Petra Collins and White Femininity

A good portion of Petra Collins’ artwork is a coined as a revolutionary but exclusively presents thin able-bodied white females. An inner conflict is struck every-time I see her work as it presents Girlhood accurately but only the girlhood I experience secondhand through hearing my white friends speak to me about their struggles,rather than the black girlhood I face on a day to day basis.Collins plays upon the recent adoption of feminism in social media outlets such as Tumblr,Twitter and Instragram through her exclusionary artwork,this particularly irks me as Social media is used as a representation of the population in sectors such as advertising and marketing,repeated coverage of her artwork among the specific group she targets allows those in power of these companies to believe that it is acceptable to focus on a specific in-group and continue to dismiss the out-group as a passive audience.

Collins representations of feminism lack intersectionality as a result of focusing objectively on white women.This is seemingly perturbing considering the audience she addresses,impressionable young girls who are eager to take on feminism,therefore seek an introduction to feminist ideals via the internet.The importance of lack of female representation is highlighted through its emphasis in her work but misrepresentation of people beyond white and cisgender is overlooked,one who views her work is not guided to such an issue.This can be argued as a refusal to acknowledge and manipulate the privilege she experiences as a result of her race and status,investment in those beyond what is assumed to be the majority does not lead to success;Why should Collins,a member of the white majority have to target beyond this?

Her choice of body hair and female genitalia in her artwork bring to light this issue. White women are still granted femininity if they have bodily hair,hence why advertising of female shaving products include them on a large scale,as it is what we are conditioned to believe is feminine. A women of colour is not the standard of femininity therefore it is not revolutionary for them to have body hair.It is grotesque,epithets and insults such as “gorilla” are thrown at them,little is done to address this issue,Collins adds to the majority who refuse to acknowledge this issue and presents the same idea of a thin,white body as feminine.In what way is this revolutionary? If it does not advocate an accurate depiction of modern feminism or motivate the oppressed.

Additionally,the recurrent Vagina motif  as a symbol of female excludes trans*-women as they do not fit into the spectrum of her presented femininity.

Collins work however is a step forward in feminism,it can lead the demographic she exclusively appeals to research into a more effective internationalist feminism through her pastel-pink,lowered contrast images. Or it can lead them to stay stagnant in their aesthetically pleasing idealized activism which elicits a sense of saviour-ship within young girls as they feel like they’re “contributing” to today’s issues through their colorful self-expressive Tumblr blogs.

Perhaps she intends to address the acceptance of woman’s bodily hair for the time being.It is possible that the visual message she is conveying is temporary until she establishes a rigid fan base,that she feels secure enough to address a controversial issue that is less accessible.She did recently photograph a prominent LGBT activist,Juliana Huxtable,in Dazed. Perhaps my exposure to her work is limited.

Her work successfully conveys what she wishes to achieve as a visual artist it.My analysis has led me to conclude her visual message is “glittery tampons,white privilege and appearing abstract”.

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