‘What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?’ Betrayal and the Feminist Ethics of Aesthetic Involvement

  • Sarah Stewart-Kroeker University of Geneva, Switzerland
Keywords: Aesthetics, art, sexual ethics, feminist ethics, #MeToo

Abstract

The #MeToo movement has put a spotlight on sexual harassment and abuse in a number of industries, notably the arts. It has raised a set of questions about how to receive the artistic works of the accused, particularly when such work has been beloved or formative for an individual, and collectively when it has cultural significance and influence. Claire Dederer, writing in The Paris Review, posed the question bluntly in her piece, “What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?” This question, and the range of (often perplexed) responses to it, reveal the lack of adequate resources to evaluate responses to an artist’s actions that may bear on our aesthetic valuations of the artist’s work and that may be experienced as quite intimately personal. What do we do with the sense of betrayal that may follow on the discovery of an artist’s bad behavior? What are the implications of consuming of such art? What concepts and norms might help to guide reflection? These questions bear on the ethical significance of love and appreciation for artworks and artists, and, more broadly, the ethical consumption of artworks. This paper responds to these questions in two ways: first, it develops an account of “aesthetic involvement” to elaborate the sense of betrayal that may follow accusations or revelations of sexual harassment and abuse. Second, it proposes a feminist ethics of aesthetic involvement in response to such betrayals and to dilemmas about the individual and collective ethical consumption of artworks.

References

Ahmed, Sarah. Living a Feminist Life. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822373377

Berkowitz, Joe. “In A Post-Weinstein World, Louis CK’s Movie Is a Total Disaster.” Fast Company, October 20 2017. https://www.fastcompany.com/40483261/in-a-post-weinstein-world-louis-cks-movie-is-a-total-disaster. Accessed 2018-11-6.

Chrisman-Campbell, Kimberly. “When Casanova Met #MeToo.” The Boston Globe, March 3, 2018. https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2018/03/03/when-casanova-met-metoo/ALNHZdUQJJZ41KKylv8hqM/story.html. Acessed 2018-11-6.

Coyle, Deirdre. “Men Recommend David Foster Wallace to Me.” Electric Lit, April 17, 2017. https://electricliterature.com/men-recommend-david-foster-wallace-to-me-7889a9dc6f03. Accessed 2018-11-6.

Cramer, David, Jenny Howell, Jonathan Tran, Paul Martens, “Scandalizing John Howard Yoder,” The Other Journal: An Intersection of Theology & Culture, July 7, 2014. https://theotherjournal.com/2014/07/07/scandalizing-john-howard-yoder/. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Darr, Ryan. “Social Sin and Social Wrongs: Moral Responsibility in a Structurally Disordered World.” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 37:2 (Fall/Winter 2017), pp. 21-37. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/sce.2017.0031

Deb, Sopan and Deborah Leiderman. “Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Soon-Yi Previn, Dylan Farrow: A Timeline.” The New York Times, January 31, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/movies/woody-allen-mia-farrow-dylan-farrow-a-timeline.html. Accessed 2018-11-2.

Dederer, Claire. “What Do We Do With the Art of Monstrous Men?” The Paris Review, November 20, 2017. https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/11/20/art-monstrous-men/. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Donegan, Moira. “I Started the Media Men List. My name is Moira Donegan.” The Cut, January 10, 2018. https://www.thecut.com/2018/01/moira-donegan-i-started-the-media-men-list.html. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Dover, Caitlin. “Who Was Hilma af Klint?: At the Guggenheim, Paintings by an Artist Ahead of Her Time.” October 11, 2018, https://www.guggenheim.org/blogs/checklist/who-was-hilma-af-klint-at-the-guggenheim-paintings-by-an-artist-ahead-of-her-time. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Durcanin, Cynthia. “Casanova as Case Study: How Should Art Museums Present Problematic Aspects of the Past ?” Art News, August 13, 2018. http://www.artnews.com/2018/08/13/casanova-case-study-art-museums-present-problematic-aspects-past/. Accessed 2018-11-6.

Farin, Ingo and Jeff Malpas (eds). Reading Heidegger’s Black Notebooks 1931-1941. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/9780262034012.001.0001

Farrow, Dylan. “An Open Letter from Dylan Farrow.” The New York Times, February 1, 2014. https://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/01/an-open-letter-from-dylan-farrow/. Accessed 2018-11-7.

Gaut, Berys. Art, Emotion and Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199263219.001.0001

Goossen, Rachel Waltner. “Defanging the Beast: Mennonite Responses to John Howard Yoder’s Sexual Abuse.” Mennonite Quarterly Review 89 (January 2015), pp. 7-80.

Hauerwas, Stanley. “In Defence of ‘Our Respectable Culture’: Trying to Make Sense of John Howard Yoder’s Sexual Abuse.” ABC Religion and Ethics, October 18, 2017. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2017/10/18/4751367.htm. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Hess, Amanda. “How the Myth of the Artistic Genius Excuses the Abuse of Women.” The New York Times, November 10, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/10/arts/sexual-harassment-art-hollywood.html. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Hungerford, Amy. “On Not Reading.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 11 2016. https://www.chronicle.com/article/On-Refusing-to-Read/237717. Accessed 2018-11-6.

Izadi, Elahe. “Why the ‘Last Tango in Paris’ rape scene is generating such an outcry now.” The Washington Post, December 5 2016. https://wapo.st/2g0vcLt?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.1b18e8f8fcec. Accessed 2018-11-2.

Kolitz, Daniel. “Academics Explain David Foster Wallace To Me.” The Outline, July 25, 2018, https://theoutline.com/post/5543/david-foster-wallace-conference-profile?zd=1&zi=hoxjdain. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Kurutz, Steve. “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Manhattan?” The New York Times, March 1 2018. https://nyti.ms/2FHasqw. Accessed 2018-11-2.

Lyall, Sarah and David Itzkoff. “Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey: Rebuked. Now What Do We Do With Their Work?” The New York Times, November 24, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/arts/charlie-rose-kevin-spacey-louis-ck-art.html. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Manne, Kate. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Mintcheva, Svetlana. “Caravaggio killed a man. Should we therefore censor his art?” The Guardian, February 3, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/03/caravaggio-killed-a-man-censor-art?CMP=share_btn_fb. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Mitchell, Andrew and Peter Trawny (eds). Heidegger’s Black Notebooks: Responses to Anti-Semitism. Columbia University Press, 2017. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7312/mitc18044

Mueller, William A. and Caroline Boyle Turner. “Gauguin’s Teeth.” Anthropology 6:1 (2018). DOI : 10.4172/2332-0915.1000198.

Nehamas, Alexander. Only a Promise of Happiness: The Place of Beauty in a World of Art. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Paulson, Steve and Claire Hayes-Brady. “David Foster Wallace in the #MeToo Era: A Conversation with Clare Hayes-Brady.” Los Angeles Review of Books, September 10, 2018. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/david-foster-wallace-in-the-metoo-era-a-conversation-with-clare-hayes-brady/. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Pollock, Griselda. Avant-Garde Gambits 1888-1893: Gender and the Color of Art History. London: Thames & Hudson, 1993.

Ryzik, Melena, Cara Buckley, and Jodi Kantor. “Louis C.K. Is Accused by 5 Women of Sexual Misconduct.” The New York Times, November 9, 2017. https://nyti.ms/2ho0aE0. Accessed 2018-11-6.

Rothfeld, Becca. “Can Sexual Predators Be Good Scholars?” The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 07 2017. https://www.chronicle.com/article/Can-Sexual-Predators-Be-Good/242002?cid=wcontentgrid_40_5. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Scarry, Elaine. On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Scarsella, Hilary. “Not Making Sense: Why Stanley Hauerwas's Response to Yoder's Sexual Abuse Misses the Mark.” ABC Religion and Ethics, Updated 1 Dec 2017 (First posted 30 Nov 2017). http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2017/11/30/4774014.htm. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Scott, A.O. “My Woody Allen Problem.” The New York Times, January 31 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/movies/woody-allen.html. Accessed 2018-11-8.

Solomon-Godeau, Abigail. “Going Native: Paul Gauguin and the Invention of Primitivist Modernism.” in Art in America 77 (July 1989), pp. 118-29.

Thomson, Belinda (ed). Gauguin: Maker of Myth. London: Tate Modern, 2010.

van der Grijp, Paul. Art and Exoticism: An Anthropology of the Yearning for Authenticity. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2009.

Published
2020-06-30
How to Cite
Stewart-Kroeker, S. (2020) “‘What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?’ Betrayal and the Feminist Ethics of Aesthetic Involvement”, De Ethica, 6(1), pp. 51-74. doi: 10.3384/de-ethica.2001-8819.19062502.
Section
Articles