I wrote this short essay for the magazine peng!
– it is basically about tits, femininity, equality, Venus of Willendorf, Kate Moss, Hillary Clinton and a woman in a red dress…
Tempting Interesting Tasty Surplus – writers cut
Copyright: Susan Florries, Wien 2009 – 09 – 15
The 34-year old supermodel Kate Moss has beautiful breasts and quite a tasty body to go with them, although personally I find her a bit too thin. I’ve just opened the issue of “Heute” – a free daily paper/tabloid, distributed in Vienna that has a naked woman on page 3 every day – which I found on the seat next to me in the Vienna underground. The almost naked Kate on page 3 is the first thing I see. Petite, with very well pronounced cheek bones and open mouth, she is hinting at her well shaved vulva, radiating with the fulfilment of some of the most cherished dreams of the contemporary woman and man: to have the looks of a 20-year old at least until the age of fifty and, above all, to stay thin. Along with this, one should preferably have a pair of small, firm and tempting tits, just like Kate.
Even if I am less bisexual than I sometimes would like to be, I do now and then find myself looking at other women’s breasts. They are soft and beautiful and well, irresistible somehow. Anyway, today I’m looking a bit extra carefully, since I’m on a mission to find breasts on the streets of Vienna and ponder on the position of breasts in contemporary society. I have been very lucky; right now the proportionally biggest breasts in town, the 15 FF-cup breasts of the 11,1 cm high female stone-age statue Venus of Willendorf, are decorating every second billboard. She just had her 100th anniversary of being found and the Museum of Natural History decided to celebrate this with a special exhibition. I decided to visit it and on my way I found Kate.
The British sculptor Marc Quinn actually finds Kate so much in coherence with the contemporary beauty ideals, that he chose her to sit for him when he wanted to portray these ideals in the statue Sphinx. This bronze statue was uncovered in 1996, but a gold replica can soon be seen at the British Museum in London. Made out of pure gold it shows Kate sitting in a yoga position, a pose that is quite a contrast to her reputation as a “sex, drugs and rock and roll queen”. My thoughts drift away to the Christian myth about the golden calf, at the same time that I ponder the fact that the statues Venus of Willendorf seem to have very little in common with the actual goddess Venus. But I’ll get back to that later, because my attention is drawn to another woman who occupies the opposite corner of page 3 in today’s “Heute”: Hillary Clinton.
Interestingly enough Hillary is hiding her breasts in this picture. It is just a result of perspective, but in combination with Kate’s lustful exposure of herself it becomes very symbolic. Like many other women in the sphere of political power, Hillary has quite an un-sexy image. I know a bit more than I want to about her husbands sex life, but absolutely nothing about Hillary’s. Even if her husband surely helped her with her campaign as much as her daughter, I rarely heard her mention him or her relationship to him, whereas she can’t say enough about her daughter and motherhood, mostly of her being a proud mother. Well, in western culture motherhood turned asexual through the icon “Holy Mary”, so I guess being a mother is ok for a female politician, but I’m quite sure that being a wife or sexy can be very difficult, even dangerous.
On top of page 3 in today’s “Heute” is a picture of a young, beautiful woman in a red dress beside her 20 year older boyfriend, some TV-celebrity. They just were engaged. Her generous décolletage is nicely framed by the fine, red silk, which, in contrary to Hillary’s appearance, does all but to hide anything. In between these three photos of contemporary women there is a story telling about problems in flight traffic with the headline Heaven and Hell and another telling about the quite late absolution of the last woman in Europe to be burned as a witch. Looking at all this combined, I’m going like: “Wow, here is the present dilemma of female sexuality on just one page!”, and it goes something like this:
beautiful tits can be a great mean of power, but to get real power today you have to hide your tits. As a woman, you can use your sexual power to get famous or married, or hide it as good as you can and go for an intellectual career. I have seen many cases with women who have tried to show that they have both and they ended up facing a real witch-hunt. Conclusion: one cannot both hide and show one’s tits at the same time. The whore-madonna-complex, the woman as a gate to heaven OR a gate to hell, is still very much present in our life. Looking at this page I feel that the way a woman keeps her breasts actually can have a great symbolic meaning, even telling what kind of power she is using at the moment.
I come to think about what one of my teachers in shamanism has told me about the view upon women and men in shamanism: women are seen as the more powerful of the two sexes, but they need a man to be the spark: to get that power going. Since I have grown up in Sweden with a mother and aunts with very feministic ideas and impressive careers, I used to find this idea to be traditionalistic, patriarchal fundamentalism. Don Garcia used to argue that this is the reason why societies that suppress women loose everything in the end, since women in these societies cannot produce enough power for the society to function. I had a firm belief in that we all have both creating and nurturing power and we can all be whatever we want, both at the same time. Nowadays I am not so sure any more, since I have found that men and women actually are different, but I do not know how we are different, or why are we different, or if our differences have anything to do with our physical features or if it results in us having different kinds of power. But that we women should be something like helpless collies carrying around loads of power without being able to do anything with it? I don’t think so. Suddenly I find myself thinking that breast milk is much tastier than sperm, and I have to smile at myself.
I am finally at my goal, facing the about 28.000 years old Venus of Willendorf. Such female figures in many variations are often found among stone-age findings, this one being one of the best kept in the world. She is very small, but very impressive with her huge breasts and a belly that tells the tales of several childbirths. In one of the books about her in the museum shop, I read that no one knows what she and her sisters actually stand for. There are theories saying everything from that they were stone age pin-ups, symbols for the domestication of the woman, just different women or dolls, to that they were protective spirits, fruitfulness symbols, the Mother Goddess or other goddesses. I suddenly think, what if they were like a “we-where-here”- sign in a time of matriarchal culture, where every tribe was symbolized through a different female figure?! Just as I think about this, I read in the exhibition folder that most of our interpretations are just projections of our own ideas and beliefs, and I have to laugh a bit at myself again. Instead of making more crazy assumptions, I turn to admire the Venus of Willendorf.
Looking at her motherly body I can’t help thinking that she must be an image of Mother Earth. If not, she should be, she feels like she would be. If she is, I am not sure that she would have liked the boring and way too organized exhibition of minerals on the second floor of the museum. She would probably be appalled and more than angry about the environmental crisis, which the museum is describing in the corridor just outside this room. I’m not so sure that she would have liked the three stereotypical images of women in “Heute” either.
With her worn out, faceless appearance the Venus of Willendorf is not really a goddess of “beauty”, like Venus. But she and her huge tits radiate power, the abundance of nourishment and care of motherhood – and she is incredibly beautiful. By looking at her it is easy to believe that women carry a huge surplus of power that they can share as they wish: I want to be her, I am her, I feel that immense power, at the same time I want to be Hillary and a little bit like Kate. Maybe even a tiny bit like the woman in the red dress and, well, many things. I feel that I am all that and yet I do not know what I am, but I will continue to show off my breasts, or at least parts of them, when and how I feel like it. And just like with the meaning of the Venus of Willendorf and her sisters, the meaning of me showing my symbols of womanhood will lie mainly in the mind of the beholder.