[Image Description: Photograph from a low angle of the front of the statue Forever Marilyn, recently unveiled in Chicago, which portrays Marilyn Monroe as seen in the famous shot of her skirt being blown up. A gaggle of tourists are standing around it, and one leg is being climbed by someone.]
Hey Chicago, what the fuck is your problem? Man, you know, it’s not that I hate you as a city, because I don’t, but this is fucking ridiculous.
(Warning: Anyone who doesn’t like my rants should just keep on scrollin’, ‘cause I’ve got a BIG one saved up for this atrocity. Also, TRIGGER WARNINGS for discussion of sexual harassment and domestic violence.)
See, listen. Contrary to the Chicago Sun-Times writer Richard Roeper, who says “It’s not that the sculpture is shocking or sexist or obscene,” I think it IS sexist. And obscene. And shocking, not because of the sexuality it presents, but because of the insensitivity to someone who was a living, breathing human being.
One who hated being treated as a walking sex toy (which she often was, by men on the sets of her movies who felt that her blatant presentation of sexuality — in which she didn’t have a lot of agency, by the way — entitled them to grope her, flip up her skirt, proposition her lewdly, demand sexual favors, describe exactly what they wanted to do to her…and she didn’t have a recourse. She was a sex symbol. Not only did she “deserve” it, she must like it! Otherwise, why would she do such a thing?
Oh, I don’t know. Why would ANYONE do something that makes them slightly uncomfortable just to have a chance at a future they dreamed of? Why would anyone who had only ever wanted to be loved do things that compromised her own sense of self just because it got her SOME kind of attention/affection/love?
But beyond that, what this sculpture represents is atrocious. Not because you can see up her skirt, no. I have no problem with bodies and consensual presentations of sexuality. If this were a statue of Bettie Page, who — from my understanding — had much more agency in her sexual presentation and enjoyed things like this, then I would be more okay with it. I would still worry about what it says about our culture that we can just present a woman’s body as property in such a way that you can’t even see her face, but… this is just a permanent continuation of all the sexual harassment she endured as a person, now enacted upon her effigy. Classy.
But no, not even just that. Not even just because of the exploitation of something that Marilyn often felt somewhat humiliated by, if her diaries are anything to go by. Not just the insensitivity to her struggles with depression and how the attitude this is born of made those worse.
No, because this glamorizes, fetishizes, and flat-out worships a moment that I am willing to bet she only remembered with cringing and pain for a very long time. You know why? Because the photo shoot this pose came from? Yeah. This photo shoot pissed off her then-husband, asshole extraordinaire Joe DiMaggio, SO MUCH that he left the shoot in a rage, went back to their hotel, and waited for her to get there… so that he could beat the shit out of her. Which he did. So loudly, in fact, that other hotel guests heard and called the police.
Yeah, Chicago. THAT’s what you just put up on your street. A piece of sexist “art” that encourages the commodization of a woman who is remembered not for her sensitivity, her compassion, and her brilliance — which was downplayed so much in favor of making her seem like a “dumb blonde” that men could be justified in treating as a sex toy that she was wracked with insecurity over people finding out how “stupid” she was — but for the way people wanted to use her body, regardless of her consent or comfort, and that glamorizes a moment in time that was probably forever entangled in her memory with DiMaggio’s abuse.
Way to go, Chicago and New Jersey. Way to go. (Oh, and Roeper? Fuck you for being more concerned about tourists “embarrassing themselves” with the statue than what it stands for. It IS shocking, sexist, and obscene, and maybe you should develop some sensitivity. Or a soul.)