Ah, pubic hair, how you never cease to amaze the masses. After last year’s release of controversial vulva graphic t-shirt by feminist artist Petra Collins, American Apparel has created some provocative mannequins whose sheer garments expose a large pubic bush and set of perky nipples.
Like Collins’s work, the company’s new window display on NYC’s East Houston Street has elicited feminist acclaim. Arguably, the mannequins offer a more realistic vision of the adult consumer, and that’s refreshing in lieu of criticism garnered by the store’s suggestive images of young women. Instead of providing passersby with a dishearteningly plastic representation of the female body, the display offers a more complex notion of femininity, presenting a symbolic woman whose physical humanity is expressed more explicitly.
I hesitate, though, to applaud the choice outright. It’s charming fun, yes, but unlike Petra Collins’s t-shirt, it lacks the critical edge that makes for a powerful work of feminist expression. Where Collins’s work aimed to present pubic hair, masturbation, and menstruation without stigma, allowing female consumers to adopt her print for their own purposes of self-actualization, here the company simply adds pubic hair to otherwise typical mannequins, turning the female body into a sort of comedic punchline. Gothamist’s Jen Chung reports that outside the store, "people are laughing."
Ultimately, the mannequins exist within the context of a storefront display; their purpose is to draw people into the store. And while a hairy bush is certainly enough to entertain and shock consumers, it also commercializes the female body and the vagina. Each mannequin, despite her glorious bush, resembles a sex doll more than she represents a realistic or humanized woman; after all, they’re still clearly commercial objects, even if they’re more overtly sexualized by the suggestion of genitalia. But what do YOU think of the mannequins? Are they feminist, or are they just intriguing and shocking?
Writer's Note: The original version of this post mistakenly identified American Apparel CEO Dov Charney as an artist commissioned by the company. He is in no way identified as an artist or a feminist, and the error has been fixed.
Thanks to Gothamist
Images via Gothamist
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