imaginary Couples,” straight actors, artists and athletes were among those Ciappa shot, including Quebec directors Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée (it was particularly challenging to find Quebec participants), and actress Eva Longoria. The main idea was for the subjects to pose as same-sex couples or families, in order to combat homophobia. Sadly, the exhibit has been repeatedly vandalized in Toulouse, France, and finally, the entire show stolen.
Ciappa has explained that he decided to create the series after a picture of himself, his partner and their baby was shared millions of times online. “I wanted the viewer to confront the gentleness, the simplicity of these images in order to change their [out]look … and keep only the essentials: love, nothing but love.” But, big surprise: one of his shots of Olympic gymnasts Benoit Caranobe and Thomas Bouhail got taken down by Facebook after a complaint. We’re talking one man’s naked side exposed, here.
I’m pretty certain that what prompted the “complaint” was not so much about the vision of bare skin as it was the vision of intimacy, vulnerability, and sexuality between two men. Toxic masculinity, yo: in case you missed the memo, it doesn’t mean all masculinity is toxic; it means the very narrow views of accepted expressions of masculinity and femininity are toxic.
In December 2017, the Sherbrooke, Quebec school board scheduled a series of anti-homophobia workshops with Prima Danse, a non-profit that uses dance as a means of social intervention and to promote a healthy lifestyle. In workshop number two, when the group showed an image of former Montreal Alouette safety Étienne Boulay and former Montreal Impact player David Testo closely embracing (an image from Ciappa’s exhibit), one father in attendance approached the school, asking them to stop the workshops because his child was embarrassed after viewing the image. The workshops had been provided 50+ times and this was the first-ever complaint, FYI. According to Prima Danse’s Katrina Journeau, the parent told her “Sherbrooke isn’t necessarily like Montreal” and“students in the sixth grade shouldn’t necessarily need to hear about homosexuality.”
Imagine if there did exist arbitrary age and geographical borders within which homosexuality and therefore homophobia was relevant? Not even sure how to begin to touch that one. But guess what? Even in avant-garde Montreal, with its protests and its concerts and its gay village, the struggles remain. Sadly, Wicked Mmm itself just had their very own Facebook page taken down for the following photo
of the fabulous Tristan Ginger in a one-sided thong. Wicked Mmm has had similar issues in the past: their ads show the same amount of skin shown as in other ads (read: ads with scantily clad or naked women), and yet the "sexual nature" of theirs has been called into question.
Suppressing male expressions of beauty and tenderness, thereby also further suppressing the female gaze, is a major thorn in the side of our (man’s) world. The double standards are deeply ingrained: although progress is being made at a snail’s pace, male nudity is still largely unaccepted, and still clearly makes a lot of men uncomfortable, especially if the imagery in question can in any way be perceived as less-than-masculine, or effeminate, or goddess forbid, feminine! Meanwhile, we all know female nudity is accepted, expected, sought after, hyper sexualized, exploited—and yet also stigmatized. Indeed, 2018 though it may be, we women are often damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. I’m talking about slut shaming on the one end, and prude shaming on the other, à la Madonna-Whore Complex.
Apparently our man’s world can dish it out but can’t take it whatsoever. And by “it,” I mean a little bit of objectification (not that I’m saying we shouldn’t revise the tenets of objectification!). Sarcasm: goddess forbid we a) acknowledge that women have eyes just as men do and that we might wanna see a little skin sometimes too, and b) that homosexual men (and women) have just as much a right to visual representations as anyone else—and that said visuals do not exist to please straight men—as seems to be expected by the world at large, Facebook included.
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