Please join us for a colloquium presentation on Friday, November 30, at 4:00 PM. This week’s speaker is Robin James, Associate Professor of Philosophy at UNC-Charlotte and co-editor of the Journal of Popular Music Studies. Her presentation is “Must Be Love On The Brain?: How can feminists reconcile our love of artworks with our disgust at the misogynist artists who made them?”
As #MeToo activism has revealed cascades of famous and influential men to be serial sexual harassers and rapists, the question of what to do about aesthetically pleasing art made by morally and politically disgusting men has received renewed interest and urgency. I identify 2 different types of feminist responses to this question. The first kind of response modifies post-feminist and post-race approaches to diversity as a kind of beauty: replacing beauty with disgust, these approaches treat sexism and misogyny as individual-level flaws that can be eliminated through appropriate aesthetic judgments. The second kind of response begins from the premise that centuries of white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy have shaped our aesthetic principles and conventions such that sexism and misogyny are systemic problems baked into all works of art. I examine how Angela Davis’s revision of Marcuse’s concept of the aesthetic dimension, Katherine McKittrick’s and Alexander Weheliye’s concept of “emulation,” and Rihanna’s vocal performance choices on her 2016 single “Love On The Brain” are all instances of this latter type of response.