Saturday, 12 July 2008

Once again, Bolt just doesn't get it

Last week Age arts critic Robert Nelson reopened the debate on the representation of children in art by publishing a naked picture of his daughter Olympia on the cover of Arts Monthly magazine.

Professional dyspeptic Andrew Bolt, in his new role as moral crusader (taking a break from his role as fingers-in-the-ears-antiscience-climate-change-denier) was obviously horrified.

On Thursday Bolt published on his blog an earlier piece by Nelson, in which Nelson talks about the ways in which images of children are sexual. Bolt describes Nelson's piece as "disturbing", but as is often the case, he's completely missed the point.

If what Nelson says about the images being sexual isn't true, then Bolt's own argument that the images shouldn't be seen . . . because they're sexual . . . make no sense!

Of course the pictures are sexual. But the point is that the pictures aren't sexualising the children. They're just bringing out, as Mr Nelson says, the latent sexuality that is already there.

You can't make a teapot sexual merely by photographing it naked.

Bolt and Nelson are actually in complete agreement on this point.

The only difference is that Nelson advocates the pictures' public display, while Bolt (along with Kevin Rudd and Hetty Johnston and all our other self-appointed moral nannies) wants them hidden away.

I have to agree with Robert Nelson. Let's bring it out into the open. Hiding our children away in dark corners does not keep them safe.

If we genuinely want to see a reduction in child abuse, then let's give our kids pride in themselves, pride in their strength and most importantly, ownership of their sexuality.

The problem with the current stampede of moral outrage is that it works completely counter to this goal. Kevin Rudd saying he "cannot stand" the picture of Olympia is a case in point.

Olympia was understandably offended by his statement because she's proud of her pictures, as she should be. And does Olympia sound like the sort of girl who would stand to be abused? Of course not.

A child with a healthy sense of his or her own worth is the child that will kick an abuser in the nuts and run away.

Surely that's what we want our kids to be.
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