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Logo illustration of 5 different pinups representing diversity in the community

Pinup and feminism

Holly Stockton

"I feel that one challenge facing pinups today really comes down to misconception. Some people view it as objectifying or demeaning to women. Another challenge is that there are still people out there that try to highlight the negative sides of competitions pitting pinup against pinup. We just need to continue to change the narrative through our art and our stories. I hope that as we share our individual stories more people will see the beauty and the power behind all pinups and that as a group we can embrace each other and lift one another up!"

One thing we hear frequently in Pinup is: 'I was born in the wrong era'.

Have a think about that statement - are you a working mother? A single parent? Do you have tattoos? Are you disabled? Or plus sized? Are you BIPOC? Are you LGBTIQA+? Are you a single, unmarried, working woman over 30? Are you a tertiary educated woman or AFAB? Are you a woman or AFAB in a high payed job? Are you a woman or AFAB teaching in tertiary education? - If you have answered yes to any of these points then chances are you wouldn't actually enjoy the social reality of the era you admire, and your life would be very different and far more restricted than it is now.

Is Pinup a feminist movement?

While it may seem to some from first glance (some 'pin up photographers' and popular media) that Pin Up was created to sexualise and exploit women, the answer to whether Pinup is a feminist movement, is a firm 'Yes!'

The concept of Pin Up was originally created in the 1800s, when women would have their images printed on postcard or lithograph to promote themselves as performers and models etc in a heavily patriarchal world. Men scrambled for those collectable cards, taking them across countries and the globe, boosting the popularity (and thus financial success and independence) of those performers - the exploitation of the male gaze did wonders for their careers.

The female form became very popular in advertising as a result and the Gibson Girl was created. She was the epitome of the healthy and wholesome girl next door, and women aspired to be like her. Fans of the Gibson Girl and similar concepts considered them to be a rejection of body shame and promotion of healthy body image and respect for women.

Over time, with the popularity of illustrators like Elvgren and Vargas, images became less 'wholesome' and 'respectable' and more sexualised and illicit.

Women's involvement in the expression of their sexuality 

Exploitation in the eye of the beholder and position of power

While the most popularly produced images of Pin Up Girls were generally young, able-bodied, white women, this was not exclusively the case. Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge and Eartha Kitt all made an impact on the Pin Up culture of their time, and their visibility enabled young black women to aspire to being visible themselves. In 1951, Jet Magazine was created, which covered the civil rights movement in America and supported Black Pin Ups by featuring a weekly 'Beauty of the Week', to showcase the beauty of black women in a world where their bodies and skin colour was not the popularly shown ideal.

The friendship between Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald hugely influenced changes in the racial restrictions in the nightclub scene in Hollywood in the mid-1950s.

Visibility and representation inclusivity

Tara Moss - disability and motherhood

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