Maiden Voyages: February 2019

(Last Updated On February 4, 2019)

Finally, a little time to take care of some business. This month we have two examples of social media fascism!

Social Media Fascist #1: Facebook has recently blocked images of starving children in the Yemen civil war declaring that the images of malnourished young girls are ‘sexual content’. True to form, Facebook continues to pander to the lowest common denominator of public sensibility. Read more here.

Social Media Fascist #2: As many readers know, Amanda—who has made occasional comments on this site—is in charge of the recently established Samantha Gates Archive. While considering the propriety of publishing some images of a nude Samantha, she posted censored images of the images on her Twitter feed. The “tweet” got reported and summarily removed.

Archive Objective: …And speaking of The Samantha Gates Archive, it is the site’s objective to eventually track down all published images of Samantha for safekeeping and posting. For our readers with Japanese contacts, Amanda is requesting help in tracking down hard copies of a few items that have reportedly published some of the Sawatari images. If you have any productive leads, please contact Amanda through the archive. The items are: Blue BellCamera Everyday Magazine (December 1973) and Ashi’s Life Alice Dream Calendar.

Mystery of the Missing Statue: Not a Hardy Boys mystery title but one from real life. In the Albany [New York] Rural Cemetery there is an installation of statues featuring a family. Missing from the collection is the family’s little girl, Bertha Cleveland. The prime suspect, a serial murderer, confessed to multiple thefts including some from this cemetery. However, he died in 1998 taking the secret of the disposition of the stolen items with him. There are hopes that someone will recognize the statue and come forward with news of its whereabouts.

Gauging the Portrayal of Women (and Girls): Part of the agenda of Pigtails is to bring out the need for a genuine kind of feminism allowing girls and women to speak their real voice. An associate informed me of something he found called the Bechdel Test used as a measure of representation of women in fiction. According to Wikipedia, “Media industry studies indicate that films that pass the test financially outperform those that do not”.

13 thoughts on “Maiden Voyages: February 2019

  1. We actually got a version of the original Alice from one of the universities that was signed by Samantha herself shortly after the book was published! What a find!!! I can’t help but wonder why she signed this one. Anyways, we will be posting more unreleased Alice photographs shortly, so stay tuned!

  2. One should avoid vulgarising the word “fascist”. Fascism designates a violent movement based on social dropouts and enraged people from ruined social layers, aiming at destroying the labour movement, persecuting minorities, and establishing a totalitarian dictatorship. In the case of Facebook and Twitter, it is the old Anglo-Saxon sexual bigotry.

    • To be completely fair, in pure philosophical terms, fascism refers to any radical form of authoritarian nationalism, generally involving citizen militarization and extreme suppression of dissent. The fact that it has frequently been adopted by disaffected “dropouts” and tends to be associated with racism is as much a happenstance of history as anything else. I know this subject is a very sore point in some cultures and have no interest starting a debate on political theory. I fully concur the term is misapplied in the context of social media, but objectivity is important, and one should avoid blanket applications of negative stereotypes, especially considering how quick some people are to express violent hatred toward those of us with interest in the subject of this website, purely based on stereotypes we explicitly reject. This is all I will say on the subject.

    • I admit I may have been a bit sloppy in the use of the term but I think it is widely understood to refer to the dictatorial aspect of the company—namely that everyone should adhere to the same standard, sexual or not. The English language has enough challenges with respect to technical utility and it does not behoove us to avoid certain terms simply because they may disturb the sensibilities of some. It would be a kind of surrender to allow the particular atrocities of Nazi history to hinder our ability to communicate clearly.
      I would like to thank Arielle for clarifying the definition. I should comment at this point that I find the term distinguishes itself as emphasizing the sacrifices of individual liberty and dignity for the sake of the state or other institution. This perspective was quite intelligently expressed in an interview of Ian Rand. By necessity, almost all institutions will have some features of fascism (even, [gasp!] Pigtails in Paint). The difference with corporations is that their application is so one-sided without any regard to humanistic concerns. -Ron

  3. Many years ago, there was a horrifying image (which became a very famous photograph) of a Vietnamese girl who was running naked after being badly burned by American-made napalm fired by the then-South Vietnamese Army.
    When a letter to the editor criticized a newspaper for printing that “erotic” picture, a subsequent letter to the editor commented that such a picture could be erotic only to a necrophiliac.

    THAT is the only thing I can say now about anybody who finds these pictures of starving girls to be pornographic, or (even worse) finds them sexy.

    • You are of course referring to Phan Thị Kim Phúc and you neglected to mention that Christian did a post on her. Your comment is a bit of an argument reductio ad absurdum. Although nudity is involved I would like to be a devil’s advocate and point out one key difference: although Kim Phuc’s village was fire-bombed necessitating her nudity, she was otherwise in relatively good physical health. The humiliation, in this case, was that she needed to disrobe while the Yemeni girl has been subjected to a more wholesale neglect. I think Pigtails readers are intelligent enough to understand that the rhetoric of companies like Facebook is not some real concern for sexual propriety but simply a way of justifying their main agenda: a way of maximizing profit with minimum effort. -Ron

      • Ron, thanks for the link.
        After four and a half years, I had forgotten about that post about Kim Phuc. Also, let us remember that it was not only her clothes which had been badly burned. The assumed humiliation of her nudity was the least of her problems at that moment.

  4. About Facebook blocking images… Facebook doesn’t block because they’re sexual but because they contain nudes of real people. And those people might feel embarrassed by those publications of their (semi)nudes online.
    Those Syrian girls, for example, live in a mostly Islamic community where modesty is extremely important. These nudes might haunt them for the rest of their lives as future husbands would be less available since these girls went nude. They might even become outcasts because of these pictures.
    Yes, these pictures are important as they tell a very sad story. Something needs to be done about it. But these girls also live in a close-minded community and these pictures might have a huge, negative impact on their lives a decade from now. If they even live that long…
    The facebook rules exist to block any material that might be embarrassing to the people in those pictures and who don’t want those pictures to be online. And while these girls tell an important story, it isn’t clear that they have even consented to having those pictures taken and shared with the whole world. As a news story, it might be okay if the story is more important than their privacy. But Facebook is an entertainment site, not a news site. And this is not entertainment…

    • To some extent, your point is well-taken. I dare say this is a well-crafted comment and I doubt a paid member of the company’s own public relations department could do any better. I must admonish you however for not taking the trouble to notice that this story is about Yemeni girls, not Syrian. Nonetheless, the conditions and cultural standards are not dissimilar.
      It is sad to consider that such pig-headed customs would prevent people from understanding the mitigating circumstances in this case. I suppose the more extreme upholders of custom consider these girls’ lot some just punishment from God.
      Marital prospects notwithstanding, it would be a conceit on the part of Facebook to think that people living in such poverty would be monitoring their social media accounts! Perhaps the feeling is that some skilled lawyer will come forward to advocate for the girls and make trouble for the company.
      And indeed, Facebook is not in the business of news. Despite the obvious utility of using their service for humanistic purposes, it has been long established that handling serious subjects tends to be less profitable. If this exception were allowed, the additional costs of fielding a deluge of other requests for exceptions would be prohibitive and cut into company profits. It is a much sounder decision to be in the business of entertainment. But that is exactly the point of criticizing the principles of corporations: they single-mindedly seek profit without the counterbalance of human concerns. There is always an underlying feeling that they only grudgingly provide services to people out of necessity to stay in business. -Ron

    • As a former user of Facebook, where I was several times suspended and finally excluded, I disagree with the comment of Wim ten Brink. When Facebook removes some contents, the user receives a notification giving the reason for the removal, and it is “nudity” or “sexual contents” or something like that, and not that it violates the privacy of someone or is embarrassing to someone. In the present case, if the article writes that Facebook claims it is “sexual content”, then it must be what was written in the notification.
      Facebook has censored well-known paintings by Modigliani and Courbet, and myself I was suspended for 3 days for posting the 1907 painting “Narcissa” by William Sergeant Kendall (see my post), the reason given was something like “sexualization of a child”. It has nothing to do with the possible embarrassment of the model, who is dead since long.
      Concerning people in Islamic cultures, they often show the victimization of their children in order to alert opinion. I guess that the photographs of half-naked starving Yemeni children were taken with parental consent.

      • Sadly it doesn’t stop with facebook. When I put the word out that I am attempting to collect all the Alice content, I had a few universities send me their copies because they considered them inappropriate. They were actually in an awful hurry to get rid of them too. It is kind of sad, really.

        • Hello, Amanda. You are in a unique position then to accumulate these works that have been formerly dispersed far and wide, some, as you’ve pointed out, coming back with little surprises like Sam’s signature. It’s sad that universities, of all places, see the need to get rid of these beautiful works because of a current moral panic that will no doubt abate at some point in the future. Nevertheless, it is their loss and your gain. Hold on to them. Their value both as lovely aesthetic objects and as rare books which survived a purge during a cultural spasm of fear and ignorance will no doubt go up and up.

          • Thanks pip, I will certainly hold on to them. I am rather excited because I will actually be in contact with Sam herself soon. The one thing i do question is if this moral panic really is temporary though. I was talking with one of the professors I used to work with who has extensive experience in artistic and cultural ethics, said that while it may pass eventually, he does not see this moral panic going away anytime soon. He has a knack for being right about these kinds of things. That is why I like pigtails, because it handles this kind of material subjectively, without sexualizing the children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *