Naked Lady in Portland
There was a photograph circling the internet and news of a woman in Portland, Oregon wearing only a mask and a hat. In the image you can see this woman some are calling “Naked Athena” sitting on the ground with her legs spread wide from the back. Athena is the goddess of War. She was born from the God Zeus’ head. She is also called the Goddess of Wisdom. The woman is described as being incredible vulnerable. Pepper spray was fired at her feet.
Nudity has often appeared in Art. It has also been a method of political protest. Godiva riding on a horse naked to protest taxes. In Oregon nudity is not a crime unless it is of a sexual nature. I wrote papers in Graduate school about obscenity and art. If something is Obscene it is considered illegal speech and criminal. Obscenity though is defined by community standards. It is part of what is called the Miller test. What may be obscene in New York may not be obscene in Portland, Oregon. In this case the woman can use the defense of political speech. She was protesting with her body as the medium to express her opinion.
I have had my own issues with nudity. I posted a photo of myself body painted and it does not show anything sexual. It got some criticism and was taken down at one point from Facebook. I had lost my breasts to cancer and I felt like people did not believe me or did not understand the loss I felt. So I decided to show the world I was still a woman but a woman who lost part of me to a disease. I ended up being attacked online for it. I was trolled and told losing my breasts made me not a woman anymore and unwelcome as an actor. One in seven women have mastectomies in America. Yet none of us after we beat cancer can get back our lives and our career goals and are dreams? I guess I wasted effort to save my life if my future is now going to be one where I am bullied and degraded.
I for one respect the law. I do not think that obscenity should be legal. Pornography is not art. It is exploitative. Too many people are hurt by that industry. Women should not have to resort to selling their bodies to survive. To me sexual activity is a private thing that requires intimacy and respect. Children also need to be protected and allowed to be children while they can. But this woman made a powerful message on how those protesting are human and at risk from COVID from violence. I can not say that is exactly why she did it, but that is certainly one interpretation. In a moment of fear I myself used nudity as a means to shock someone who was assaulting me. Instead of reacting with violence I took off my shirt and flashed my breast cancer scars.
I wish we knew why she did it? Was she acting on a need to make the police see how she was a person and helpless to their brutality? Or was she just looking for exposure? Was she mentally ill? No one yet knows who she is. So far no one has come forward and said “That was me.” Apparently she moved like a ballet dancer/ yogi.
The year 2020 has been a toxic year that smells of illness, disease, garbage and urine. It has been a year where many of us out of respect for others lives have been isolated and terrified and alone, or trapped with a few friends or family and driving each other crazy. The image from Portland today will be one remembered like the images of Thich Quang Duc burning during the Vietnam war. But one must not forget why? Not just the nudity but the fact that this woman was nude in front of a line of police officers. The protests against police violence in Portland started in Late May, but at the end of June armed federal officers started appearing at the protests and they have started using tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters.
I do not like conflict. I often would go to protests as a reporter photographer. I have hundreds of images of Los Angeles protest signs and even the 99% encampment at City Hall. We all need to be aware of Portland. Apparently the federal agents are not revealing what agency they are with and are like secret police. Now we know that many of them are border patrol and are marked but it is still a bit disconcerting. Are they acting with Probably Cause? How many false arrests? Are they trained to use violence properly?
I have been wondering why Portland? But like the naked woman, it is a vulnerable city. It does not have the clout that the Mayor of Los Angeles has, or the proximity of the California Governor in San Francisco. I thought to myself, this is a test. Turns out that 45 has said not that he plans on using the techniques in Portland on other cites, in particular in major US cities with Democratic Mayors. That sounds more like a political move than a valid legal one. This the beginning of a police state. It makes me terrified that we will not have freedom in America for much longer.
There is speculations that in November 45 will not leave office when he loses or that the election will be compromised. We must be aware and be warned. What happens in November on election day could be the difference between being an artist and being a slave. Please be informed and aware and VOTE. I do not condone violence but peace but we are a democracy and we all have the right to a VOTE and to be counted. Our opinions and voices matter.