A Psychocritical Analysis of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Black Door with Snow

Georgia O’Keeffe is well known for her paintings of zoomed-in, detailed flowers. Often these paintings are compared to vaginas, which would lead towards an easy analysis for a psychocritical analysis of the artist and her work. However, this paper will present a psychocritical analysis on O’Keeffe’s Black Door with Snow, which was created in 1955, using the concepts of the Neo-Freudian Karen Danielsen Horney. This painting enables the viewers to have a male perspective and better understand the concept of “womb envy,” thus enabling us to see the Western social and cultural constructs of male psyche.

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Georgia O’Keeffe is shown here.

Horney, who lived from 16 September 1885 until 4 December 1952, was a German Neo-Freudian. This Neo-Freudian discipline was formed by Alfred Adler and Horney together, although Horney is often overlooked. She practiced in the United States of America later on in her career and presented theories which questioned Freud’s theories. Horney, one of the first psychiatrists who was female, founded the feminist psychology in response to Freud’s patriarchal theory and disagreed with Freud, arguing that differences in psychology among men and women occur because of society and culture instead of biology.

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Here is a photograph of Karen Danielsen Horney.

Horney believed that sex and aggression were not the main ingredients in creating personality. Horney disagreed with Freud’s concept of “penis envy,” arguing that Freud only figured that women were jealous of male power in the world. Neurotic women might desire to have penises, but Horney introduces the idea of “womb envy”—that men are envious of women’s ability to bear children. Additionally, she argues that men are envious of women because women are able to “fulfill” their role in society by simply “being,” since women can become pregnant and give birth. In contrast, men must look externally to satisfy their need to be productive, and men think they must achieve manhood through the ability to provide and succeed. The focus on the male sexual organ was puzzling to Horney. For her, men were envious of pregnancy, nursing, and motherhood, which led to men making claims of superiority in other areas of life, specifically the workforce. Therefore, by reformulating Freudian thought, Horney presents a more humanist perspective on the human psyche, emphasizing on social and cultural differences.

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Georgia O’Keeffe, Black Door with Snow, 1955.

Black Door with Snow is beautifully painted with neutral colors. The sharp diagonal lines in the painting add drama to the piece. A deeply tan wall stands bare and unadorned, and in the top left hand corner, we see a glimpse of a grey sky. Perhaps we, the viewers, are walking towards the house, looking to the opening from the side rather from directly in the front. This wall is both protective as well as inviting, drawing the viewers towards the entrance of the black doorframe. What stands out on this austere exterior are the snowflakes. As a female artist of New Mexico, it seems strange that she chose to depict snow. These snowflakes do not appear to be real snow but rather dabs of abstraction. Instead, they look more like falling white flowers or tissues from an unknown source. Interestingly, the snowflakes on or close to the ground are not white but rather a pink shade, which are next to the orange-red of the stones before the door.

This painting could be representative of womb envy, or the envious feelings that men feel towards women’s ability to create life. The tan wall looks almost like smooth skin, perhaps both sides of the legs spreading open for the black entrance, becoming symbolic of the vagina. Because we do not see the entrance directly but from an angle, perhaps we are experiencing the male gaze and perspective. Men, for Horney, experience womb envy, yet patriarchal society has many misconceptions and taboos about female anatomy. We see a sharp binary between the white—of the snowflakes—and the black—of the doorframe/vagina. In our Western patriarchal society, men and women are often seen as binaries, thus suggesting the black as women (represented by the female anatomy) and white as men (represented by a whole instead of a part, as with the women here). This is not a sexual depiction, and there are no phallic symbols here. Instead, although men may enter the vagina during sexual intercourse and be a part of the woman, this is only momentarily. Men never truly experience what is like to have a vagina or give birth. Just as the snowflakes stay out of the house so do men stay separated from women biologically because men lack vaginas and cannot experience pregnancy and birth. As a result, tension arises from this lacking, which is portrayed through the strong diagonal lines. Because women have their roles biologically assigned internally, men feel the need to search for purpose externally, reinforced by the painting of the snow remaining on the outside.

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Western women can be labeled derogatorily based on their anatomy, and female anatomy is sometimes considered ugly or less developed in Western society. The splotches of color before the doorframe are pink, orange, and red, which could be connected with menstruation. A woman’s monthly bleeding occurs when the lining of the uterus or womb is shed. The menstrual blood passes through the cervix and out of the body through the vagina. On heavier days, the color is more red, while on lighter days, the color is pink. Sometimes menstrual fluid, which is often referred to as blood, is sometimes a darker color, black or brown, which means that the blood is flowing out of the body at a slower rate. This change in color is normal. However, menstrual fluids can sometimes be orange, which means that the bright red menstrual blood becomes mixed with fluids from the cervix; as a result of this mixture, the menstrual blood appears orange with red streaks, and this color can be associated with infections and should be inspected by a doctor.

Although men may experience womb envy, they may not actually fully comprehend the responsibilities and associations that happen with having female anatomy. Additionally, men are commonly disgusted with the mere mention of menstruation, let alone the actual fact that it occurs naturally with most women. The orange splotches could represent a disease—here meaning the widespread problems with Western men and how they talk about and try to control female bodies. Something here is strange: How do we account for the pink snowflakes on the ground? Perhaps these pink spots are representative of men, who may still have womb envy, but are tolerant and even understanding of female anatomy and its natural processes. Rather than dismissing women and their problems with menstruation, men can potentially be sympathetic with biological differences and what occurs naturally, even if men do not have vaginas. If sympathy is possible, this tolerance can be extended to other areas of gender inequality, presenting a societal construct that can be changed rather than a biological stagnation.

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A Formalist Analysis of Mary Cassatt’s Five O’clock Tea

Mary Cassatt is famous for her portrayals of mothers with their children, but this oil painting, Five O’clock Tea (c. 1880), depicts two women sitting together with no children in sight. One woman sips out of a porcelain cup, delicately raising her pinky finger and holding the saucer with her other hand. The woman on the other side sits close by on the same sofa, hand on chin in the thinking position, similar to Rodin’s The Thinker. Her cup and saucer is placed back on the tray before the two. The room is snug, with the sofa, table, mantelpiece, and wallpaper all close together, reinforcing the closeness of the two women who appear to be friends. By focusing on the form of this artwork, a brief formal analysis of Mary Cassatt’s Five O’clock Tea reveals the importance of female companionship and friendship through the use of the following five formal properties presented by Heinrich Wölfflin: (1) “painterly,” (2) “recession,” (3) “open,” (4) “unity,” and (5) “relative clarity.”

First, this piece is quite painterly, especially when analyzing the sofa design. Rather than having delineated firm outlines, there is greater emphasis on the atmospheric, shifting appearances seen in the artwork. Not much of the sofa is viewable, but what is seen reveals coral splashes of flower-like entities on a cream-colored surface. These flowers are not sharply outline but rather present a fluid, natural movement, even though they are not out in nature but inside, perhaps embroidered or printed, on a sofa. However, this painterly style encircles the women, bringing them seemingly closer together.

Second, rather than presenting a planar composition, this artwork is recessional. The order of the piece is not parallel; instead, the viewers are pulled into the background. The eyes follow the slopping shoulder and roundness of the arm towards the table, then to the shiny teapot and tray, then back towards the mantelpiece and framed artwork, and finally to the striped wallpaper. The viewers’ gaze zigzags while looking at the picture space into the back rather than analyzing the painting side-to-side. The viewers start with the woman on the left and end with the woman sitting on the right, emphasizing the central focus of this piece on the two friends and their connection.

Third, an open form, relating to how the artwork is framed and placed in relation to the viewer, is shown. No clear spatial indicators are here because the women are not specifically defined before the viewer. There is no clear delineation of lines and the rectangular shape of the picture. Instead the table creates a slanting diagonal line, while the woman’s arm creates another diagonal line in the opposite direction. The woman sipping her tea is believed to be further away from the viewer, while the contemplative woman’s elbow is foreshortened, as if protruding out into the viewers’ space. Therefore, this piece is composed more ambiguously and opens to enable the viewers to have different positions of perspective.

Fourth, Five O’clock Tea presents unity rather than multiplicity. Here the viewers do not see multiple unified forms that are separate and distinct. Instead the viewers experience “the whole as a whole” (Wölfflin 169). Taking away one figure or item from the piece would make the piece not unified but rather incomplete. The piece would become incomplete without the the teapot or the second cup and saucer on the table. Additionally, the piece would be incomplete without both women, suggesting the significance of depicting these women as friends instead of isolated individuals.

Fifth, Cassatt uses relative clarity in this painting because she uses painterly techniques for their own atmospheric effect instead of using optical effects to present a specific subject (Hatt and Klonk 80). Cassatt does not care about material illusion. The viewers are not confused into thinking that it is a real vase or real picture frame but rather mimetic imitations. On the wall, the horizontal stripes are not perfectly segregated but vary in width between one another. However, Cassatt does employ changes in color, which capture light reflections, for example, bouncing off the teapot and tray. Additionally, she employs juxtapositions in tone, contrasting the coral of the horizontal stripped wallpaper and flowered sofa with the darker browns, blacks, and greys of the women’s dresses. The tone of the surroundings is more bright and jovial, while the women’s darker clothing presents a more serious, contemplative tone and reiterate the connection between the two friends.

In conclusion, the familiarity of the women together with their surroundings reveals the central focus of this piece of art—female companionship. The title of the painting, Five O’clock Tea, could suggest the banality of daily living. This piece is neither a religious nor a historical painting, and the women are not royalty or nobility. However, the closeness of the two figures in relation to the room emphasizes the need for female companionship—especially in modern society. Although neither woman is breathtakingly beautiful, the formal elements of the painting connect the viewer with the two regular-looking friends, suggesting the potential to look past the superficial and to consider the deeper human connections in life.

FIGURE

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Figure 1. Mary Cassatt, Five O’clock Tea, 1880, oil on canvas.

Heavenly Homes

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Deep down, I was always a little jealous, you could say, of those people. You know, the ones who always knew what they wanted, always knew where they were going next, always knew who they wanted to become—or at least, it seemed that way. Home is where the heart is, as the cliché goes, and those boundless vagabonds seemed to find home wherever their next specific goal, placed deep down in their hearts, took them. Cheerleading and tournament weekend champions? Check. Volunteering to build schoolhouses for Ghanaian children? Check. Scuba diving off the coast? Check.

But there were no checkmarks like these ones on my list, and I was no vagabond, neither seeking home nor feeling completely content with where I was. Rather, I was a homebody. Not that my body was particularly pentagon-ish or made of brick and mortar. Although, to be honest, if I were to be built out of man-made materials, brick would be my choice. But it would have to be red brick, the best brick of all the bricks in the world.

* * *

The Vatican is not made out of brick. Not even red brick. It is made of the blood of the laymen. As one of “the holiest places” in the world, our visit as a study abroad group of Brigham Young University to the Vatican had been hot, cramped, claustrophobic, and, simply put, miserable. The word Vatican, the origins of which are shrouded in mystery, was supposedly used a mere name for a hill in Rome; however, the Latin word vatincinor means “to prophesy” from vatis, meaning “poet, teacher, oracle” (www.alphadicionary.com). If I could have prophesied or had an oracle given to my by the gods the craziness that would follow the morning before we left for our outing, perhaps I would have gone about visiting the center of the Catholic Church differently. Maybe I would have tucked a fan into my saddlebag or worn a hula-hooped vest, allowing a few inches to be salvaged as my outward shrine for my personal bubble.

Yes, it was incredible, seeing the Sistine Chapel, the numerous sculptures and the “idols” (if you were a sixteenth-century Reformation Protestant), and St. Peter’s Basilica. Here is the home of popes, future popes, and cardinals, the past and the current, which is visited by approximately 25,000 sweaty tourists every day and five million every year (Brady). For some, the pilgrimage is a holy quest. Yet for me, although I recognize the holiness, which it holds for many and the importance it carries on with white-Western history, the Vatican was no heavenly home, to say the least.

At the end of August, it is still humid and sunny in Italy, and when I arrived back in my room—alone—there, I sat, drenched in sticky sweat and fanning myself in the living room. The room situation was fine. There were an odd number of girls, and I ended up, somehow, having an apartment to sleep in without other roommates. This room was to be my home-away-from-home.

* * *

Labeled: the homebody. I was the girl who preferred staying inside her room all day long. I don’t remember my first room, or my first home, I lived in particularly well. I was born and grew up in the sunny sin-city—Las Vegas. Memories of the past blur with present so often that it is hard to distinguish reality and pseudo-reality, which then feels just as real as reality—so is there reality in this un-real reality? Like my brother, who after watching home videos over the years, says he remembers perfectly eating a whole slice of lemon when he couldn’t even walk yet. Or when he says he remembers the feeling of riding two horses at the same time (or rather two swing sets linked together and swung back and forth from keyed up energy of a toddler aged boy) like Zorro in the movie. Does Jacob actually remember doing these things? He has a pretty close to perfect memory. Or is he reconstructing this reality from the reality of a camera and a video cassette player?

But I digress. Memories—all alone in the moonlight—you’re a tricky thing, aren’t ya? Much less poetical than the hit song from the musical Cats, music Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Trevor Nunn, but my point is this: as fleeting as moonlight is, so are memories. Maybe you think you see moonlight, but it’s really just a glimmer of a glimpse of something else.

My memories of the Paterson house, which my first home from the time I was age newborn to three, are limited and reflective. Inside the house, there were mirrors on all the closet doors of the bedroom. Flickers of color pass through my mind, reds and yellows. A red feather hangs down into my face, and yellow triangles or diamonds or both fly by. It’s a feathered headband! Legs spread out on the floor, drum between legs, arms beating (maybe with a stick?) a drum, which sides are leathered and worn with texture, but the skin of the drum—it’s smooth and soft to the touch. The focused gaze is at this poor little drum, which is continued to be beaten. But then the scrutiny shifts. And there sits a little girl, with cropped hair the color of sunlight and big, blue eyes and a calm face, half expectant for something to happen, and smooth—smoother than the drum—and paler than moonlight. She looks at me. I look at her. She is me, and in this final realization—the dream, the memory, the reverie—it dissolves to darkness.

There have been no home videos, to my knowledge, of this scene of which I have described. I’ve never watched it before, so whether or not is contrived out of pure imagination or is actually happened, I don’t know—not that I ever will. When I reflect on this memory of home and my presence, sitting alone on the floor, the memory and the experience of reliving this memory become translucent and transcendent, simultaneously.

* * *

Rome is Rome—but home is home. And I just “wasn’t feeling it,” especially after being cramped and shuffled along with and pushed by Asians and Afghans and Anglo-Saxons and Albanians and Angolans and Australians and Argentinians and fellow Americans. I couldn’t help but wonder, in my state of loneliness and exhaustion, why I had bothered to come to this trip abroad, with no friends and no family and no common language and no real home. This statement may seem self-centered and shallow—which it was. This opportunity to see Italy, France, England, and Scotland—who could’ve asked for more? I was blessed, but in this exact moment, I had trouble seeing the blessings and felt my tired feet more. I don’t know, maybe I could blame my self-pity a little on culture shock or homesickness or something.

One, two, three tissues later—my being sick with a cold pressed forward with its mucus-travelling trip via nose, throat, and mouth. Sniffling, I wiped stray, rolling tears that began to fall down my cheeks. So add to the raw soreness of my feet, I now had bleary, eyes and tear-stained, flushed un-rosy-red cheeks. I’m an ugly crier; it’s true.

Skyping Mom and Dad was a rash, mistaken judgment call on my part. After complaining that I should never have come on this trip away from home, they told me to stop crying and, well, pull myself together. There were other girls who were struggling, probably, as well, to make friends and to feel happy and not tired. I just needed to seek out others to become friends with and to give myself and the experience a chance. After the call ended and feeling more lectured at than loved, I flopped on the skinny couch and fell into a deep sleep.

* * *

When I was around three years of age, my family moved from the Patterson house to a home about five minutes drive from the temple. It was a big decision, a big change, especially for toddler Katie. Apparently, I told everybody who asked that I was going to the “up-up-up house.” My parents didn’t know whether I called the new home this name because the home was built on the mountain or because it was a two-story house with a staircase, unlike the Patterson house, which was one story tall. But it became home to our little family, which grew from three to four at the birth of baby “Bapup” in November. It was the only place I ever really called home. My entire life surrounded that home: all my memories, all my experiences, all my hopes and dreams.

In my childhood, I loved to play pretend, imagining I was anywhere else but in the “up-up-up house.” My brother and I created a family of Barbies and GI-Joes where magic existed and literally anything was possible. Timus Thomas Barbae. A perfect, pretend world that never would exist.

* * *

I’ve never found myself to be particularly “motherly” or the “mom-type.” Playing with pretend babies and pretend Barbies and pretend dolls—easy peasy. But real babies—whole other matter. Babies cry when I hold them. Baby food looks disgusting. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I changed a diaper. And I look terrible in mom jeans.

I don’t remember what age when I thought, “I’m never going to have children. Like ever.” I just didn’t think then I could handle it, emotionally or mentally or spiritually. I feared that I would just break them, screw everything up, ruin these teeny tiny lives Father in Heaven had trusted me with. I feared failure, as a parent, as a mother, as a daughter of a Perfect Parent.

During my freshman year at BYU, there was a woman, middle thirties, in one of my classes. One day after class was finished, we walked out together, talking about school and life. She started talking to me about her separation she was going through with her husband and how that really frustrated her whole “baby hunger.” I was paying attention before, but when she said that phrase, my Lassie ears perked up. What in the world was baby hunger? Like straight up Jonathan Swift, whole Modest Proposal? Wasn’t that essay supposed to be bitingly satirical and not to be taken literally? So, being blunt as I am, I asked this fellow classmate what she meant by having baby hunger.

My classmate looked puzzlingly at me and replied that you know, really wanting to have a baby, and I just nodded my head and was like oh, right, of course. But I had no clue what she was talking about. Was this expression something Utah people said? I just felt like something was wrong with me, not wanting to have children at that very moment. But I’ve always been different growing up, I felt it must be another thing to add to the list of what makes me “special.” Not having baby hunger? Okay, yeah, that was me.

I confided in my mom once about my fear of rearing children, and she replied, “It’s different when it’s your own. It’s different.”

One day, like flipping a coin soaring in the air, I suddenly learned what it felt like. No, I didn’t want to eat a baby. And I didn’t want to kidnap or steal a baby. But there was this feeling inside me that said, hey, maybe doing this whole kid thing wouldn’t be so bad, you know? That’s my baby hunger, as a single, twenty-two-and-a-half-year-old woman, my desire for a future, for a family, and it’s good enough for me for now. I can look to my future home with only half an eye facing the future, and the other half facing the present.

“It’s different when it’s your own. It’s just different.”

* * *

Two hours or so later, after falling into a dreamless sleep in Rome, I woke to the sun beginning to set. In Provo during the winter, it always felt to me, a Las Vegan gal, that Provo skies decide to go to bed in a hurry. Once the sun decides it has done its work for the day, the sky switches immediately to moody blackness. However, the fragrant twilight of Rome seemed to continue almost endlessly. The amber light lingered longer, molding shadows that grew lengthy limbs. The sun, holding close her baby-pinks and lavender and ochre, took her time, as if smiling and wishing silent good-byes upon her children in the world below her ceaseless gaze. My window, with lacy trimmings and a wide, happy mouth, showed me this view with open arms, as if to beckon me “Behold this sight, little one.” And it was an awe-inspiring one, for me, in my isolation. Quiet solace entered my heart and cooled with gentle hand my feverish, perspiring brow.

This afternoon was our “free time,” the first time we really had in the course of our trip thus far to take a break and relax. My nap sucked up most the time, but there was still when I awoke to freshen up. Embolden to set out on my quest to meet new people and make friends, I knocked on the next door to my apartment, which ended up being the room of English professor and his family. Dr. Eastley was gone, but his wife, Alison, stood at the door. Uncomfortably, I mumbled that I was just saying hello to “the neighbors” and didn’t mean to bother anyone or to interrupt anything. Mrs. Eastley beamed and welcomed me in, saying that I wasn’t a bother and that I should sit down and talk with her.

* * *

Over a year after coming home from the study abroad, on Monday, 26 January 2015, I drove down 500 West in Provo, Utah, to my doctor’s appointment, scheduled at 1:40 P.M. An ordinary Monday, an ordinary appointment. I was experiencing a certain amount of pain, and there were some problems with my “time of the month.” Too long and too heavy, still, even after birth control. Mood swings. Sharp, piercing pain in my stomach. Nausea. Migraines. Difficulty sleeping. Hot and cold flashes at odd times. I sounded like the side effects of a commercial advertising some new pill.

The doctor came in, asking some pretty normal questions. I answered as best I could, explaining the situation. She asked some more health questions, and then she told me to rest on the table/chair so she could check some things. After she was done, she said she wanted me to get my blood tested. “Premature Ovarian Failure,” she said. “Or maybe not.”

“It’s different when it’s your own body, your own problems, your own infertility,” I thought.

I was in shock. Maybe it was thyroid problems, but she wanted to check for Premature Ovarian Failure, AKA Early Menopause. Only twenty-two years old! Menopause is for old people, right? I joked sometimes that I felt like I was going through early menopause, with all my random sweatiness and inability to sleep.

But it was possible that it would be impossible for me to ever bear children. I may never be able to become pregnant or have high difficulty becoming pregnant. I may never hold a little life in my arms.

Approximately 1% of women have Premature Ovarian Failure. I might be part of that 1%. Yet, 5% to 10% are able to become pregnant spontaneously. When I read that online, I thought immediately to immaculate conception. But the chances of become pregnant the “natural way” are slim.

Infertility. It sounded final, irreversible, like fate shoving its enigma down my throat. Shock, sobbing, shock, sobbing, shock. When I left the clinic, I seemed to go through those motions, stuck in an endless cycle.

“It’s different when it’s your own,” I thought. “It’s just different.”

* * *

Children, of the Eastley’s and those of our art professor, Dr. Jensen, and her husband, ran around the room and laughed with wild glee. Marian was to write in her journal, explained Mrs. Eastley. The girl holding the book wore glasses and two braids on the sides of her face, and there was something about her that reminded me of myself at that age. Next to her was another girl of the same age, a Jensen, with bright eyes and round, cheery face. Marian had finished her writing for the day, and the two girls were looking back at what Marian had written at home when she was in first grade—first grade! Now they were in fifth; first grade was such a long time ago. Apparently, there was a love interest, in this first grade class, and it was passionate. There was love involved, of course, which was gross, of course, but this lover, the topic of conversation was what the two girls talked of interminably and nothing else—this forgotten love of her young life that was ages ago—was it four years, really?—and this discussion, full of giggling and wide eyes, lasted the thirty minutes I spent in their current home for the week.

* * *

After traveling on the Continent, our study abroad group stayed most of our time in London. Our student flat was in Kilburn, about fifteen, twenty minutes out of the heart of central London. Two tube transfers, and you could be in the center of the world. I was assigned the Lea Valley Ward, about a two-and-a-half hour tube ride. This email is what I received from Brother Kahwa, the councilor in the bishopric, shortly after moving into my new home for the next three months:

The three of us were the BYU students. Sarah and I were called to serve in the primary, wrangling children and breaking up fights. These kids were vivacious, to say the least. There were many children, and the ward was quite diverse. People from all over the world—South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Philippines, Ireland, Scotland, Mexico, America, New Zealand—gathered in this humble little church outside of London to pray and to worship god. And, if you were ten years old, to punch one another.

The children, they were rascals, and I, overwhelmed. Overtime I learned their names, their personalities, their voices, their hearts. I became less overwhelmed and more heartfelt. As my love grew for them, I knew them better, and they grew to know me better, too. They weren’t always quiet, but there was a little more reverence. When I would play the piano, the children would want to sit with me and watch me play. Poor primary president, having to tell them, along with me reminding them, to please sit down.

* * *

Often I felt inadequate with conversation, although, while sitting at the kitchen table in the small apartment, much more comfortable talking with an adult than I did with the other students on the travel abroad who were my own age. Even as a child, I never seemed to fit in particularly well with kids in my age group, my class (both at primary in Church and at school), or dance and sports activities. In a body of a frustrated child was a soul, it seemed, of an adult.

Despite my feelings of inadequacy at conversation topics, and while the two girls gleefully prattled on about Ms. First-Grade’s class and the other students, Mrs. Eastley and I talked of nothing out of the ordinary but only of our extraordinary day, full of art and history and culture, even if there were lots of bodies about and the crowds—weren’t some tourists just awful!—but, oh, the art’s beauty—oh, it was stunning, wasn’t it?—seeing these murals up close, by Michelangelo and all those other guys who were artists back then, even if passing by was a bit hurried at times and sometimes more forcefully shoved along, they were just so real and so touchable, and your whole life, you see these pictures in books and in movies, but it feels, or maybe, seems so different to see them, the art, in real life, in reality.

This topic, of our day and of the art, came naturally. Mrs. Eastley was a kind woman and easy to talk to. We also talked of God and the sacredness of temples, in contrast to the feeling that we both felt in the Vatican. A place, renowned as well as respected for very legitimate reasons, seemed to lack for us that sacred feeling of the Spirit. In my head, I thought about how, a few mere hours ago, I had been sitting alone in my room crying, while now I, laughing and talking as if a natural at it, was in quite a different state of mind and person. It seemed easy now, or at least easier, than the thought of human contact and interaction had been in my state of previous bemoan-ment, rather than being in the moment and enjoying myself over a wooden table in a kitchen in Italy. Italy!

* * *

Mansions in heaven—that always seems to come up when we talk about returning to our home in heaven. We see this idea expressed in the scriptures. D&C 98:18: “Let not your hearts be troubled; for in my Father’s house are many mansions, and I have prepared a place for you; and where my Father and I am, there ye shall be also.” D&C 81:6: “And if thou art faithful unto the end thou shalt have a crown of immortality, and eternal life in the mansions which I have prepared in the house of my Father.” John 14:2: “In my father’s house are many mansions.”

We even see mansions being prepared for us in hymns. In Hymn 136 “I Know that My Redeemer Lives,” we learn that Christ “lives my mansion to prepare. He lives to bring me safely there.” Hymn 117 “Come unto Jesus” says, “Come unto Jesus; He’ll surely hear you, If you in meekness plead for his love. Oh, know you not that angels are near you From brightest mansions above?”

The mansion, our rightful reward, our motivation for doing what’s right on earth so one day we can have a three trillion dollar house with stereos and computers and movie theatres and personal gyms. Right?

This idea of mansions in heaven never made sense to me. The pearly gate of Peter locks out the unrighteous, while those righteous who are allowed to pass the golden roadblock enter Heavenly Hamptons, zip code 810000. Mansions up and down the lane. An upstairs, downstairs, Downtown Abbey scenario where the less righteous are forced to be slaves for eternity while the Celestial are blessed and waited on hand and foot.

But I feel like our home in heaven is not going to be a bourgeoisie v. proletariat, us v. them, sort of situation. Perhaps mansions is said because our brains cannot imagine how blessed our future homes could be. Even the chorus of Hymn 223 “Have I Done Any Good?” says, “Then wake up and do something more Than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, A blessing of duty and love.” Yes, we will be rewarded and have a heavenly home, but we must do something. We must do good to others and share joy. It is our call, our purpose. Not only is it a blessing, but also serving others is a duty, a responsibility.

I like to think of our so-called mansions more like a place where we will continue to learn and to grow, to become more like our Savior. It may not be exactly perfect, because we are imperfect, but we and our homes in heaven, in the process, become perfected.

* * *

One Sunday, the primary children of the Lea Valley Ward were preparing for their upcoming Primary Program. They had practiced so diligently, working very hard to make their parents proud. And to have treats, of course, afterwards. The music conductor was a senior missionary sister from the United States. She often came off as frazzled, but she really did love the music and the children, especially the little ones. Again, she reminded them all to be quiet and good, without much avail. Then she had them sing “A Child’s Prayer.” It’s such a classic, and probably every child who has ever been to primary knows the words to this song by heart. But as they sang, a reverence and a peace rushed like wild flames of fire into my heart. I felt loved. I felt wanted. I felt peace. I felt at home.

* * *

Dr. Eastley entered the front door, and I stood, the conversation having seemed to come to a close with Mrs. Eastley, said my rushed good-byes and quickly stepped out of the room. But I had done it! I had talked with someone; I had made a friend. In this tower of apartment buildings, I had made a friend. On this level of several rooms, it ended up being only my room and the Eastley’s room as part of the study abroad group.

* * *

The primary had so many different personalities. Osawee was a feisty, young boy. He had bright, big eyes the color of amber. His family was from Africa originally, though he was born in the UK, and his mother was often sick and looked so tired. Her son would run around in circles and still have energy, and he was about three and a half, of course. During the primary songs, he would sing the loudest. During the primary program, I think I could hear Osawee over everyone else in the war choir. During his speaking part, he said that he loved his parents, articulately and loudly into the microphone, causing a reverberation to ring shrilly. The adults laughed while covering their ears. He liked to sit in my lap and tell me stories, using his hands with big swooping motions and his expressive eyes often said more than his limited vocabulary could express. Soon before I left, he came up to me confidently and declared, “I love you.”

And I replied, smiling and holding back tears, “I love you, too, Osawee.”

Another little girl, quiet with solemn eyes and spiraled hair, sat on my lap the last Sunday before I left and asked, “Must you go back to America?”

I explained that my home was there and my family was there, too. They missed me terribly.

She continued, “But you can stay with my family in our flat!”

No response, no answer whispered from my lips, since I just hugged her tightly, so she couldn’t see the tears that flowed down my face.

* * *

I feel like no one will ever want me now, if I cannot bear children. Who would want something broken? Who could love something barren?

My best friend wrote me a letter after I told her that I may never be able to have children. Here’s a section of the card: “I just want you to know that anyone worth loving isn’t going to care about whether or not you can do backflips or whether or not you’re fluent in Urdu, or whether or not you have the best dance moves in the zip code (which you do), or whether or not you can have kids. They’ll just love you because you’re you.”

* * *

The beginning and the end seemed seamless, as I waited in my seat on British Airways going home after my study abroad. When I flew out to London, we left in the early morning from New York City and arrived in Heathrow in the dark eventide. Now, flying home to the States, I left late afternoon to arrive home in the evening. Sun sets; sun rises. Constant, yet distant. Eternal, yet ethereal.

Life is one continuous sunrise, one continuous sunset, an experience that is both translucent and transcendent, simultaneously.

When I bake pies or cook curry with my best friend, there always seems to be just an extra pinch of coriander or another teaspoon of garlic or another fourth a cup of sugar to add for taste. Like adding extra ingredients when cooking an old, familiar recipe, I felt like there were bits and pieces, pinches and tablespoons, of my heart, of my home, everywhere. Whether I had a piece of Kilburn or a pinch of Provo or a spoonful of hometown, or even remembering myself playing the drum or hearing the words “I love you” or being held by a loved one while I sobbed over sorrows and pains—all these ingredients and experiences and memories came together to make up my own version of my heavenly homes—imperfect, but still homes.

I may never have children. I may never marry. I may never have a family. But I can have homes wherever I go. I will one day be able to live with Osawee in our homes above and hug him and say, “I love you so much, little one.” Maybe then, one day in my heavenly home above up there somewhere, I will give life to my own dear ones who can play with Osawee and all the other children and people that I love so much.

It really didn’t matter which sunset or sunrise came first or which one lasted longer because when the cycles were completed, I would be home.


 

Works Cited

Brady, Tara. “Vatican forced to tighten security at the Sistine Chapel after pickpockets target huge crowds of tourists.” DailyMail.com. 21 May 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2015.

“Vatican.” http://www.alphadicionary.com. n.p., n.d. Web. 18. Jan. 2015.

Various Meanings and Representations of the the Virgin Eleousa During the Byzantine Empire

There are multiple representations and titles of Mary, the mother of Christ. Such representations include the Hodegetria (i.e., the one who shows the way), the Regina angelorum (i.e., a regal Virgin Mary accompanied by angels),[1] and the Virgin Eleousa (i.e., tenderness or mercy), in which she is shown holding the Christ child and pressing her cheek against his. While drawing attention to her son, the two become cocooned in a reciprocal, cherished bond of love between mother and son.[2]

The title of Eleousa uniquely describes Mary’s qualities rather than merely stating an action or an event. While this title differs from the others, people interpreted the meaning of this icon in various ways during the Byzantine era. Some of these meanings included the Virgin Eleousa icon as the mother of God; as the mother to all humanity; as a figure foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ; as a sorrowful mother at Christ’s death; and as an advocate or intercessor. Additionally, Eleousa with St. Stephen represented the triumph over iconoclasm, and Eleousa with symbolic stars represented Mary’s virginity and relation to the Trinity. This paper focuses on the importance of the Virgin Eleousa in Byzantine society; even though Mary was viewed politically as a protector of the capital, the Virgin Eleousa was venerated by religious leaders and citizens of the empire because the icon represented her tender, merciful side with which people connected.

Eleousa as spiritual protector of Constantinople
Constantinople, also known as “Queen of Cities,” was the religious and political center of the Byzantine empire.[3] The state regulated the production of art rather than art being controlled by artistic guilds, suggesting that art could work for nationalistic purposes. Additionally, Christian images were even considered powerful because, according to various accounts, art could supposedly heal viewers who were sick, protect those in need, and even hurt those who mocked it.[4] Therefore, Byzantine art, most often being controlled by the state or wealthy patrons in the capital, influenced how the viewer perceived the power of Christianity as well as the empire.

Figure 1. The Virgin Glykophilousa, Triglia, Bithynia, thirteenth century.

Figure 1. The Virgin Glykophilousa, Triglia, Bithynia, thirteenth century.

The leaders of Constantinople adopted a woman, Mary, as the protector of the city,[5] and military leaders devoted themselves to her for protection from intruding armies. Alexios I Comnenos, who was devoted to the Virgin, is told to have waited to fight against the Norman invaders because he wanted to see Mary appear at the Church of the Virgin Blachernai before going into battle.[6] Coming from the same iconographic tradition, Virgin Glykophilousa is similar with the Eleousa type, just with different names that mean “sweet-loving” or “merciful” Mary, in that order (Fig. 1).

[7] The inscription on the icon Virgin Glykophilousa reads ΜΗ(ΤΗ)Ρ Θ(ΕΟ)Υ Η ΕΠΙCΚΕΨΙC, which essentially stresses Mary’s role as protector of the people.[8] Hence, the Virgin was not only a political protector of Constantinople but also an important religious figure.

Eleousa as Mother of God and mother of humanity
Even before the Council of Ephesus in AD 431, people were significantly devoted to the Virgin.[9] As Theotokos, which is Greek for “Christ-bearer,” Mary was the considered the person who bore Christ, but the term avoided anything about who she was as as person and did not imply any other relationship between the two. During the sixth century, there were only a few images of Christ being held by Mary.[10] It was not until after iconoclasm that the motherhood of Mary was promoted and became explicit in texts and images.[11] In the Church of the Buckle (Tokali Kilise), there is an early example of the Eleousa icon that is also commonly called Mary, the Mother of God (Fig. 2).

tokali kilise

Figure 2. Virgin Eleousa, Göreme, Turkey, early tenth century.

This church, a cave that was carved into the soft, volcanic stone, was a sanctuary and a large monastic center in the Byzantine Cappadocia, which is now central Turkey. Surprisingly, this icon is one of the few that actually survives from the early tenth century, and this image would become standard, appearing more often during the Byzantine empire. In the niche in the sanctuary corridor, the fresco icon of the Virgin Eleousa is shown.[12] The Virgin holding Christ closely against here, and both of their checks touch affectionately. We see Christ’s arms around Mary’s neck. The image is tender and is supposed to evoke an empathetic reaction.[13] While this image is emotionally charged, it is clearly an iconic type, meaning the image was meant for private and communal prayer and devotion.[14]

Second, the Virgin Elousa has also been seen as a mother to humanity, which places less emphasis on the divine characteristic of Mary. Using the same example as in the previous paragraph, the fresco icon of the Virgin Eleousa has been seen as representing motherhood in general because she is eye-to-eye with the viewer (Fig. 2). She was called the mother of all because she was considered the skenoma, or the abode, for Christ. As a mother to all humans, she possessed a rare quality of affection and devotion—connected to her maternal feelings and character.[15] The Virgin Eleousa could be seen as an Eve figure since she becomes the mother of all those who enter the Christian Church and are born again.

Eleousa as a figure foreshadowing Christ’s sacrifice
This section will analyze the Eleousa as a figure foreshadowing Christ’s sacrifice by comparing the large icon of Our Lady of Tolga, which is called Tolga I or Tolgysky I, and the small icon of Our Lady of Tolga, which is also known as Tolga II or Tolgsky II (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4).

Figure 3. A large icon of Our Lady Tolga (so-called Tolgsky I or Tolga I), Yaroslavl, Russia, last quarter of the thirteenth century.

Figure 3. A large icon of Our Lady Tolga (so-called Tolgsky I or Tolga I), Yaroslavl, Russia, last quarter of the thirteenth century.

Figure 4. A small icon of Our Lady of Tolga (so-called Tolgsky II or Tolga II), Yaroslavl, Russia, around 1314.

Figure 4. A small icon of Our Lady of Tolga (so-called Tolgsky II or Tolga II), Yaroslavl, Russia, around 1314.

While these icons were created in Russia, it is believed that the icons were influenced by the Theotokos of Vladimir (Fig. 5). Both icons were created in the Tolga convent near Yaroslavl, which is how both received their nicknames. The large icon shows the Virgin Eleousa seated on a throne with the Christ child, grabbing his mother’s neck, on her left knee. Above the throne, two angels are shown with hidden hands. The Virgin Eleousa shows a sophisticated, direct expression and is considered to be one of the most emotional Russian icons from the thirteenth century.[16]

Figure 5. Theotokos of Vladimir (also known as Our Lady Vladimir, Vladimir Mother of God, or Virgin of Vladimir), Moscow, Russia, 1130.

Figure 5. Theotokos of Vladimir (also known as Our Lady Vladimir, Vladimir Mother of God, or Virgin of Vladimir), Moscow, Russia, 1130.

In contrast to the large icon of Our Lady Tolga, the small icon has significant changes that emphasize the Eleousa as a figure foreshadowing Christ’s sacrifice. Legend has it that the Virgin miraculously appeared to the Bishop Prokhor during the same time as the creation date of this icon, 1314. Here no throne is depicted, and the Christ child is sitting instead of standing, as in the large icon. Mary’s face has a much more mournful expression, which is seen with strong lines. The texture becomes more lush, while white coloring on the figures, such as on the forehead, neck, eyes, nose, and chin, emphasize the connection between mother and child. The smaller icon is considered to be more intense and dynamic than the larger icon because we see a pitiable Virgin Eleousa lamenting the fact that her innocent baby will one day die and sacrifice his life for all humanity.

Additionally, Mary’s hands are in a different position, which are seen as holding the Christ Child even closer to her than as seen in the larger icon.[17] Therefore, the later, smaller version of the Our Lady Tolga seems to present a more powerful image of the Virgin Eleousa, who clearly loves her son and suffers at the thought of his sacrifice that will one day occur.

Eleousa as sorrowful mother at Christ’s death
After the iconoclastic period, Byzantine artists added a new subject, the Lamentation of the Virgin. The earliest Lamentation scenes come from the eleventh century where we see Mary lamenting over the body of Christ, which occurs after the deposition of the cross but before the placement in the tomb.

The Lamentation scene is not described in the canonical Gospel texts, but it is described in Byzantine hymns and sermons as well as in the Apocrypha. In the ninth century, George of Nicomedia wrote what he imagined the Virgin to say: “I am now holding him without breath whom lately I took in my arms as my own dearest one.”[18] In the fresco of Lamentations over Christ’s Body from the St. Panteleimon, Mary is shown in a kind of kneeling or sitting position with her son in her lap (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. The Lamentation over Christ’s body, Nerezi, Serbia, twelfth century.

Figure 6. The Lamentation over Christ’s body, Nerezi, Serbia, twelfth century.

Byzantine artists and citizens would have connected the lamenting Mary with the Eleousa type, since both depict Mary with Christ in a loving embracing and touching cheek-to-cheek. The connection between both is even more apparent in the literary writings of the time of what Mary said: “I raised you in a mother’s arms . . . . Now I raise you up in the same arms, but lying as the dead.”[19] Therefore, even though the Christ is no longer a child but an adult man, Mary is still seen as the Virgin Eleousa in the Lamentation portrayals.

Eleousa as intercessor
During the Byzantine period, the Virgin Eleousa was often seen as an intercessor or advocate.[20] Mary’s role was an important one on behalf of humanity, which probably even furthered the popularity of icons depicting the Virgin with Christ child. Additionally, this cult of the Virgin could have created more depictions of an affectionate relationship between Mary, as the intercessor, and Christ, as the judge.[21] In connection to the depictions of Mary being joyful over the birth of Christ and being sorrowful as foreshadowing the death of Christ, the emotional element of the icons would enhance the role of Virgin as intercessor.[22]

Byzantine people would feel connected to the Virgin in her role as intercessor because they would probably hope that her sensibility would have her advocate on their behalf. Liz James describes the icon of Mary in the Church of Pangia Arakiotissa in Cyprus as a Virgin Eleousa, even though there is only Mary and no Christ depicted in the same area (Fig 7).

Figure 7. The Virgin Eleusoa, Lagoudera, Cyprus, twelfth century.

Figure 7. The Virgin Eleusoa, Lagoudera, Cyprus, twelfth century.

However, Mary’s head is tilted, as we have seen so often with the Virgin Eleousa, and Christ is shown on the other side (Fig. 8).[23] Most importantly, the depiction reveals a tender and merciful Mary advocating on behalf of humanity.

Figure 8. Christ Antiphonitis, Lagoudera, Cyprus, twelfth century.

Figure 8. Christ Antiphonitis, Lagoudera, Cyprus, twelfth century.

In this icon of Virgin Eleousa as intercessor, the text written describes the conversation between Mary and Christ. While Mary’s left hand rests on her chest, her left hand, which is covered, presents the scroll with the petition to her son. The words of Mary are in black, while Christ’s are in red. Additionally, the names of neither Christ nor Mary are explicitly mentioned, but context reveals who says which lines:

  • [Christ]            What do you ask, Mother?
  • [Mary]             The salvation of mortals.
  • [Christ]            They have provoked me to anger.
  • [Mary]             Be compassionate, my Son.
  • [Christ]            But they have not repented.
  • [Mary]             And preserve for them your grace.
  • [Christ]            Atonement is possible.
  • [Mary]             I give you thanks, O Logos.[24]

Here we see a dialogue[25] with a vengeful, angry Christ and a benevolent, sympathetic Mary. Her pleas appear to convince Christ that his suffering and grace is sufficient to save imperfect souls. Icons were believed to be performative because of the rituals associated with them and because of the miracles that occurred through the icons themselves.[26] With this depiction of the Virgin, the icon is performative, since the Virgin Eleousa performs as an advocate on behalf of humanity by speaking with her son.

Eleousa with symbolic stars, representing Mary’s virginity and connection to the trinity
Icons sometimes depicted three crosses, whether on icons showing Mary or saints. While depicting only one cross would represent Christ’s sacrifice, three crosses would be symbolic of the Trinity. This correlation could be why Catholics cross themselves in order to show their faith in the Trinity as well as draw strength from the cross of Christ. During the middle Byzantine period, sometimes the crosses were replaced with stars and could continue to be symbols of the Trinity, which would become even more popular in the late and post-Byzantine periods. Many variations in how the stars were depicted developed during this later time (Fig. 9).

Figure 9. Stars, late Byzantine period.

Figure 9. Stars, late Byzantine period.

However, these stars have been also associated as symbols of Mary’s virginity—before, during, and after the birth of Christ. This symbolism could be connected to how Byzantine hymns and chants described Mary’s virginity as luminous and how “she is exalted in astral symbolism as the star that heralds the sun.”[27] Therefore, the stars could be symbolic of Mary’s virginity, which would be emphasized by showing the Christ Child on Mary’s lap.

Unfortunately, there is no longer an icon of Mary and the Christ Child with the stars that survives. However, George Galavaris uses the example of Our Lady of the Don, which shows Eleousa and Christ Child, that may have been created by Theophanes the Greek during the fourteenth century. Galavaris uses this Eleousa icon to show a comparison of an ekphrasis, or literary description, that John Eugenikos published in the fifteenth century of a similar-looking icon that had the stars shown (Fig. 10).

Figure 10. Our Lady of the Don, Theophanes the Greek, Moscow, Russia, the fourteenth century.

Figure 10. Our Lady of the Don, Theophanes the Greek, Moscow, Russia, the fourteenth century.

It is possible that this ekphrasis could be describing an Hodgetrai type or a Glykophilousa type actually, since it is difficult to tell based on the description. Nonetheless, Eugenikos writes that “the three shining stars appearing on the forehead and the shoulders should not be considered as having a secondary significance. They are symbols of the Grace of the luminous Trinity which as soon as it dwelt in her caused the One to be revealed from here.”[28] Thus, these stars could be symbolic of not only Mary’s virginity but also Mary’s relation to the Trinity.

Eleousa icon with St. Stephen the Younger, representing triumph over iconclasm
The monastery of St. Neophytos, or Enkleistra meaning “place of reclusion,” is located in Cyprus, and on its west wall, a frieze shows twelve saints, including St. Stephen the Younger as the twelfth saint depicted (Fig. 11).[29]

Figure 11. St. Stephen the Younger, Tala, Cyprus, twelfth century.

Figure 11. St. Stephen the Younger, Tala, Cyprus, twelfth century.

His name is inscribed on both sides of his halo, and he is painted at a lower level than the other saints because of how the cave bulges. This St. Stephen the Younger has brown hair and a pointed beard, a halo with rows of pearls, an ochre tunic, a scapular with strips, crosslets, and rosettes, a mantle with cords that hangs down around his knees, and a black belt with rosettes.

Here we see St. Stephen holding a depiction of an Eleousa icon as well as a scroll both in his left hand. The inscription on the scroll says the following: “If a man does not reverence our Lord Jesus Christ and his spotless Mother depicted on an icon, let him be anathema.”[30] The Christ child grabs his mother’s neck and extends his right foot while the left foot’s sole is seen. Both halos on Christ and Mary are gilded, while Christ’s halo has a cross. In comparison to the other saints, St. Stephen the Younger was a martyr during the Byzantine Iconclastic period and is the only one shown holding an icon. It is possible that this portrayal of the Eleousa icon was meant to represent another icon also in this monastery.[31] However, choosing an iconophile saint implies that the artists, who would mostly likely also be inconphiles, used the Eleousa and St. Stephen the Younger together to represent the triumph of venerated, religious icons over the destruction of iconoclasm.

Conclusion
The Virgin Mary was venerated by citizens, no matter their socioeconomic status, and was believed to be able to protect the great Byzantine empire and the city of Constantinople. However, that was not her only purpose, and the Virgin Eleousa was revered by many because viewers saw the mother of Christ as the mother of humanity and an advocate on their behalf. While showing her incredible selflessness and love towards the Christ child, the face of the Virgin Eleousa portrays a knowing mother who knows the trials her perfect son would one day face for the salvation of the world.

When this icon was presented with St. Stephen the Younger, it represented the triumph over iconoclasm. Additionally, seeing stars and this icon together represented not only Mary’s virginity but also the trinity. Although the mother of Christ was seen as a political protector, especially in Constantinople, people also revered the Virgin Eleousa as an icon of reverence and sincere religious belief, representing beauty and spiritual truth.

ENDNOTES

[1] Robert P. Bergman, “The Earliest Eleousa: A Coptic Ivory in the Walters Art Gallery,” The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 48 (1990): 46–47.

[2] Cecily Hennessy, Images of Children in Byzantium (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2008), 202.

[3] Annabel Jane Wharton, “Tenderness and hegemony: exporting the Virgin Eleousa,” World art: Themes of unity in diversity, edited by Irving Lavin (University Park: Pennsylvania Stat University Press, 1989), 71.

[4] Hennessy, Images of Children . . ., 72.

[5] Although never officially declared as the spiritual protector of the city of Rome, the Virgin Mary played a significant role for Romans, as well. (See John Osborne, “Images of the Mother of God in Early Medieval Rome,” Icon and Word: The Power of Images in Byzantium, ed. by Antony Eastmond and Liz James [Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2003]: 135–136.)

[6] Wharton, “Tenderness . . .,” 73.

[7] Pamela Z. Blum, “A Madonna and Four Saints from Angers: An Archeological Approach to an Iconographical Problem,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin, 34, no. 3 (Winter 1973): 48.

[8] “Virgin Glykophilousa (‘The Visit’),” Byzantine Museum, accessed November 30, 2015, http://www.ebyzantinemuseum.gr/?i=bxm.el.exhibit&id=44.

[9] Bergman, “The Earliest Eleousa . . .,” 46.

[10] Ioli Kalavrezou, “The maternal side of the Virgin.” Mother of God: Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine art (New York City: Abbeville Publishing Group, 2000), 41.

[11] Ibid., 42.

[12] Wharton, “Tenderness . . .,” 74

[13] Bergman, “The Earliest Eleousa . . .,” 48.

[14] Kalavrezou, “The maternal side of the Virgin . . .,” 43.

[15] Ibid., 42.

[16] Viktor Lazarev, Russian icon painting from its origins to the beginning of the 14th century, accessed November 22, 2015, http://www.icon-art.info.

[17] Ibid.

 [18] Henry Maguire, Art and Eloquence in Byzantium (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 102.

[19] Ibid., 102–103.

 [20] Images of the Virgin Paraklesis, or the Virgin as Intercessor, are sometimes also labeled as the Virgin Eleousa. (See Nancy Patterson Ševčenko, The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, s.v. “Virgin Paraklesis,” [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005], accessed November 29, 2015, http://www.oxfordreference.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/view /10.1093/acref/ 9780195046526.001.0001/acref-9780195046526-e-5759?rskey=u60AVV&result=7.)

[21] Bergman, “The Earliest Eleousa . . .,” 52.

[22] Henry Maguire, “The Depiction of Sorrow in Middle Byzantine Art,” Dumbarton Oaks 31 (1997): 166.

[23] Robert S. Nelson, “Image and Inscription: Please for Salvation in Spaces of Devotion,” Art and Text in Byzantine Culture, ed. Liz James (Cambridge: Cambridge Un. Press, 2007), 112.

[24] Ibid., 112.

[25] Dialogues were considered to be “a well-established rhetorical device of Byzantine homilies” (See Robert S. Nelson, “Image and Inscription: Please for Salvation in Spaces of Devotion,” Art and Text in Byzantine Culture, ed. Liz James [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007], 112.)

[26] Averil Cameron, Byzantine Matters (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 84.

[27] George Galvararis, Colours, Symbols, Worship: The Mission of the Byzantine Artist (London: The Pindar Press, 2012), 136.

[28] Ibid., 139.

[29] Cyril Mango and Ernest J. W. Hawkins, “The Hermitage of St. Neophytos and its Wall Paintings” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 20 (1966): 121.

 [30] Ibid., 156.

[31] Alexander Kazhdan and Nancy Patterson Ševčenko, The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, edited by Alexander P. Kazhdan, s.v. “Stephen the Younger” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), accessed November 29, 2015, http://www.oxfordreference.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/view/10.1093/acref /9780195046526.001.0001/acref-9780195046526-e-5135?rskey=u60AVV&result=16.

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Bergman, Robert P. “The Earliest Eleousa: A Coptic Ivory in the Walters Art Gallery.” The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 48 (1990): 37–56.

Blum, Pamela Z. “A Madonna and Four Saints from Angers: An Archeological Approach to an Iconographical Problem.” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin, 34, no. 3 (Winter 1973). 30–57.

Carr, Annemarie Weyl. “Donors in the Frames of Icons: Living in the Borders of Byzantine Art.” Gesta 45, no. 2 (2002): 189–198.

Cameron, Averil. Byzantine Matters. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.

Chatzidakis, Nano. “A Fourteenth-Century Icon of the Virgin Eleousa in the Byzantine

Museum of Athens.” Byzantine East, Latin West: art-historical studies in honor of Kurt Weitzmann. Ed. Doula Mouriki. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Cotsonis, John. “The Virgin and Justinian on Seals of the ‘Ekklesiekdikoi’ of Hagia Sophia.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 56 (2002): 41–55.

Galvararis, George. Colours, Symbols, Worship: The Mission of the Byzantine Artist. London: The Pindar Press, 2012.

Hennessy, Cecily. Images of Children in Byzantium. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2008.

Kalavrezou, Ioli. “The maternal side of the Virgin.” Mother of God: Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine art. Ed. Maria Vassilaki. New York City: Abbeville Publishing Group, 2000.

Kazhdan, Alexander and Nancy Patterson Ševčenko. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. s.v. “Stephen the Younger.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Accessed November 29, 2015. http://www.oxfordreference.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/view/10.1093/acref/9780195046526.001.0001/acref-9780195046526-e-5135?rskey=u60AVV&result=16.

Lazarev, Viktor. Russian icon painting from its origins to the beginning of the 14th century. Accessed November 22, 2015. http://www.icon-art.info.

Maguire, Henry. Art and Eloquence in Byzantium. Princeton: Princeton Un. Press, 1981.

Maguire, Henry. “The Depiction of Sorrow in Middle Byzantine Art.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 31 (1977): 123–174.

Mango, Cyril and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. “The Hermitage of St. Neophytos and its Wall Paintings.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 20 (1966): 119–206.

Nelson, Robert S. “Image and Inscription: Please for Salvation in Spaces of Devotion.” Art and Text in Byzantine Culture. Ed. Liz James. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Nersessian, Sirarpie der. “A Psalter and New Testament Manuscript at Dumbarton Oaks.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 19 (1965): 155–183.

Osborne, John. “Images of the Mother of God in Early Medieval Rome.” Icon and Word: The Power of Images in Byzantium. Ed. Antony Eastmond and Liz James. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Co., 2003.

Ševčenko, Nancy Patterson. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. s.v. “Virgin Paraklesis.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. Accessed November 29, 2015. http://www.oxfordreference.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/view/10.1093/acref/9780195046526.001.0001/acref-9780195046526-e-5759?rskey=u60AVV&result=7.

Talbot, Alice-Mary. “Epigrams of Manuel Philes on the Theotokos Tes Peges and its Art.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 48 (1994): 135–165.

“Virgin Glykophilousa (‘The Visit’).” Byzantine Museum. Accessed November 30, 2015. http://www.ebyzantinemuseum.gr/?i=bxm.el.exhibit&id=44.

Wharton, Annabel Jane. “Tenderness and hegemony: exporting the Virgin Eleousa.” Worldart: Themes of unity in diversity: acts of the XXVIth International Congress of the History of Art. Edited by Irving Lavin. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989.

Agnes Block—Mother Figure, Property Owner, and Working Woman: Comparing Netherlandish Female and Male Artists’ Family Portraits in the Seventeenth Century

Introduction
Agnes Block[1] was an eminent paper artist, illustrator, horticulturalist, and patron of the arts in Amsterdam.[2] In 1649, Block married for the first time to Hans de Wollf, who was a silk merchant. She reportedly studied, read, drew, painted, and sculpted, and when she drew, she preferred flower beds and arbors because they were important to her.[3] In fact, Joost van den Vondel wrote poems about how she could draw and paint beautifully.[4] Jan Weenix painted a portrait of Block and her family titled Agnes Block, Sybrand de Flines and two children in the outdoor courtyard Vijverhof,[5] presenting Block, her second husband, and two children (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Jan Weenix, Agnes Block, Sybrand de Flines and two children in the outdoor courtyard Vijverhof, 1674 (?).

Scholars argue concerning who these children are, since no offspring resulted from either of Block’s marriages. It is important to consider how portraits present perspectives of the individuals portrayed, sending a message about their socioeconomic background, elegance, and family to the viewers. Although these children could be Block’s stepchildren or her niece and nephew, the children could be allegorical of Block’s ability to be not only a mother figure but also a working woman and property owner. The portrayal of Block and her family portrait subverts societal expectations of women and the identity of the family, which are also portrayed in other family portraits of Netherlandish male and female artists.

Block’s Family Portrait
The date of this family portrait is debated. Albert Blanken believed the painting was created much later in Block’s life.[6] In contrast, Catharina Van de Graft, the biographer of Block, argues that the painting was created in 1674 because Block married de Flines, who was a silk merchant like her first husband, during this year; therefore, this portrait could be commemorative of their wedding. On the actual portrait, the third number of the year is not readable, explaining the differences in scholarly opinions.[7] Block’s second husband had two daughters from a previous marriage: Elizabeth (1662–1717) and Anna (1661–1713). However, in 1674, the two daughters would have been twelve and thirteen years old, which is older than the two children shown here (Fig. 1). Nevertheless, if Jan Weenix did paint the portrait at a later date, it would still be problematic because the girls would have either been depicted as adults or shown as prepubescent teenagers, not children.[8]

While the children could be de Flines’ daughters, the portrait could be depicting a girl and a boy rather than two girls. If this is the case, then the children are probably not de Flines’, since he only had two daughters. It is possible that the children are a nephew and a niece of either Agnes Block or de Flines.[9] Block, not de Flines, determined who would become heirs and continue her legacy; however, throughout her life, Block struggled with creating a will, changing it over ten times. During this time, family members entered and fell out of favor with their aunt. In her will from 1694, Block required that her heir must purchase Vijverhof, the property she owned with the garden depicted in the family portrait (Fig. 1). However, after Block died on 20 April 1704, none of the cousins wanted to buy it. As a result, Vijverhof was sold, the gardens disappeared, and the house destroyed in 1813.[10]

Although the children’s identity are unknown, we see an amalgamation of Block’s material successes. Block, a skilled botanist and breeder of rare and exotic plants, was the first person to successfully grow the foreign fruit of pineapple in the Dutch Republic. In the left hand corner of the painting, a spiky, squat pineapple is depicted in addition to a cactus.[11] Her plants and flowers in Vijverhof came from all over the world—some seeds came from America or Asia. Educated male visitors, including a professor of botany and a German physician, observed her gardens.[12] In the painting, we see poinsettia-looking flowers with long red leaves and smaller white blossoms on either side of the sitting child. In the background, an orange tree and a pomegranate tree are shown. During the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, domestic scenes were commonly depicted in art because “the domestic interior . . . was a reflection of Christian principles in an ordered setting and the roles of women in the home.”[13] Additionally, Laurinda S. Dixon argues, “[D]omesticity was a moral imperative imposed on women from without.”[14] This portrait is one of the few from the seventeenth century that portrays the client’s yard rather than inside of the home, subverting the traditional portrait and expectations of women. Block is not portrayed as being amoral, even though the scene is portrayed outside. Therefore, the background of the portrait could represent what Vijverhof actually looked like.[15]

When the painting was created could influence whether or not this is an actual portrayal of how Block’s property looked. After her first husband’s death in February 1670, Block bought her own land along the River Vecht in July of that same year. The beautiful Vijverhof included an orangery, buildings, orchards, gardens, and areas of water. However, the work was delayed in 1672 because of war. We do not know how much of Block’s property was completed or when the construction began again. If the painting was dated 1674—a mere two years after work was stopped, it is possible that Vijverhof was still not finished. Block’s home was fortunately spared from the damages of war, but her flower beds were empty, and her joy was marred by broken statues in the spring of 1674.[16] If some of Block’s gardens were not constructed or were damaged from the war, the painting could represent what Block hoped the rest of her property would look like one day.[17] Just as the background of the portrait could represent an imagined, hoped-for Vijverhof, the children in the portrait could also represent hoped-for children.

With Block’s property, works of art, and plants all portrayed, it could seem that the inclusion of family would make the painting overflow with figures and details. However, we see two children, a husband, and a wife, representing what was expected for a “traditional” family unit. De Jongh argues Block adopted the view that imperfect nature had to be perfected by human ingenuity.[18] We see Block’s ingenuity here at work to create a perfect image of herself. Block presents herself as a woman who could have it all, so she would be seen as the hard-working, independent woman, the devoted wife, and the caring mother—or mother figure—even if she never had any children of her own.

The Perception of Widows
The mystery children in the portrait could represent Block’s hope of the future or her mourning of the past she never had. Block was approximately forty-five years old when she remarried. Dating the portrait at 1674 would suggest the possibilities of the future—a new marriage, a new life, and a new legacy. Menopause can affect women at various ages; although we do not know when Block experienced menopause, some women can bear children in their forties. By extension of the portrait, it could suggest the hope “which children were to fulfil in the future”[19] or the hope of conception. On the other hand, dating the portrait around 1694 could represent the fact that the elderly Block knew, near the end of her life, she would never have any children of her own.

Jacob Cats’s Houwelyck, which was published originally in 1625 and was the second bestseller after the Bible, discusses the stages of a woman’s life and includes a chapter on widowhood. This book represents commonly held beliefs and opinions of the day. In the Dutch Republic, portraits of elderly women often focused on their spirituality. Widows were expected to bridle their passions because the elderly were expected to be better at controlling themselves than the younger generation.[20] However, in Block’s family portrait, Block—although not a young woman—is a widow; nevertheless, she is not portrayed as overly pious (e.g., she is not depicted as praying or reading scripture). Additionally, widows were examples not only to young women who were about to marry but also to married women on how to interact with their husbands and rear their children.[21] The words widow and mentor were synonymous in the perspective of the Dutch, yet Block would not have completely fit that mold. Yes, she was a widow and did not bear any children, and thus she had no experience raising children.

Whoever the children are in the portrait, Block appears to accept and take on the appearance of role model and mother figure. Nevertheless, she complicates the role proscribed by patriarchal values and expectations in early modern Europe and re-fashions herself into who she is and how she wants to be seen. Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare centers around how people believed they had malleable roles and identities in life during sixteenth-century England.[22] Similarly, Block sees herself as having malleable roles and how that influences the depiction of her family and her in the portrait (Fig. 1). The following sections will compare and contrast Block’s family portrait with other portraits of Netherlandish male and female artists during the seventeenth century.

Male Artists’ Family Portraits
In contrast to the portrait of Agnes Block, we see family portraits of artists, sometimes with or without children. The Artist with his Family (c. 1646–47), a self-portrait by Karel van Mander III, depicts no children—only his wife and mother-in-law are shown (Fig. 2). His wife reads the Bible, while her mother does needlework. Both women appear to be pious and respectable. In contrast, family portraits of other artists do include children in the picture. In Cornelis Dusart’s Jan Steen and Family, we see a nagging wife, while Jan Steen, the artist, tries to work (Fig. 3). A boy kneels before the father with a puppy in hand, trying to distract the father who is turning away from the wife, pestering him from behind. Additionally, there is another child in the background who appears to be riffling through the father’s paintings. This portrayal suggests that the wife should be taking care of the children so the husband can focus on his work, the painting resting on the easel.

Figure 2. Karel van Mander III, The Artist with his Family, 1646–47.

Figure 3. Cornelis Dusart, Jan Steen and Family, date unknown.

Figure 3. Cornelis Dusart, Jan Steen and Family, date unknown.

The family portraits of Karel van Mander III and Jan Steen are different from Block’s family portrait. Block’s family portrait includes the children in the painting, but Block is not shown as being distracted or unable to complete her work, as in Steen’s family portrait. Children are portrayed in her family portrait, unlike van Mander’s, while Block efficaciously displays her accomplishments from her collection, such as shells and butterflies, without overcrowding the painting with too many knick knacks. Block appears to be more successful than the male artists because she seemingly can do both with neither her work nor the children suffering. The children appear to be happy (e.g., the smiling faces of both children) and loved (e.g., the girl and Block’s affectionate interaction). Additionally, the children do not rummage through her things or interrupt her, showing that she has been able to work, create drawings, and establish her own home in a peaceful environment. Although she may not be the ideal role model (i.e., a woman with children of her own), Block is still portrayed as a successful mother figure.

Figure 4. Peter Paul Rubens, Rubens, His Wife Hélène Fourment, and Their Son Peter Paul, probably late 1630s.

In other family portraits of Netherlandish artists, we see the portrayal of blending new families together, such as if one spouse died and the remaining spouse remarried. For example, Rubens’s first wife died, and he remarried a woman named Hélène Fourment. The painting by Rubens called Rubens, His Wife Hélène Fourment, and Their Son Peter Paul shows him at a new stage of his life (Fig. 4).[23]

There is no attention shown here to children from the first marriage[24] or other children from the second marriage. Rather, the focus is on the new family Rubens has created; Hélène Fourment was only sixteen and Rubens was fifty-three when they married. They are shown together, Rubens staring at Fourment, who is looking down at the child, who is gazing up at his mother. Rather than painting all of his children from both marriages, he painted only his youngest son. This painting does not represent a blending of the entire family; rather, it represents a specific portrayal of Rubens with his second wife and youngest son.

Figure 5. Michiel van Musscher, Portrait of Michiel Comans (d. 1687), calligrapher, etcher, painter and schoolmaster, with his third wife Elisabeth van der Mersche, 1669.

Another example of an artist’s family portrait without children is Portrait of Michiel Comans (d. 1687), calligrapher, etcher, painter and schoolmaster, with his third wife Elisabeth van der Mersche by Michiel van Musscher, which was painted in 1669 (Fig. 5).

We see no children in this family portrait because both figures are older. The woman represented here is the artist’s third wife. Therefore, because of their age and time of life, it is possible that no children resulted from this marriage. As with Rubens, rather than showing a portrait of the entire family with children from previous marriages, we see Comans and his third wife together, perhaps commemorating their new union. Additionally, we see Comans’s work as an artist, with his brushes, palette with color swatches, and painting on an easel in the background. In contrast, his wife is shown reading, perhaps the Bible, which would be similar to van Mander’s wife in that family portrait (Fig. 2). As a result, Comans proudly presents his work and gazes directly into the viewers’ eyes, while the wife merely sits to the side and piously looks up to her husband. At this time, the Netherlandish tradition was to portray no children or show only one child rather than all the children. If the children in the Block’s family portrait would not have been included, it would not have been considered extraordinary. Rather it appears that the inclusion of children is a deliberate decision.

Wallerant_Vaillant_-_Maria_van_Oosterwijck_1671

Figure 6. Wallerant Vaillant, Maria van Oosterwyck, 1671.

Female Artists’ Family Portraits
Female artists who are married or single portray themselves differently in portraits. To begin with, the Netherlandish, unmarried female artists are at greater liberty to represent themselves for three reasons. First, they do not have to include husbands in their paintings. Second, they do not have to include children because having children out of wedlock in a Protestant society would be scandalous, perhaps even detrimental to their careers. Third, they can focus on representing themselves in association to their profession. For example, Wallerant Vaillant’s Maria van Oosterwyck (c. 1671) depicts a representation of this female artist, van Oosterwyck (Fig. 6).

While she never married nor had any children, we see a pallet with paint colors and several brushes in her left hand. Additionally, in her lap, we see a book, which could possibly be the Bible, and her right hand is in the process of turning to the next page. Therefore, we, as the viewers, learn how van Oosterwyck wanted us to perceive her. She is portrayed as an educated, pious woman who identifies as an artist and is proud of her work. Because she is single, she does not have responsibility or societal expectation to portray herself as a wife or a mother.

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Figure 7. Judith Leyster, Self-Portrait, 1630.

Another female artist from the Netherlands is Judith Leyster, who painted a portrait of herself while she was a single woman. Her Self-Portrait (c. 1630) depicts Leyster in the middle of her work with a painting, turning around with numerous brushes in hand (Fig. 7).

Because she is an unmarried woman, she does not have to conform to societal expectations and portray herself as a mother or wife. In contrast, Jan Miense Molenaer’s The Duet (c. 1635–36) depicts a marriage portrait of a couple who are believed to be Leyster and her husband (Fig. 8). Nothing is shown here of Leyster’s work as an artist. Instead, Molenaer is significantly taller, and the hat exaggerates his height in comparison to Leyster, even though both are sitting down. Molenaer was an artist, like his wife, so there is the possibility he felt he was in competition with his wife.

Figure 8. Jan Miense Molenaer, The Duet, 1635–36

Figure 8. Jan Miense Molenaer, The Duet, 1635–36.

Figure 9. Juriaen Pool II, Self-portrait of Juriaen Pool with Rachel Ruysch and their son Jan Willem Pool, 1716 or first quarter of 18th century (1700–1724).

Figure 9. Juriaen Pool II, Self-portrait of Juriaen Pool with Rachel Ruysch and their son Jan Willem Pool, 1716 or first quarter of 18th century (1700–1724).

Another example to consider is Rachel Ruysch (c. 1664–1750), a famous still-life painter. Juriaen Pool II’s Self portrait of Juriaen Pool with Rachel Ruysch and their son Jan Willem Pool (c. 1716 or first quarter of 18th century) is a self-portrait painted by Ruysch’s husband (Fig. 9).

We see a pyramid structure with Pool at the apex and Ruysch at a lower level than her husband. The child, a son, appears to be standing or kneeling, but since he is a child, he is smaller than both parents. We still see a hierarchy with the tallest figure being the man as husband and father, while the woman is placed at a lower level as wife and mother. However, there is still a subtle reference to Ruysch’s work as an artist. Because Ruysch leans away from Pool and rests her arm on the table, the focus is drawn towards the floral arrangement to the side of her. We may not see paintbrushes or any specific representation of her artwork. However, the positioning still shrewdly draws attention to Ruysch’s identity as an artist, since she was well-known for her still-life paintings, specifically of floral arrangements.

Figure 10. Anthony van Dyck, Family Portrait, 1621

Figure 10. Anthony van Dyck, Family Portrait, 1621.

Male artists and female artists are depicted differently in family portraits. Male artists are depicted as taller or larger than everyone else. In van Dyck’s Family Portrait (c. 1621), van Dyck’s wife appears to be sitting with a child on her lap; in contrast, van Dyck does not seem to be sitting but sort of leans awkwardly forward (Fig. 10).

However, van Dyck’s wife and child are still lower in comparison. Additionally, the child looks up to the father in complete adoration.[25] This portrayal contrasts to Rubens’s family portrait of the mother and child looking at one another (Fig. 4). By showing van Dyck’s young child staring devotedly up to the father, the focus is on van Dyck, and the eye immediately is drawn to that corner of the painting. Another example to consider is Jacob Jordaens’s Portrait of the Artist’s Family in the Garden (c. 1623) (Fig. 11). The wife, servant, and child seem to be separated from Jordaens by an invisible line, creating a clear distinction between the man, standing taller above the others, and the rest of the household. With the family portraits of van Dyck and Jordaens, there is no direct representation of themselves as artists (e.g., no brushes or paint is depicted). Yet these two male artists were more well-known—van Dyck, internationally, and Jordaens, in Flanders—perhaps than some Netherlandish female artists and, therefore, did not need to depict their identity as artists.

Figure 11. Jacob Jordaens, Portrait of the Artist’s Family in the Garden, 1623

Figure 11. Jacob Jordaens, Portrait of the Artist’s Family in the Garden, 1623.

Unlike the male artists, these three female artists discussed in the previous paragraphs had to compensate. As an independent woman, van Oosterwyck could work as a painter but was never a wife or mother and could not identify as either (Fig. 6). Leyster seems less independent and confident in the portrait with her husband because her identity as artist is not portrayed, and she is placed physically lower than her husband (Fig. 7). Ruysch’s position is more complicated because although her work is hinted at, she is still placed lower than her husband (Fig. 8). In contrast to these three female artists, Block’s portrait of her family is different. Block herself was an artist and that is shown dominantly in the painting. We see a drawing of a bird, and since she is the one holding the painting or drawing of the bird in her left hand, that seems to suggest a connection between Block and the drawing. Although we do not know for certain if this specific drawing is an exact replication of one of her pieces, it could generally represent her work and study. The book that is bound with two leather straps could be a portfolio of her drawings of plants and animals, suggesting that perhaps this drawing of the bird was one selected from amongst her collection. In the family portrait, depicting children shows Block as a mother figure and role model, while depicting her work reveals her identity as a botanist and an artist.

In the Dutch Republic, if the boundaries of the world and the home were not strictly observed, people expected trouble within the family and in society.[26] But this strict distinction does not seem to be a problem with Block and de Flines. De Jongh claims that de Flines and Block’s marriage must have been in the minority of seventeenth-century marriages because their view of the position of women, in many respects, was not inferior to that of men. Block and de Flines appear to have had a unique relationship built on greater equality and encouragement. Although her husband is shown standing, it is Block who is center stage, and she plays the prevailing role in this family portrait.[28] She is not merely some woman, but she is the mother figure, the wife, the role model as well as the property owner, the artist, and the botanist.

Conclusion
Family portraits represent the identity of the family as an essential unit in society, especially in the Netherlands. Sometimes children are shown, sometimes a single child is included, or none are depicted. If the artist is a female, her work may or may not be suggested in the painting, which could depend on her marital status. Yet Block’s family portrait is unique when compared to the others because Block challenges societal expectations of women of the Netherlands. We see a woman who takes on her role as a mother figure, while also embracing her pride of her property and of her work as a botanist and an artist.

Endnotes

[1] Agnes is sometimes called Agneta Block instead. However, in this paper, she will consistently be referred to as Agnes Block.

[2] Jennifer M. Killian, “Weenix: (2) Jan Weenix,” Oxford Art Online, 22 October 2015, http://www.oxfordartonline.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/subscriber/article/grove/art/T090961pg2?q=%22Agnes+Block%22&search=quick&pos=1&_start=1#firsthit.

[3] Marioes Huiskamp, “Block, Agneta (1629–1704),” Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland, 22 October 2015, http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/Block.

[4] John Landwehr, De Nederlander Uit En Thus: Spiegel van het dagelijkse leven uit bijzondere zeventiende-eeuwse boeken, (Amsterdam: A. W. Sitjthoff, 1981), 114.

[5] This painting is also known as Portrait of Sijbrand de Flines, Agnes Block and two children. Another title for the piece is Agneta Block and her garden Flora Batava at Vijveho.

[6] Eddy de Jongh, Portretten van echt en trouw: Huwelijk en gezin in de Nederlandse kunst van de zeventiende eeuw (Zwolle; Haarlem: Waanders; Frans Hals Museum, 1986), 265.

[7] Marioes Huiskamp, “Block, Agneta (1629–1704),” Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland, 22 October 2015, http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/Block.

[8] “Portrait of Sijbrand de Flines (1623–1697), Agnes Block (1629–1704) and two children Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum, inv./can.nr SA20359,” Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, 21 October 2015, https://rkd.nl/en/ explore/images/record?query=Agnes+Block&start=0.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Marioes Huiskamp, “Block, Agneta (1629–1704),” Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland, 22 October 2015, http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/Block.

[11] In Amsterdam’s Glory: The Old Masters of the City Amsterdam, Norbert Middelkoop and Tom van der Molen believe that the pineapple is believed to originate from Brazil and the cactus from Curaçao. (See page 84.)

[12] Marioes Huiskamp, “Block, Agneta (1629–1704),” Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland, 22 October 2015, http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/Block.

[13] Katherine Hoffman, Concepts of Identity: Historical and Contemporary Images and Portraits of Self and Family, (New York: IconEditions, 1996), 31.

[14] Laurinda S. Dixon, Perilous Chastity: Women and Illness in Pre-Enlightenment Art and Medicine, (London: Cornell University Press, 1995), 9.

[15] Eddy de Jongh, Portretten van echt en trouw: Huwelijk en gezin in de Nederlandse kunst van de zeventiende eeuw, (Zwolle; Haarlem: Waanders; Frans Hals Museum, 1986), 265.

[16] C. Catharina Van de Graft, Agnes Block: Vondels Nicht en Vriendin, (Utrecht: A. W. Bruna & Zoon’s Uitgevers-Mij, 1943), 66.

[17] Loughman writes, “Dutch depictions of the interior from the seventeenth century provide a skewed impression of what domestic dwellings looked like and how families conducted themselves in these spaces.” Therefore, it is not surprising that artists presented a representation rather than a reality of a particular scene. See John Loughman, “Domestic Bliss? Images of the Family and Home in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Art,” Images of Familial Intimacy in Eastern and Western Art, ed. by Nakamura Toshiharu (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2014), pp. 102–103.

[18] The original statement reads, “Agnes Block lijkt de opvatting te hebben aangehangen dat de onvolkomen natuur door het menselijk vernuft vervolmaakt diende te worden” and comes from Eddy de Jongh, Portretten van echt en trouw: Huwelijk en gezin in de Nederlandse kunst van de zeventiende eeuw (Zwolle; Haarlem: Waanders; Frans Hals Museum, 1986), 266.

[19] Mirjam Neumeister, “Changing Images of Childhood: The Children’s Portrait in Netherlandish Art and Its Influence,” Images of Familial Intimacy in Eastern and Western Art, ed. by Nakamura Toshiharu (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2014), pp. 114–115.

[20] Wayne E. Franits, Paragons of Virtue: Women and Domesticity in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 161.

[21] Ibid, pp. 188–189.

[22] Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare, (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1980), xiii.

[23] Rubens painted numerous paintings of Hélène Fourment with their children or of Rubens and Hélène together. However, this family portrait is unique because we see Rubens, Hélène, and a child all together. See page 39 of Janice Anderson’s Children in Art (London: Bracken Books, 1996) for information on the attractive painting, Hélène Fourment and Two of Her Children (c. 1635).

[24] Rubens and Isabella Brant, his first wife, had three children, who were named Clara, Nikolaas, and Albert.

[25] This depiction of the child looking up adoringly could be compared to his portrait of James Stuart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox (c. 1634–35), where the greyhound looks up, idolizing its master.

h2_89.15.16

Anthony van Dyck, James Stuart (1612–1655), Duke of Richmond and Lennox, ca. 1634–35.

[26] Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, (New York: Vintage Books, 1997), 400.

[27] The original statement reads, “De echtver- bintenis van De Flines en Agnes Block moet tot die minderheid van zeventiende-eeuwse huwelijken worden gerekend waarin de positie van de vrouw in velerlei opzicht niet voor die van de man onderdeed.,” which comes from Eddy de Jongh, Portretten van echt en trouw: Huwelijk en gezin in de Nederlandse kunst van de zeventiende eeuw (Zwolle; Haarlem: Waanders; Frans Hals Museum, 1986), 266.

[28] Eddy de Jongh, Portretten van echt en trouw: Huwelijk en gezin in de Nederlandse kunst van de zeventiende eeuw (Zwolle; Haarlem: Waanders; Frans Hals Museum, 1986), 266.

Bibliography

Anderson, Janice. Children in Art. London: Bracken Books, 1996.

De Jongh, Eddy. Portretten van echt en trouw: Huwelijk en gezin in de Nederlandse kunst van de zeventiende eeuw. Haarlem: Frans Hals Museum, 1986.

Dixon, Laurinda S. Perilous Chastity: Women and Illness in Pre-Enlightenment Art and Medicine. London: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Franits, Wayne E. Paragons of Virtue: Women and Domesticity in Seventeenth-Century Ducth  Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980.

Hoffman, Katherine. Concepts of Identity: Historical and Contemporary Images and Portraits of Self and Family. New York: IconEditions, 1996.

Huiskamp, Marioes. “Block, Agneta (1629–1704).” Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. 22 October 2015, http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/Block.

Killian, Jennifer M. “Weenix: (2) Jan Weenix.” Oxford Art Online. 22 October 2015. http://www.oxfordartonline.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/subscriber/article/grove/art/T090961pg2?q=%22Agnes+Block%22&search=quick&pos=1&_start=1#firsthit.

Landwehr, John. De Nederlander Uit En Thus: Spiegel van het dagelijkse leven uit bijzondere zeventiende-eeuwse boeken. Amsterdam: A. W. Sitjthoff. 1981.

Loughman, John. “Domestic Bliss? Images of the Family and Home in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Genre Art.” Images of Familial Intimacy in Eastern and Western Art. Edited by Nakamura Toshiharu. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2014.

Middelkoop, Norbert, and Tom van der Molen. Amsterdam’s Glory: The Old Masters of the City of Amsterdam. Amsterdam: Thoth Publishers Bussum. 2009.

Neumeister, Mirjam. “Changing Images of Childhood: The Children’s Portrait in Netherlandish Art and Its Influence.” Images of Familial Intimacy in Eastern and Western Art. Edited by Nakamura Toshiharu. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2014.

“Portrait of Sijbrand de Flines (1623–1697), Agnes Block (1629–1704) and two children Amsterdam, Amsterdam Museum, inv./can.nr SA20359.” Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie. 21 October 2015. https://rkd.nl/en/ explore/images/record?query=Agnes+Block&start=0.

Schama, Simon. The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age. New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

Van de Graft, C. Catharina. Agnes Block: Vondels Nicht en Vriendin. Utrecht: A. W. Bruna & Zoon’s Uitgevers-Mij, 1943.

Tuesday Tunes: Amanda Palmer, “What’s the Use of Won’drin'”

Artist: Amanda Palmer

Song: “What’s the Use of Won’drin'” (from the musical Carousel)


lyrics

What’s the use of wond’rin’
If he’s good or if he’s bad
Or if you like the way he wears his hat

Oh, what’s the use of wond’rin’
If he’s good or if he’s bad
He’s your fella and you love him
That’s all there is to that

Common sense may tell you
That the ending will be sad
And now’s the time to break and run away
But what’s the use of wond’rin’
If the ending will be sad
He’s your fella and you love him
There’s nothing more to say

Something made him the way that he is
Whether he’s false or true
And something gave him
The things that are his
One of those things is you

So when he wants your kisses
You will give them to the lad
And anywhere he leads you, you will walk
And any time he needs you
You’ll go running there like mad

You’re his girl and he’s your fella
And all the rest is talk

Written Wednesday: “Why a Man Should Never Object to a Woman Splitting the Bill”

Carl Holsoe, “At the Breakfast Table,” date unknown. Oil on canvas.


If a woman ever suggests paying for her dinner when she is on a date with a man,

he is quick to object.

Why even dare propose such a thought?

Of course not.

No.

Never!

Yet why does this protestation occur?

Cultural obedience.

Money dost rule.

Chivalry is dead.

God save the queen—she cannot save herself!

’Tis a cost too high.

My paying for dinner does not transform you,

does not change your gender,

does not change your biology.

You are still a man,

Even if I split the bill.

There are kindnesses;

There are actions, of course.

But that does not mean that they should be demanded, by either side.

You will not woo me by buying me

a six cent sweet or

a sixty dollar six-course meal

at a quarter past six.

Owe you I not;

Therefore, expect you not anything.

You woo me when you

Entreat me to be your

Equal.

So let me be.

And you talk with me—

intellectually and politely—

push me and argue with me—

think about what I have to say

   and who I am.

Many men have bought my bill,

but I have not bought theirs.

’Tis too high a cost.

Global Beauty Standards?

Original, unaltered photograph of artist.

Esther Honig, a freelance journalist based out of Kansas City, sent an unaltered photograph of herself to more than 40 Photoshop aficionados around the world. “Make me beautiful,” she said, hoping to bring to light how standards of beauty differ across various cultures.

The project, titled Before & After, originally came to Honig while she was working as a social media manager for a small startup. Her boss introduced her to Fiverr, an international freelancing website where anyone can hire freelancers from around the globe to complete almost any task imaginable. While browsing the site, Honig realized the prevalence of those offering Photoshop skills. “It immediately occurred to me that in this pool of workers, each individual likely had an aesthetic preference particular to their own culture,” Honig told BuzzFeed. Thus, the idea for Before & After was born.

Working with freelancers in over 25 countries, Honig expected that the images would differ from country to country, but was herself caught off guard by just how drastically some of the images were altered. “Seeing some jobs for the first time made me shriek… Other times images, like the one from Morocco, took my breath away because they were far more insightful than I could have expected,” Honig said.

To be sure, the images Honig has collected so far are interesting as individual images, a unique portrait of the standards of beauty in each country. However, when taken in totality, the project becomes much more striking, an interesting launching point into a global conversation about unattainable beauty standards around the world. “What I’ve learned from the project is this: Photoshop [may] allow us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty, but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more illusive.”

Below are the photographs that Honig has collected thus far. Note: Some countries have multiple images from different artists. Honig continues her project on her website.

Argentina

Argentina

Esther Honig

Australia

Australia

Esther Honig

Bangladesh

Esther Honig

Chile

Chile

Esther Honig

Germany

Germany

Esther Honig

Greece

Greece

Esther Honig

India

Esther Honig

Indonesia

Indonesia

Esther Honig

Israel

Israel

Esther Honig

Italy

Italy

Esther Honig

Kenya

Kenya

Esther Honig

Morocco

Morocco

Esther Honig

Pakistan

Pakistan

Esther Honig

Philippines

Esther Honig

Romania

Romania

Esther Honig

Serbia

Serbia

Esther Honig

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Esther Honig

U.K.

U.K.

Esther Honig

Ukraine

Ukraine

Esther Honig

USA

Esther Honig

Vietnam

Vietnam

Esther Honig

Venezuela

Venezuela

 

“What’s Missing in Miss America’s Response”

The Miss America 2014 Top 15 Semi-Finalists (Picture Originally from http://www.pageantprofessors.com)

A Tale of Two Debates

Last week, social media exploded after the Miss America Pageant. Users complained either how terrible feminists were or how terrible Miss America’s answer was. But what was actually said?

Miss Nevada was asked the following question:

Recently Time Magazine said 19% of U.S. undergraduate women are victims of sexual assault in college. Why has such a horrific epidemic been swept under the rug for so long, and what can colleges do to combat this? [1]

Miss Nevada Nia Sanche replied with this statement:

I believe some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation, and that would be a reason that it could be swept under the rug because they don’t want it to come out into the public, but I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself as a fourth degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and being able to defend yourself, and I think that’s something we should start to implement for a lot of women. [2]

Miss Nevada Nia Sanche (Picture originally from http://www.dailymail.co.uk.)


6 Things to Consider

There were various, emotional responses to what Miss Nevada Nia Sanche said. Some people supported and defended her, while others were outraged. Social media exploded with countless posts and comments based on Sanche’s two sentences. Here are six things to consider:

1. Under Pressure

During question time of the Miss America Pageant, perhaps the contestants feel pressured or put on the spot. They get nervous, they say stupid things, or they don’t think their argument all the way through.

Additionally, these women are probably not members of the debate team; they don’t have the time to go into the depth needed for these issues. Would you ever hear “I defend this position because of Reasons A, B, and C. Oh, and here are Counterarguments 1, 2, and 3 and all the reasons why those ideas are indubitably incorrect”? Probably not.

2. Money, Money, Money—Isn’t Funny

Self-defense is a good thing. Martial arts would be great for all women to take. But it’s expensive. Who is going to pay for self-defense classes?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “About half of all rape victims are in the lowest third of income distribution; half are in the upper two-thirds.[3] Working class women, including single mothers and women with lower income, would need child care, compensation for the hours missed from work, or both. However, even if free classes were provided on a weekend or later in the evenings, who would pay for those classes? And how would attendance be enforced?

Providing self-defense classes on college campuses are a complex issue. Even if a class is offered, some students may not be able to afford the additional costs to take the class. The costs for student loans, textbooks, food, car insurance, gas, and ever-increasing tuition take a huge chunk out of a student’s pocket. Also, the student may not have the time to take the credits, especially if the student is trying to graduate early.

Could universities and colleges all provide free self-defense classes? Sanche stated she had a fourth degree black belt—something that takes great skill but also a lot of time. How effective would one self-defense class be? Would there need to be a series of free classes?

Just stating that women need self-defense leads to more questions and issues that would need to be resolved. It is not a simple solution.

And change can happen. Unfortunately, rape occurs. But all of us can work on decreasing those numbers. Educating men and women can affect change.

3. Women Are Human, Too

The “that raped woman is someone’s mother, sister, daughter” technique isn’t working.

Obama is reported to have said, “We know our economy is stronger when our wives, mothers, and daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic violence.”[4] Because of this statement, Obama was criticized for using the “Father-Knows-Best,” outdated rhetoric. Many people, including our president, have used this language. That needs to change.

Some women are sisters. Some women are mothers. Some women are daughters. But all women are human. Because we are human, both men and women should be treated respectfully.

Bernini, “Il Ratto di Proserpina” (“The Rape of Proserpina”)

4. Change: An Education

Many Twitter users were furious with Sanche’s response, claiming that she encouraged rape culture or was telling men that it was okay to rape. Others responded that rape has occurred since the beginning of time and will continue to occur, following the “boys will be boys” mentality.

But can’t we still push for men not to rape? People are often confused about what counts as rape or when it is okay. In America, we are obsessed with sex, but never really want to talk about it. Parents need to be better at communicating with children, both male and female, about sex and rape. There ought to be more open discussion in schools and colleges about rape.

5. Understanding What Counts as Rape

When does rape occur? Rape occurs if a male physically holds down a woman and forces her to have sex with him or if a man forces any type of non-consensual sexual relations. It still counts as rape even if any of the following occurs:

  • He spent a lot of money on her.
  • He is so turned on he thinks he can’t stop.
  • She previously had sexual intercourse with other men.
  • She is stoned or drunk.
  • She has any mental disabilities.
  • She lets him touch her above the waist.
  • She is going to and changes her mind.
  • She has supposedly led him on.
  • The man is sexually stimulated.
  • They have dated for a long time.
  • They are engaged.
  • They are married. [5]

Mad Men, “The Mountain King” (Season 2 / Episode 12) After repeatedly saying no, Joan is raped by her fiancé.

6. The Facts

Rape is not an issue about whether it’s good or it’s bad. But many people don’t realize that rape is not just physical assaults. Rape involves additional issues, such as the mentality about, objectification of, and violence against women. Rape is about power and control, not love and understanding.

But rape doesn’t always occur when a woman is attacked on her way home from work. There’s date rape, and if a woman is unconscious, knowing martial arts isn’t going to help her.

Often, the survivor of rape culture knows the rapist, whether it is a boyfriend, husband, lover, coworker, family member, etc. For example, “Of female rape or sexual assault victims in 2010, 25 percent were assaulted by a stranger, 48 percent by friends or acquaintances, and 17 percent were intimate partners.”[6] Approximately two-thirds of rape survivors know their rapist. Survivors are often manipulated and must deal with scarring emotional trauma.

The age of raped survivors varies. Of course, rape on campus is a huge problem. But rape survivors include underage women: “5% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12; 29% are age 12-17; 44% are under age 18; 80% are under age 30; ages 12-34 are the highest risk years.” [7]

Rape isn’t always reported: “The FBI estimates that only 46% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police. U.S. Justice Department statistics are even lower, with only 26% of all rapes or attempted rapes being reported to law enforcement officials.”[8]These hard facts are horrible but true.


 So What’s Missing?

What’s missing from Miss America’s response—and the responses of many social media users—is that we need more education, more encouragement for survivors, more prevention, more access for recovery, more understanding, more open communication, and more opportunities to fight this terrible injustice. Being sensitive of the struggles that these women suffer is vital for communication to happen.

People often trivialize rape culture. They don’t understand it—they don’t even try. Pause before a statement is blurred by frustration or ignorance. Some of us may not be able to empathize entirely with what’s it’s like to be a rape survivor. But we can and must try to understand.

Let’s talk together, listening and opening our hearts without judgment and hate. Make survivors feel like they are heard by recognizing rape culture as a complex, emotional experience that real humans suffer.

Let’s talk to survivors, not tell them what to do.

Let’s talk.


For More Information:

Listed originally on http://www.feminist.com, the following websites list valid statistics about abused women:

 

Footnotes:

[1](See http://www.ijreview.com/2014/06/145792-feminists-spew-scorn-miss-usa-pageant-winner-self-defense-stance/)

[2](See http://www.ijreview.com/2014/06/145792-feminists-spew-scorn-miss-usa-pageant-winner-self-defense-stance/)

[3](See more facts and statistics athttp://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html.)

[4](See http://www.salon.com/2013/02/13/stop_calling_us_wives_and_moms/.)

[5](See http://www.fearus.org.)

[6](See more facts and statistics athttp://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html.)

[7](See more facts and statistics athttp://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html.)

[8](See more facts and statistics athttp://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html.)

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/instant-celebrity/

Ban Bossy?

 

Ban Bossy is a campaign by Girl Scouts of America and LeanIn.org. Strong women and leaders, including Beyoncé, Condoleezza Rice, and Jane Lynch, all support the campaign.

 
The campaign is to encourage girls and help them develop leadership skills.Women make up just 19% of the U.S. Congress, 5% of Fortune 1,000 CEOs, and 17% of corporate boards. Instead of using labels, the campaign encourages girls to develop valuable skills to become future leaders. 
 
Ban Bossy offers some suggestions for girls:
  1. Speak up in class
  2. Stop apologizing before you speak
  3. Challenge yourself
  4. Ask for help
  5. Don’t do everyone else’s work
  6. Speak up in friendship
  7. Trust your inner voice
  8. Change the world
  9. Remeber: it’s not always easy to speak up, but it’s worth it
These are all wonderful traits to have (whether you are a girl or a boy). 
 
Ban Bossy is encouraging girls to defend and to express themselves. This campaign is teaching girls valuable lessons about interacting with others and fighting for what you believe in.
 
(You can read more at http://banbossy.com/wp-content/themes/leanin/ui/microsite/ban-bossy/resources/Ban_Bossy_Leadership_Tips_for_girls.pdf?v=1&77f96d)

 

The following pictures include some points of their arguments:

 

 
 
 
 
 

Michelle Obama supports this campaign. The first lady’s Instagram, michelleobama, shows this picture below and says the following: “Commit to your education, because every time you stretch your mind, you boost your confidence and add power and credibility to your voice—The First Lady encouraging girls to lead #BanBossy.”

The Ban Bossy video was upload on 9 March 2014. I waited a few weeks to see what some responses were. comments.
 
It has received over two million views.
However, the dislikes are more than the likes. Why is that?
 
To my surprise, the majority of comments were made by men (or were at least using usernames that are usually associated with men, such as John or Paul). Unfortunately, YouTube users have made offensive and startling.
 
Here are a few comments made in the last 24 hours on YouTube.
  • Paul McGuire wrote, “I hate it when women try to sound intelligent when they have much smaller brains than men.”
  • Darragh Tate wrote, “Actually, now that I think of it, of all the words they could start a campaign to ban, they go with bossy?” He then listed several offensive, derogative words and continued, “these are all a-okay, but bossy? Unacceptable! Ban it!”
  • Another user wrote, “Perhaps if your dreams are utterly destroyed by schoolyard name-calling, perhaps your rudimentary dreams are better off buried.”
  • A user named Johnny wrote, “Isn’t it ironic that the strong independent feminist are crushed by name calling If you crumble under the heat you probably shouldn’t be in a position with power.
  • Dingo Egret (sarcastically?) wrote, “Criticizing campaigns to ban non profane words from the english language is practically rape! I’m going to tumblr now to cry about my entitlements and the PATRIARCHY.”
These comments are offensive and narrow-minded. A few, quick thoughts on the comments listed above:
  • These women are intelligent and strong leaders or role models for countless numbers of people (both male and female).
  • Trying to “ban” a specific word is probably impossible. People can teach and preach about not using swear words, but let’s be real—swear words have probably been used since the beginning of time. The point here is that labeling people is unkind. You should not call a person bossy or any other offensive term because it is exactly that—offensive. Maybe “banning” something is too idealistic, but here the focus is on the effort to change how we treat one other.
  • The dreams of these women were not destroyed. Once again, it just goes back to treating people with common curtesy. Don’t be mean; don’t label. Words have connotations. The point here is to encourage and lift each other up, not tear each other down.
  • Ummm. . . these women are not “crumbling under the heat.” They are in positions of power and prominence because they have thrived, despite the labels and names people have called them. They are stronger than that. But it still doesn’t make name-calling, in whatever form, okay.
  • Rape jokes, even went written sarcastically, are not okay. Ever. Got it?
 
I only saw one positive, non-offensive comment, which was written by a female user.
  • Amy Change stated, “How can there be so many dislikes? they make a valid point that girls who tend to be in leadership are labeled as pushy and bossy while boys are labeled as ambitious. This a culture that we live in.”
I think that, once again, anonymity on the web is often a tool that is used negatively by users who hide behind their computer screens and write terrible comments to try to tear others down or reveal their most offensive thoguhts. Most of the comments, especially those listed above, perhaps emerge from insecurities. 
 
And guess what. Sometimes girls are bossy. Sometimes boys are bossy, too. Sometimes girls are mean. Sometimes boys are mean, too. Sometimes girls are kind and happy and amazing. Sometimes boys are kind and happy and amazing, too.
 
Does “Ban Bossy” sound bossy to you? Is that maybe the underlying point?
 
We label, and we judge. We gossip, and we backbite.
 
This should and must stop.
 
The take away message: be careful in the language you use because you never know what effect you can have—either positively or negatively.
 
See the website if you would like to learn more: http://banbossy.com/