Besides, Amy did this post two years ago, based around this photograph –

Um. Over to Amy:

This isn’t the first time Mr Dunning has put up an image of an attractive woman while simultaneously insulting the majority of all other women present. He did it when he opted to show a woman he said was, “easier on the eyes” instead of showing the actual photo of the first woman to fly in space, astronaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova. He later apologized. One could assume it was a poorly designed joke and forgive his insensitivity to the plight of women in the sciences and in skepticism, once. We all make mistakes. But here he has done it again. And this time it is arguably more demeaning and insulting.

Not because it’s ooooooh naked body. No, that’s not it.

Now back to the distinction I wanted to make. Images send messages. An image of a beautiful naked body can send a message of the joy of life or of shape and form and light and shadow or of love and tenderness or loneliness or heartbreak or many other informative and moving messages. What you add to the image can have a strong effect on it’s meaning as well. The placement of the nude in the surroundings can, for example have a strong influence on the tone and the meaning of the piece of art or in this case the photograph. Is the nude in harsh light? Is the nude in a soft or warm environment? Is it black and white or color? Is it a safe environment or is there an element of danger? Photographers and other visual artists utilize all of these ideas and more to send a message to the viewer. It is all about context. And Dunning’s image is reinforcing a hierarchy with men at the top and women as nothing more than submissive servants whether it was his direct intention or not. A man in formal wear standing in a stately and dismissive pose high above a completely naked woman on her knees serving him, sends a message that women are lower, stripped of intellectual value, completely objectified and in this particular image reduced to mere servants or tray tables.

Yes it does.

Imagine a skeptic hero posing with an Aunt Jemima type model offering him a plate of pancakes. Funny how that’s unthinkable but this isn’t.


  1. notsont says

    I find this really interesting, I mean my first thought on seeing that picture was, “wow that is kinda offensive”. I’m not the swiftest fish in the sea so I’m pretty sure it should have been obvious to Mr. Dunning, and yet it must not have been, right?

    I mean I’m guessing it probably hit him in the face like a hard smack once it was pointed out to him. But to look at that picture and not even see it speaks of a kind of blindness that is startling. It makes me wonder what things I am completely blind to without realizing it.

  2. Ulysses says

    Besides being a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was the only woman to become a general in the Soviet (and Russian) military. She was a member of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. That’s a whole lot more interesting than being “easy on the eye.”

  3. reinderdijkhuis says

    “I want the artwork to look like the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album. But I want the woman to be naked. And kneeling. And a little farther away from me.”

    … I got nothing. What was the thought process here?

  4. debbaasseerr says

    @2 – A good trick is to employ the ole’ switcharoo! Its both fun and easy to do, and the results can be pretty revealing. Anyway – swap the (cis)gendered person(s) around and reflect!

    In this case, two different versions both produce unacceptably ridiculous results:

    #1 – Leave Brian Dunning as is, and replace the woman with the nude, kneeling, male model. Just think of all the people who would snag on that, “Uh, whats with the naked guy?”

    #2 – Brian Dunning nude, kneeling in front of a formally dressed woman, posed dismissively above him. Bonus if you imagine the woman dressed just like Dunning, instead of a “formal” gown of some sort. But you get the point.

    The only reason it might not have been obvious to Dunning is that images depicting what he did go with are completely ubiquitous, and ones that depict the reverse, which the switcharoo’ generates, will not fly.

    Be prepared to discover the ni-complete hegemony of the male-gaze in our culture should you keep trying it – consciousness-raising can be depressing sometimes.

  5. says

    Consciousness-raising can be depressing most of the time. I said something similar to that thought on the panel at the American Atheists con. Greta said something about not noticing various ubiquitous things (such as the hegemony of the male gaze) until you notice them, and then you notice them all the time. I added that then you also piss people off all the time because you keep noticing things. It got a laugh, as it was meant to, but god damn it can be a drag.

  6. Sili says

    How embarrassing that I’d forgotten about this image.

    I should have dropped Skeptoid after his stupid musical making the villain a stereotypical gypsy. (Even if the heroïne was female for a change.)

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