The Pin Up Conundrum
As I work at the speed of a tortoise I am still working through and trying to implement many of the recommendations made by those of you you who were kind enough to fill in my survey in July last year. Last night I was going through it for the nine hundredth time when I saw a comment about my use of vintage pin-ups in my posts and it stopped me in my tracks: for two women stated that they felt uncomfortable looking at them and in certain cases, considered them offensive. Woah…
My initial reaction was oh for heavens sake. And then I thought back to my recent hissy fit about Agent Provocateur and it struck me that maybe, just maybe, I was being something of a vintage hypocrite: on the one hand calling a modern company out on their overt sexualisation of women and on the other helping to perpetuate the myth that women, vintage or otherwise, are sexual objects, by littering my site with saucy ladies.
Because that is how I have always thought of fifties pin-ups: as saucy ladies, with cute, carry-on style milk-men enjoying their inability to wear enough elastic in their knickers. Saucy sounds inoffensive, not sordid doesn’t it? Saucy says innocent giggly glamour but I’m not sure I have ever thought about it deeply enough to imagine that saucy actually spells sex. But it does. Those sheer negliees fifties pin ups are given to being painted in are very definitely about sex with their shadowy perky breasts and merest hint of nipple.
In my head I have justified this by considering the ladder of the years to be suitable enough distance from the subject matter. Nude portraits are a common feature on Brocantehome and I make no apologies for those: I consider them art and I have spent the ten years I have blogged here, applying the same justification to the pin-ups I feature here too. But perhaps they are not the same thing at all? Perhaps there is a (glaringly obvious) element of the anti-feminist about the work of the likes of Gil Elvgren and Art Frahm that should sit uncomfortably with my own ideology and indeed yours: for in the process of sharing thoughts on life, love and housekeeping I force them upon you too, don’t I?
The thing is this: pin-ups add a frisson of glamour to an otherwise un-glamorous subject. They reflect, really rather fabulously, the imagery of the era, and offer us an alternative view of the fifties woman to the one in the apron so tirelessly promoted by the Mad Men of the generation. To us, so seduced by the decade, they idealize the other side of the vintage housekeepers coin: if we can look glamorous in an apron in the kitchen, we can look twice as glamorous draped in marabou in the bedroom and losing our stockings in the supermarket. And darn it, if we don’t all want to feel beautiful?
Furthermore, despite someone once calling BrocanteHome “the pink palace” and declaring in a forum, that they could not even begin to imagine that I would ever ruffle my lavender sheets by having something as sordid as sex (!), I am, as you are, a woman. And I think it is important to consider ourselves as sexual beings, to acknowledge that housework isn’t the be all and end all of our lives and that we are in fact whole human beings. So when I have wanted to add that frisson of female humanity to Brocantehome I have used fifties pin-ups to express it in a non-explicit way I had never considered offensive before. And now I have a conundrum on my hands: are the fifties pin-ups we have all become so familiar with a problem here on Brocantehome? Am I a vintage hypocrite?? I simply can’t decide.
So it’s over to you and your thoughts please? I would really appreciate some input on this one: would you prefer BrocanteHome to be a pin-up free zone or do you think a little bit of sauce is necessary fun? Do tell…