This Painting Is Beautiful (A.K.A. Jordan Peterson Doesn’t Understand What Beauty Is)
To buy this painting, please click here.
Jordan Peterson has done it again, he has been critical of even a minor feminist-oriented reconstruals on beauty, to the point where he was actually being a bully to someone. He tweeted that a plus-size and curvy model on the cover of Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition was, “sorry, not beautiful”, and that any sort of “authoritarian tolerance” will not change that.
Of course, there is a strange fact that most authoritarian dictators can be described as having a dictatorship over what they claimed was beautiful, and they were not “tolerant” of beauty, but were very “anti-tolerant” of it. That is, authoritarians think that beauty is fixed, it is conceptually and intrinsically tied to “health”, and most importantly, there can’t be a plurality of many different beauties in the world – their view of beauty it is very narrow. To be authoritarian of beauty is about enforcing strict obedience to a central narrow core of what beauty is or what beauty can be. There is a lot that you can inquire and doubt about this view, including the idea that there is some central narrow core to what beauty is. But I will not do that in detail here, I just want to create a little doubt here.
Peterson adheres to similar authoritarian tendencies on beauty, by claiming that someone or something is clearly, “sorry, not beautiful”, as if he can claim my view of taste or beauty is wrong. In “This Painting Is Beautiful”, I want to challenge Peterson and other authoritarian points of view on beauty. I want to claim in this painting that there are many different kinds of beauties in our bodies, including curvy people, obese people, disabled people, or older people. They too can be beautiful, in many different ways, and they can even be swimsuit models too. This painting is inspired by a photo by the photographer Yossi Loloi, in his “Fullbeauty” project. Yossi wants to portray the full-figured women with a certain focus, in his words:
I focus on their fullness and femininity, as a form of protest against discrimination set by media and by today’s society. What larger women embody to me is simply a different form of beauty.– Yossi Loloi
I think I agree with him. I was also inspired by Nicole Sleeth, who paints fantastic figures of women, in a none-objectifying and a very beautiful way. In a recent gallery called “All Eyes On You”, Sleeth painted multiple nude figures of women who stare back at the viewer, inviting the viewer to engage with a painting in new and intimate ways. But the real question for me in this blog post is: can there be a plurality of beautiful people or things? I think that undoubtedly there is, and any sort of real authoritarianism of beauty will not change that.