Political Body

There is power in the taboo of the naked female form. For centuries, our unclad bodies have been used as symbols to shock, to arouse and to protest, and often in art, a nude is more than just a nude.

Sotheby’s is about to auction a collection of paintings by an Egyptian artist Mahmoud Said (1897-1964). ArtDaily.org state that his work “came to epitomise the complexity of dealing with his own individual desires and the values of his society”.

Here’s their commentary on the image pictured below:

“Highlighting the collection is Mahmoud Said’s oil on canvas Untitled (Nude), dated 1951-1957. This example, which is estimated at £80,000-120,000 is typical of Said’s paintings of relaxed beauties with full breasts and wide hips, in which the artist relishes every curve of her body, revering her nudity. Said celebrates the woman’s sensuality, encapsulating the zeitgeist of the period with the liberation of women and the shift in social structure. Inspired by an Egyptian woman, this painting is steeped in the essence of 20th century Egypt. Said’s nudes are not immediately associated with power and politics, but rather seem to be simply celebrations of Egyptian life. However, it must be noted that the nude was a fierce political statement. Until Said’s time, the female form was taboo, most especially the nude figure. Said, however was the uncle of Queen Farida, wife of King Farouk of Egypt, and was therefore able to push thee boundaries of artistic practice commonly seen in his country. A number of political factors relating to 20th-century Egypt also had a profound effect on the work of the Egyptian pioneers in art, including Said and Mahmoud Mokhtar (1883-1934), as it was a time of enormous upheaval with Britain declaring Egyptian independence, which was preceded by a great nationalist movement largely driven by women and the lower classes.”

Read the entire article here.

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Magnetic nipple clamps: I’m curious. They are described at TickleBerry as “very strong magnets”, but could they be strong enough to give an effective pinch? I can’t imagine anything weaker than this would satisfy my sadistic streak. Anyone who has a pair, please do let me know.

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Belphegor and the Burqa

This week, the burqa became illegal in France. There’s no doubt that it’s a contentious issue, and one I will only touch the very edge of here. The thing is, much as I’m all for secularism in most of its forms, I believe that this new legislation is farcical. David Mitchell summed up my feelings on the issue perfectly today in his Graun column:

‘Damian Green, the immigration minister, deftly dismissed calls for a burqa ban as “rather un-British”… I certainly prefer that argument to his colleague Caroline Spelman’s view. She thinks burqas are “empowering”. That’s only true in the sense that a ban would be massively disempowering and colossally violate the rights of free-born citizens.’

The French government claims that this new law is not about institutionalising Islamophobia, but about security. If anything that obscures the face is to be included, then shouldn’t they also legislate against sunglasses, big hats and The Stig?

However, any claim by the ban’s advocates that this will somehow liberate female Muslims is, at best, misguided. Countless atrocities have been carried out in the name of religion, Islam included, and even at the present time, women are suffering in ways that make religious clothing regulations seem comparatively irrelevant. Against the deafening squeals of xenophobic tabloids, it is easy to forget that some women wear the burqa out of choice. After September 11th, many took to the veil as an act of pride and defiance against the terrible hostility they faced from non-Muslims.

As you’re probably aware, I’m not a fan of religion in any of its forms, but to claim that a burqa ban is for the benefit of women is absurd. It’s despicable for a man to demand that a woman wears a certain item of clothing, but it’s just as despicable for anyone else to demand that she doesn’t. Where is her choice in any of this?

In May, the Telegraph reported on an incident of “burqa rage” in France:

‘At one point the lawyer, who was out with her daughter, is said to have likened the Muslim woman to Belphegor, a horror demon character well known to French TV viewers. Belphegor is said to haunt the Louvre museum in Paris and frequently covers up his hideous features using a mask. An argument started before the older woman is said to have ripped the other woman’s veil off. As they came to blows, the lawyer’s daughter joined in.

“The shop manager and the husband of the Muslim woman moved to break up the fighting,” the officer said. All three were arrested and taken to the local gendarmerie for questioning.

A spokesman for Trignac police said that two complaints had been received, with the Muslim woman accusing the lawyer of racial and religious assault. The latter, in turn, had accused her opponent of common assault.

The French parliament has adopted a formal motion declaring burkas and other forms of Islamic dress to be “an affront to the nation’s values.”‘

The Telegraph weren’t altogether accurate on one aspect of this story: Belphegor was a fictional character who first appeared in 1927, embarked on a complicated mission to steal and hoard museum artefacts, and repeatedly evaded capture by the authorities. Created as a rival to the famously masked, enigmatic anti-heroes such as the Phantom of the Opera, Belphegor has been celebrated in the mediums of comic, literature and television for nearly 80 years, most recently as a feature film in 2001.

The most striking thing about this accomplished super-villain, the fact that the Telegraph missed, is that in the Scooby-Doo moment at the end, when Belphegor was finally captured, that impenetrable mask was removed to reveal… a woman. In losing her anonymity, the mighty Belphegor lost her power.

Take heed. You may consider it wrong for a woman to  wear a veil, but if you tear away her disguise in the name of liberation, she may not thank you for it. In the meantime, you can learn more about Belphegor (pictured below) here.

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Wrangling the House-Slaves

Becoming one of the House Slaves at Club Pedestal is quite a feat. In the week before the event itself, applicants from around the world are invited to congregate for the (gloriously gladiatorial) vetting and training evening. It’s a process that few have ever spoken of, but one that is immensely enjoyable for – well, mostly for me and my fellow Mistresses actually. The waiting women arrange themselves along an arc of sofas, being wined and dined whilst interviewing, intimidating or occasionally interrogating potential House Slaves. The Pedestal website describes the gentlemen’s longed-for role thus:

“In their distinctive red collars and striped apron uniforms, our team of well-trained slaves provide a valuable service to our female guests.

Under the strict management of Pedestal’s Female organisers, our house slaves are available for use by all mistresses attending the club.

The role requires showing obedience to any of our female guests, and providing services like :

* Circulating the club with refreshments or flowers as provided by Pedestal

* Offering shoe shine services for attending mistresses using equipment provided

* Foot massage and pampering

* Fetching drinks from the bar for mistresses as instructed

* Any other services required by mistresses requiring a temporary slave!

Being a member of the Pedestal House slaves team is a demanding but rewarding role.”

My wonderful fellow House Mistress Joanna Lark has an article on her blog from a German gent who trained with us last year. Read his insightful account of the evening here, and find out more about applying to be a House Slave here.

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