Rene Magritte & Feminism

This blog entry is different than the rest I have previously posted, but still art related so bear with me as I feel very strongly about this subject.

I am a feminist.
Feminism, although not at all a new movement, has been getting a lot of mobility lately which excites me. As the majority of mainstream media’s portrayal of women sexuality further degrades, there’s a need for women (and men) to go against that and speak their mind.
Now before someone reading this freaks out thinking: “Ugh, not another feminist!” the word burning your tongue; most people would (hopefully) realize that feminism is not an agenda for matriarchy. Rather, this very important movement seeks for the equality of women and men (and those in between) in social, political, etc. aspects. Simply, this movement aims for everyone to be treated just as human beings…and not be solely defined by their gender and/or sexuality.

For the lack of subtle transition, an artist that has stuck with me ever since I first saw some of his artwork at The Menil Collection’s permanent Surrealism collection, is the Belgian artist René Magritte. You may be familiar with his “pipe” painting with the French statement “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” which translates to “This is not a pipe.”

The Treachery of Images, 1929 by Rene Magritte
The Treachery of Images, 1929 by René Magritte

What could Magritte have anything to do with feminism?!
Well, I’m glad you asked! Now I’m not saying he is a feminist, but I (personally) interpret some of his art as powerful drivers of the feminist movement.

A powerful work of Magritte that’s made a great impact to me is Le Viol (The Rape). I saw this painting when I first visited the Menil Collection’s Surrealism installation. Even now, I’m having difficulties articulating how important and powerful this painting is.

Magritte’s “The Rape” depicts what seems to be a woman’s head with her torso painted onto where her face would have been. According to the artist website, a very young Magritte witnessed his mother’s body fished out of the river with her gown covering her face and exposing her body. This painting seems to have taken from that experience.

Rape - Rene Magritte
The Rape, 1935 by René Magritte

The way I interpreted “The Rape” is that it represents the (over) sexualization of women. The artwork itself is so powerful visually, but its title “The Rape” just magnifies the message. It seems that women don’t necessarily need to reveal skin for others to become attracted enough to them that may eventually lead to rape, unfortunately.
Although Magritte created this in the 1930’s, the message and its potency still stands in the 21st century. Magritte is able to depict the issues and unequal treatment of women in our society that hasn’t changed in decades or even centuries. I don’t think Magritte was explicitly making a stand against sexualization of women, but rather stating the facts and unmasking the truth in these issues.


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