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April 01, 2016

Censoring Women During Women's History Month

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif.—It may come as a surprise to non-Los Angeles residents that not only is "West Hollywood" a city (albeit within another city), but that it has its own city hall and mayor. But one would think that such a city, sitting as it does between a large collection of Hollywood studios to the south and "Porn Valley" to the north, it would have a better idea of what's acceptable regarding nudity in the Los Angeles area. But one would be wrong. Just ask famous photographer Brooke Mason, two of whose photographs—"Glass Ceiling," depicting a nude woman (pussy not shown) sitting on a glass tabletop supported by a man, and "Voyeur," a sort-of "peeper photo" through a sheer curtain of a nude woman relaxing in a chair—were removed after being displayed for five days from the exhibition "EXPOSED: Celebrating Local Women Artists" that began on March 6 in Plummer's Park, which runs between Santa Monica Boulevard and Fountain Avenue, and midway between Fairfax and Highland avenues. Why? Some "unknown city staff member" complained. Those photos can be found here. Perhaps even more egregious, though, was the removal of her photo "Soar," depicting a topless black woman who appears to be midway through a balletic jump, from the "Out and About" exhibition in West Hollywood's City Hall, allegedly because city officials believed the model to be underage. "Even after being informed of the model's age, which is way beyond that of a minor, the City would not allow 'Soar' to be shown, threatening to cancel the entire exhibition if the photograph was included," wrote the National Coalition Against Censorship's (NCAC) Joy Garnett. "Faced with the prospect of having the whole exhibit canceled, Mason pulled Soar from the show." Of course, once the NCAC (and the ACLU) sent an open letter to West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath and her staff," explaining how the treatment of Brooke Mason violates the First Amendment and calling for the reinstatement of her censored photographs," suddenly it was all, "With regard to the controversy, I want to be very clear that at no time did I personally ask Miss Mason to take down her work. In fact, I don’t find her work offensive at all," said Horvath. Several City Council members joined that sort-of apology, including Council member John Duran, who noted, "Over the years we’ve had Robert Mapplethorpe exhibits, Tom of Finland exhibits. It’s a city that is not afraid of the open expression of sexuality, and that includes HIV Positive women and men who are also sexual in nature. We have no embarrassment or shame about that sort of expression, either. My apology to the artist. We’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again and, and it sounds like it was an error, so, my apologies." Indeed; let's hope it doesn't happen again. Pictured: Brooke Mason with her photo "Soar."

 
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