Censorship has been a hot topic for nearly as long as history can remember: in the middle ages it was secular literature and “evil” or “impure” music containing diminished or otherwise dissonant chords. Later, and even continuing into the present day, perfectly valid and correct scientific papers that cut too much against the grain are excluded, censored, from the publications that they belong in. Clearly, censorship isn’t a new idea or phenomena.
In more recent history, we have had a number of censorship movements come up against everything from Harry Potter to Huckleberry Finn. Censorship, it seems, is one of society’s unshakable habits. A habit that seems always to stem from the same source: the Far Right (in recent history), fundamentalists in the Christian religion, and other similar conservative groups through out history. It is these groups, with their irrational fear of change, that are fighting against the free flow of information through the collective mind of humanity and they threaten to rob the West of access to it’s artistic heritage.
The human body is a piece of art; a beautiful thing that should be appreciated in the same way that we appreciate flowers, mountains, or animals. During the Renaissance and the Romantic Period artists understood this and would paint nudes to allow for a full appreciation of the human form. However, may would have you believe that these wonderful art pieces are nothing but worthless pornography; lets think about this a little bit. First, what is pornography? Lets ask wiktionary:
The explicitdepiction of sexual subject matter, especially with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer.
Clearly intention is important; it must be explicitly sexual with the intention of causing sexual arousal. However, we must also take into account the sensitivities and weaknesses of people, in which case pornography can only be defined on a personal basis. Therefore, an image that is sexually arousing is pornography to the person looking at it, but not for anyone who isn’t aroused by it. There are some caveats here, but they are beside the point. The people who want to censor supposedly pornographic art are the people who are overly sensitive to the “sexuality” of the human form.
I recently had a conversation with a neighbor of mine about art:
Me: <something about art history>
Him: “Oh, I was in an art history class once; but when I got the book, I was looking through it and in the Renaissance it was just a bunch of pictures of naked people! It was pornography! ..so I dropped the class.”
I think we’ve got some serious issues going on here! This is art! Is our society so corrupt that we can’t enjoy the fruits of the labor of so many talented artists from the Renaissance and Romantic Period? Must we render everything that has any relation to the human form as some kind of sexual innuendo or pornography?
This issue, as sad as it is, doesn’t only affect visual art forms. There are numerous pieces of literature that are insightful and can give us new insights that also contain racist or sexist language and are being subjected to the same kind of censorship activities as the art forms that we discussed above. We need to take these things in context! Racism in older literary works is only racism because we see it as such. From the perspective of the writer it is simply the way things are. For example, in was common knowledge during the 1700’s that blacks were an inferior form of human being whose lot it was to be enslaved. We know now that this isn’t the case, but they couldn’t know that! Times change and we must realize that our understanding is much different now than it was even ten years ago and that everything needs to be taken with some historical context.