Freedom of Expression: Art, Gender and Sexuality

Art is a form of expression. Phrases such as ‘artistic licence’ and ‘artistic freedom’ are often regarded as the pinnacle of independence for artists. Article 10 of the Humans Rights Act gives everybody the right to freedom of expression. This is often referenced to viewpoints and opinions, but it is important to give freedom to the mode of that expression; of which, art is one.

 

Threats to freedom of expression - censorship

Preventing art censorship allows for such creators to exercise their rights to freedom of expression. Throughout history, art has been censored and moulded by the political, cultural and societal structure of the period. Gustave Courbet’s infamous L'Origine du monde ("The Origin of the World") has been censored repeatedly due to its honest portrayal of the female body - even over a century after its creation. This conversation on artistic freedoms, however, becomes more intricate and powerful when combined with issues on gender and sexual identity. 

 

Threats to freedom of expression - patriarchal structures

In a similar vein to art censorship, patriarchal structures within society have historically enforced norms within gender identity and sexuality. In turn, this has repressed gender non-conformists and members of the LGBTQ community. Implementing a prescribed normality makes it difficult for those whose identity exists outside of that framework; therefore, ostracising whole groups of people for simply not fitting in. 

 

What can be done?

Society is slowly changing. In terms of visual culture, the contemporary art scene is giving space to creative expressions of more mediums, visualisations and conversations than ever before. Plus, we can see an increasing acceptance of gender identities, sexualities and new norms and values. However, work still needs to be done to ensure the safety of said communities to express their gender and conduct their sexuality freely from societal expectations. 


Juli Baker and Summer’s Angry Women Will Change the World fights against patriarchal enforcement of gender identity. The visual defies the typical definition of “feminine.” There is a push against, and a questioning of, the imposed expression of femininity as gentle and domestic. Rather, one should be able to communicate their identity as they see fit; disregarding societal expectations to make room for their own freedoms.

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