Who Is Afraid Of The Big Bad Penis


This is a photo of American Indian-inspired statue of a humpbacked flute player that was on display at Edge of the Cedars State Park in Utah.  The park, in Blanding, is the site of an ancient Pueblo Indian ruin, as well as the modern-day museum. It has been on display for the last 19 years and was made by Joe Pachak.  I actually find the image quite compelling but apparently some people were offended because it has obvious male genitalia.  Ooooh big scary wooden penis.  Well the puritans caused such a stink that the sculpture which depicts a Hopi clan symbol  was removed from the public gaze and placed behind the museum.

Somehow for the last 19 years this statue has managed to be on display without corrupting society.  The world did not come to an end.  This is not some work by Maplethrope which I do believe has a time and place. How is the world damaged because of a piece of wood symbolizing a penis; unless we are meant to all be socially threatened by a penis?

What I find disturbing is that culturally we constantly display women’s bodies. In fact the female body is often either overly sexualized or strangely disembodied. Culturally the female nude is not understood as problematic, but yet the mere symbolic reference to a penis is deemed disturbing.  

The female body is to be displayed because it is assumed to always be available for consumption; whereas the male body is covered because patriarchy is the oppressor.  Nudity in this way is understood as vulnerability.  Since males dominate the world the idea that even symbolically that a male could be seen as vulnerable is threatening to patriarchy.  This is not about morality this is about gender and power.

All bodies exist with power but not all bodies exist with equal power. Patriarchy controls not only what is seen but what is not seen.  By controlling our view we are forced to see the world through a male guided lens.  It is only when we take the time to deconstruct the unseen that we can truly conceptualize what is behind the desire to take any action.  People are continually attempting to express power or act in maintenance of it.  Power is an element in almost every action.  When the kind of suppression occurs we should all pay attention because incidents like this are an exercise in male power. When we think of the world and how it is organized we must all consciously be aware that what seems like an act of instance is often fraught with much larger implications.


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