10/11/13

Shock Value . . .

Wanna' see the real image? Click on the link to the left. This
blog is a family-friendly affair (rolls eyes).
Sooooo, I can't say it is the top of the headlines in America today (what with pop culture being what it is and a few things happening (or NOT, as it is) inside The Beltway) but there is a controversy brewing over the t-shirt pictured to the right.

I'll boil it down - the t-shirt is deemed "shocking" for showing what amounts to female genitalia, being (presumably) self-pleasured while said female is in the throws of her menses (yes - I find the word hilarious and I use it accordingly).

It seems the question/issue is really around this t-shirt being potentially too shocking to wear but it is also being evaluated (from a "let's figure out just how shocking this really is" slant) as to the intentions of the artist and if it is simply to shock or not.

Now - forget that American Apparel (notorious for trying to get attention and push the envelope) is selling the shirt. That is technically not the issue (for me). This is not about the grooming choices of the woman (from anything I've read, at least). And let's just acknowledge, bottom line, that ART is "about" a reaction. It can be one of a million reactions but all artists do what they do for the sake of a reaction. So if "shock" is the motivation for the reaction . . . so be it. Label it intentionally shocking - move along.

For ME the question is about the shirt itself being too shocking to wear. It's not. No such thing. I am equally shocked when I see middle-aged women in Dillons in August in Kansas wearing polar fleece "The Grinch That Stole Christmas" pants as I am seeing a sketch of a woman doing what women frequently do (touching and cycling) on a t-shirt. Big whoop. Seriously.

And please don't give me any crap about the shirt being "too much" for children. By the time they can identify a mature adult vagina and the color from it - they're not exactly naive anymore anyway. Either they've matured themselves, had "the talk," or both. While the drawing is not exactly an abstract it is something you either recognize or you don't.

No - no . . . for me this shirt and the "shock" is about a simple thing . . . why are you wearing the shirt?! What drew you to it? Is it the statement of a woman owning her body and its urges and functions and you align with that? That you want celebrate that? Or is it about making people in the mall food court squirm when you walk by?

Because here's the thing . . . they are both about reaction. Either you want the world to know you're cool with women being women (something we can all say in the right context) or you want to make people who can't say such a basic thing out loud uncomfortable.

If you're the latter - please don't buy or wear the t-shirt. Stick to emboldened body piercing or directly aggressive tattoo design/placement. Dye your hair. Do something at least semi-permanent so I can see/know that the decisions on how you'll appear and the reaction (if your piercings, tatts, and hair are "art" (as many argue they are)) are at least something with real intent and direction. Otherwise, you're just wearing your old college t-shirt on laundry day.

Do I believe in "shock value" to get a reaction? ABSOLUTELY. I have been a professional marketer for 15 years and I've been walking around as a person happy to ask for attention for 37 BUT I'll say this - people often think I'm a contrarian or an outlier FOR the attention or to shock but in reality - the shock or attention is an after effect of me having the position. I'm not a "follower" but I'm not going to try to distract/lead the lemmings if I'm not willing to walk over the cliff either.

I would not wear the vagina t-shirt. A) I look horrible in white. B) It is a woman's cut shirt and I'm a fat man. C) I don't like graphics or decoration on my clothes (of any sort). D) I don't have any personal affinity for the art screened on to the shirt. E) Whatever "reaction" me wearing the shirt might net is not the reaction I want or seek so the shock would be lost on me.

All that being said - I just blogged about a vagina t-shirt . . . more than likely for the shock value of talking about all this and more. And you fell for it . . . friggin' lemmings (meh)!