First, an anecdote:
Some years ago, on some e-mail list for Hellenists, I posted a statue I saw on eBay by artist Jami Young (I’ve since found her on deviantART). The statue was her Artemis, which I admitted, I didn’t really “see” as Artemis, but I thought seemed appropriate as Hera:
Then cue a mini-shitstorm from people. (Yes, that’s the offending statue.)
Now, all things considered, for a shitstorm, this was only just barely, but if I’d been some fragile little Tumblrite at the time, I might’ve just used that incident as a reason to dismiss all traditional Hellenists as FMPPH’s, but then again, you can point out to some fragile little Tumblrites that you can’t just call green cocktail olives “Kalamata olives”, and they’ll try and “denounce” you for being a grade-A FMPPH.
So, where was I? Oh yes….
So, while people generally agreed that the statue doesn’t really work as Artemis, and for lots of reasons (the reasons it doesn’t work for me is that the body and face seem a bit more “mature”, or rather “old” than Artemis, as I’m allowed to know Her). On the other hand, some people seemed to be losing their shit on me cos I had the audacity to suggest Hera as a more appropriate Goddess. Why? The woman in the statue is nude. And apparently “nude = sexually charged = slutty = FOR FOREVER”.
Here’s a problem with that belief:
We’re born naked. Until about twenty years ago, it was actually very common for parents to take photos of their children, joyfully strutting around naked and free as the gods intended, and it was assumed that only perverts would think “nudity = always sexually charged”.
Not only is the idea of nudity being inherently, and irredeemably “sexualised” fairly new, it’s distinctly Western, and the idea that sexuality must always be covered up and only spoken of in hushed tones is distinctly American. It’s a perverted, immature view of nudity, and speaks more to the social dysfunctions of a nation than the realities of the naked human form.
Your typical Americans are emotionally barely more than infants, adult babies in every sense but diapers, and see no point in growing up, but like a toddler, utterly convinced that they don’t need to learn anything. They infantalise their children well into their teens, abhorred at the notion that at some point in this kid’s life, they might actually, you know, need to know about sex.
Maybe it was my English grandparents, or my mother’s no-nonsense and unprecious beliefs about sex education, but I remember asking at a fairly young age:
Why can’t I go outside naked?
“Because, R, when you’re older than two, it’s illegal.”
Why is it illegal?
“Because some people think the human body is dirty and sinful.”
But in the bible, people are made in the image of god. Do they think god is sinful?
“I never said it made any sense.”
So how come so many of the pictures in museums have naked people?
“Because artists are generally more intelligent than politicians.”
“Yes. Artists understand that the human body can be perfectly beautiful as it is. It’s not dirty, it’s not even always a sexual thing, it’s just about beauty and seeing the divine beauty in the form of the body all on its own.”
So why don’t artists make laws about being naked whenever you feel like it?
“Because art is more important than politics. It’s not just more important to the artist, it’s just generally more important. The only laws people need are manners, and the rest are eventually taken off the books. Art does more for people’s minds than a whole room of politicians.”
I think that might’ve been my mother, but there’s a divine, very traditional polytheist / pagan wisdom to those words.