• Posted: Jun 12, 2011 14:22:13
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That title is taken from a Blues song by Isreal Tolbert (Warren Records 1970). When I heard it on this week's Beale Street Caravan (NPR) I couldn't help thinking about the above set of images I'd been working on. The lyrics go something like "I love a big leg woman with a short short mini-skirt. Promise me darlin', never make me feel like dirt." Blues lyrics are typically extremely vivid and involving. They draw you in, evoke your sympathies, rally your politics. In this case, the theme is man vs. woman.
There've been several stories in the news recently with a similar theme. The IMF guy now facing sexual assault charges in NYC, a smilier story about an international banker, Congressman Weiner, and a very interesting interview presented by NPR's Snap Judgment with a Muslim female documentary film maker who'd gone undercover for a number of years to expose parts of an international network of sex slave traders preying on poor desperate immigrants to Muslim countries. In each of those stories, men place themselves above women, demean them, dehumanize them, and attempt to exploit them for their own perverse pleasure or financial gain. What's even more appalling are the number of men who have read or heard those stories and don't see what's wrong.
The guy in that song, though, he sees what's wrong. That woman in the short short mini-skirt, he's fascinated, attracted, convinced they belong together, "like red beans and rice". But he knows she has the power to crush his feelings, to reject him like dirt. If he couldn't acknowledge her as a person, she'd never have that power over him. It's a vulnerability we, as people, give to each other when we care, the power to hurt, injure our feelings. Many, many Blues songs recount efforts to deal with that vulnerability. Some do turn to various forms of revenge, of getting even. But seldom within Blues is that vulnerability dealt with by dehumanizing women, or men. I'm sure it does or has happened, but to dehumanize women or men is to lose the opportunity, the ability to love and know love in all its fascinating complexity, its sometimes baffling mystery, and thereby come to terms with the full depths of our own capacity for caring. To lose all that, one would no longer know or be able to feel the Blues. That's far too high a price to pay. Blues is never about striving to be hollow, inhuman, unfeeling.
The images above were made on Memorial Day, a U.S. holiday meant to commemorate our fallen. But practically speaking. it's our first taste of Summer. It's a day when, weather permitting, most everyone heads for the beach and begins playing out our dearest summer fantasies. Cherchez la femme, better known as "chick watching", is one. Trolling for guys, another. The two pastimes complement each other. Guys plumb and risk the depths of their vulnerabilities, while gals scale and risk the heights of their attractiveness. Which the more reckless is hard to tell. Undoubtedly, many will get hurt. One can only hope the result will not be greater, more widespread dehumanization, one of the other. A better result would be a richer, more astute understanding and appreciation for the consequence we all have on each other.
Monday, May 30th, 2011