Pin-Up: From Objectification to Empowerment

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techgnotic's avatar



by techgnotic
Wed Feb 01, 2011, 11:00 PM

In researching the history of pin up art I found that before there were the “centerfold girls”
there were the “pin-up calendar girls” – the semi-nude young women in lingerie whose photographs
adorned calendars sold semi-legally from under the counters of gas stations and truck stops. In
fact, the Marilyn Monroe nudes that established the “Playboy” magazine centerfold were actually
taken years before for just such a “men’s calendar.” From “French postcards” to calendars to men’s
magazines, there has always been a special relationship between photography and the male obsession
with the female form. These photos were pinned in soldiers’ lockers and even carried into combat.
The iconic pin-up images were even painted on the nosecones of many U.S. Air Force bombers.

Playboy 1938 by walker1812 Marilyn in white by salvatoredevito 20s glamour girl by mEtZGERbRauT:thumb81075621:

Why the male obsession of covering his walls, jackets, cars, advertising, gadget skins and
screensavers with photos and artworks depicting variations and arrangements of female anatomy?

At least through the “Playboy” era (1960s-70s) the depictions of the female were extremely “objectified”
– the “quality” of the female subject’s body parts taking precedence over any other information about the
subject. But something interesting happened as the generations progressed. Pin-up art has greatly evolved
not only from how idealized females are depicted, but also in that so many women themselves are now the artists
creating pin-up art.

Furthermore, the pin-up models themselves are no longer mute, anonymous “objects” for manipulation –
they have their own identities, websites and businesses based on how they choose to represent their female form.

When young men choose pin up totems of their preferred pop culture prey to adorn their man-caves these days, the
“pin-up girl” ideal is more likely to be closer to Lara Croft or Gina Carano or the Kate Beckinsale character in
“Underworld” or Milla Jovovich in “Resident Evil” than to some full bodied but otherwise expressionless model. Even
the most macho men today seem to want their “dream girl” to be smart and tough and resourceful.

The pin-up image has greatly evolved from a fluffy slice of “cheesecake” to a self-reliant, self-defined, physically
fit female whose hotness is exceeded only by her ability to kick any unworthy man’s butt. As more and more female artists
create pin-up art, and more female models for this art become self-empowered in co-creation of the “message” going out
from this art, the more the “objectification” past can be redeemed by the “empowerment” future – and the wonder and power
of the female subject – body and soul – can be free to evolve ever closer in its depiction toward ultimate revelation.


Because of the comments this article is generating, many directed at the “voice” of the article instead of its subject, this has turned into a great opportunity to talk a bit about the process of these articles and why they are presented the way they are.

The purpose of my essays and articles on HQ is to shine a spotlight on amazing artists on deviantART as well as all of the different types of art represented on our site and hopefully spark real dialogues between deviants and others.  Sometimes this works “too well” and community members take me to task for pushing some sort of private agenda that would better be suited to my personal journaling.  But I have no agenda other than to provoke the lively exchanges that, like this one on pin-up art, are giving off such great passion, heat and light.  The shared comments, especially from contributors like SparrowSong, are the other half of what the “articles” are about.

The articles are not personal “think pieces” or statements of official deviantART opinion or policy about “positive" or “negative” art.  The articles are meant to bring out your feelings and opinions.  In this pin-up piece I was worried that my own, sometimes buzz-kill, feminist sentiments (especially when it comes to objectifying women into sex toys) were going to overly darken my notes on “pin-up” - -  a major field of art on deviantART - - and make me look biased against it and its artists.  I obviously bent the rhetorical stick too far the other way.  I’m relieved that there’s still enough passion out there for female equality that I’d be called a sexist for not totally trashing “pin-up” and its fans.

What I really wasn’t trying to say in the article is that I think “pin-up” used to be sexist, but it’s all good and even empowering of females now with sexism “gone.”.  I thought I was saying that pin-up objectificaton will always exist so long as testosterone exists, but now at least there is a substantial portion of it that at least values (or intends to value) other aspects of the female subject (i.e., leadership, independence, physical and mental acuity, etc) and these were completely absent in pin-up just a few decades ago.  I always look to the rays of light emerging from the darkness, rather than the depressing persistence of the darkness.

What started out as an invitation for all of us to express, yet also question, our feelings and personal thesis about the validity, purpose, intent, and artistic merit of nudity in the arts (and subsequently our everyday lives) quickly turned into a wildfire global conversation that ran across every age, race, religion, gender, and ideology we have on the Earth Sphere. Just an incredible conversation that had a significant impact on many of us in the community who were following each and every comment.

One other angle I edited out of the article at the last minute: there is a direct thread from the Pin-up era all the way through to the insurgent Cosplay movement currently raging across the globe. The comment from $Dollwithagun presents first hand perspective regarding the pin up centric, barely there outfits, and decidedly erotic undercurrents permeating the Con circuits along with the meteoric rise and integration of the cosplay aesthetic into the mainstream of our pop-culture narrative.
To this point, Heidi and I returned from a fact finding mission at Dragon Con last year with multiple eye opening experiences illustrating this surging phenomenon.

I would like to extend this invitation to you to share responses to this article with links to artwork, sources, statistics, etc., that strengthen and support your positions and thoughts on any matters related to this now diverse conversation, and I will then update this article next week highlighting all of those well thought out and detailed responses.

Questions for the Reader


Many of you have commented about the inclusion of weapons as props in today's pin up art.  What would you say is the ultimate impact of that element on the viewers experience?


What female pin-up from movies, comics, fashion, etc, has always best represented your idea of the ideal female?  How much of your choice is based on sheer physical attractiveness and magnetism, and how much on other factors (what you know of her ideas and attitudes, her causes and concerns, etc)?


How much “political” thought ruins an artist’s muse?


Would you consider posing for a pin up if asked?  Do you think that posing for a painitng or drawing is different than posing for a photograph?


Do you feel it’s a generally positive thing that female artists create powerful independent female characters in their art that are still ultra-sexy and alluring?

© 2012 - 2021 techgnotic
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here the real pin up unlike the trash we're seeing to day in shitty mags

bombshell - Copy - Copy - Copy - Copy
hawaiianbryan's avatar
Interesting article. A lot of really good points, and I enjoyed the read.

I only have one point of contention. I personally don't agree that pinup models were ever "mute, anonymous 'objects' for manipulation." The models you're referring to posed for the artwork even though social convention told them not to. They may be demure, or shy, or submissive in the artwork... but her posing represents a moment in her life when she lived on her own terms. She posed because she wanted to. The independence doesn't need to be in the artwork as long as it's in the heart of the model.

1) The inclusion of weapons as props... I suppose it depends. In my artwork I try to steer clear of guns. It's a matter of style. Modern guns are ugly as hell (I feel the same way about modern cars). I'll paint old six shooters, swords, sci-fi laser guns, bows and arrows, and I've even painted a model riding the "fat man" atomic bomb. For pinup, you have to highlight the unique qualities of the model and the props... modern guns are just too common looking.

2) My ideal female pinup is Bettie Page. She had great range as a model. She could be sweet, serious, sexy, and playful, dominant, submissive... and she did it all on her own terms. You have to respect that.

3) Any message you try to convey with your artwork must be clear, simple, and immediately understood... politics are rarely that. I'm not saying it can't be done (Rosie the riveter is a very iconic piece of political propaganda), but I'm saying that that it's RARELY done well.

4) No... I'd never pose for a pinup. I'm not confident in the way I look, plus if I were to focus so much on myself as to comply to a standard of beauty worthy of being painted, then I'd certainly not be as smart or talented as I am. I respect those who choose to make their body into art... my energies are best spent focused elsewhere.

I can, however, speak to the point of others posing for photographs versus paintings/drawings. It has more gravitas to be painted or drawn. Photography certainly takes effort, time, and talent, but being painted is a far more rare experience. Especially being painted well... there are far fewer great painters than there are great photographers.

5) Power and independence is a motif. It's important if and only if that it what you're trying to convey, but it's not more important that any other motif in the grander scale.

Your Pal,
"Hawaiian" Bryan

sidetrack1's avatar
I don't know how to feel about the shift being from supposed objectification to empowerment but this article is interesting
Oseltamivir's avatar
Woohooo! You mentioned Milla Jovovich and had Ada Wong's picture! Five stars!

Seriously, this was very detailed and informative :) Your presentation is great and really hooks the reader (and I'm not just talking about the pretty ladies!). I think you've given the reader an interesting perspective into the idea of pinups. Good job.
ksusha-landysh's avatar
Pin-up paintings have always had glaring errors with women's anatomy. No spine. No stomach, no fat, no body hair, no nothing. Pin-up photos are not so bad, but it's hard to find a woman that doesn't fit the stereotypical form, god forbid her stomach ain't flat and her boobs aren't pointy. XD
I highly recommend to really understand how messed up some comic book pin-ups can be.
deviantART muro drawing Comment Drawing
fyrehed's avatar
Pin-ups make me really uncomfortable, mostly because they turn me on. They don't, however, turn me on the same way pretty women on the street will: they turn me on in a sort of violent, crazed way. I don't want to be nice to them--the fantasies the inspire in me are cruel and degrading. I want to use and brutalize them, then throw them away like the cheap dolls they're pretending to be. That feeling in turn fills me with self-loathing and spite for both women and men (as well as a desire to watch hardcore porn). All in all, they make me feel lusty and hateful: I like them, but I hate that I do. I don't have much respect for them--meaning for the people who pose for or shoot them.

I think the problem is you

Compusician's avatar
Another great piece of work. I noticed the magnifying glass. Haven't seen that before. Good idea! :)
QueenDevious's avatar


Hello Dear Deviant Friend!
Your talent has been recognized and put on display in
:bulletblack::bulletblue::bulletwhite:The Queen's Picks 2012:bulletwhite::bulletblue::bulletblack:
Thank you for sharing your amazing talent with
the World! :earth:
And remember, dear...

"Every successful artist has at least one person
who really believes in them." :heart:

~ Patricia Piccinini; artist, sculptor



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deviantART muro drawing Comment Drawing
how we humans - male and female - like to ramble with analysis and artistic intellectualism about how we find it often overpowering to handle our basic needs for physical contact, sexual satisfaction and the requirement to continue our species.
Sadly, we have allowed various religions to advise, threaten and, in the case of childhood, punish us to pervert us away from our reality - sexually and emotionally -toward a mythological need to be a penitent or a sinner.
In our early years we are tended by adults. Often a young adult female will be our source of life and hourly survival. Sometimes these young woman are finding it hard enough to cope with their own lives. Of course we do not make any serious attempt to guide, help and support young mothers. We would if they were learning to drive a car.
So, I've said enough surely? Continue to believe that the changing face and body of pornography is part of female empowerment if you want to keep your eyes shut. That females producing sexual imagery of female 'models' who "kick male butt" as you mention - is somehow progressive and about genuinely powerful and independent women is just another myth as toxic as religious bullying.
Sorry folks - reducing females (especially) to handy-sized fantasies we (whether we are male or female) can move around and control .... even if we ask them to kick us ....... is all based on our first few years when usually a young and inexperienced female with very little guidance was IN TOTAL CONTROL OF OUR LIFE. Whether we STAYED ALIVE EVERY DAY. Often enough this was too much for the young woman and totally terrifying for the infant. Spending the rest of our lives compensating for this is wasteful and painful. Beginning to take parenting seriously however is not yet on the agenda. Meanwhile we have our crutches - one of which is the pornography\fashion\behaviours you have been illustrating with photo-images of the latest icons. Now sometimes armed and dangerous, pseudo- powerful and fit.
.......... C'mon folks ..... they are models pretending to be Hippolyta - mythological Queen of The Amazons - to sell mags, movies and aftershave.
Time for some reality so we can get ourselves sorted. And I don't mean prohibition - I mean being honest with each other ! We are warm-blooded animals who need and crave positive contact with others even before we are born
Oseltamivir's avatar

skimming your comment (it's late at night and I'm tired!), I think you're a pretty smart cookie. I wish there was a like button for your comment ;)
good of you to tell me ~ really appreciated thanks
SHrrrrrriiipfan's avatar
Pin-ups today are the best of both worlds. You get the sexiness of the feminine form, and te empowerment of what one is capable of, but let's not forget, the object is not to compare the sexes, but to show how equal they can be. The Pin-up is now, part of that objective.
RaediantArt's avatar
And nothing screams 'equality' then a woman in fishnets and lingerie bending over in a seductive pose? Your mentality is strange. I find equality when women are treated/paid /viewed equally as a man. Just like a man to a woman, without having to first think of sex. If anything, revealing a woman's body to a man is just showing off how different we actually are physically. And how a woman's anatomy can control a mans mind at will. For example: Victorias Secret, they sells womens lingerie and undergarments. Why do they make 'seductive' and 'sexy' commercials for? Money. They do it because they know that men will watch it, like it, and buy it because thats what they want from their wives/gf's. It has nothing to do with equality or empowerment. Just money and sex.
SHrrrrrriiipfan's avatar

I have a strong and open-minded mentality. I think you're taking this out of context.

So, in other words, you say that you hate pin-ups, and are not very open-minded.

Read the article again, please. The point of it is to describe the fact that the female form is NO LONGER, just something to look at, but a subject of how a woman can be empowered to do anything, regardless of how they look. Yes, they look sexy, it's a pin-up. BUT, you miss the point that you see these women in a light other than mere objectification.

You are leaning way to much on side of the subject, and you took me out of context.

I know you'll probably reply, but hey, you're entitled to your (somewhat convoluted) opinion.
RaediantArt's avatar
There is a fine line when being, as you say "open-minded" crosses a line that enters a land where you lie and convince yourself you are seeing something, but deep down you have another reason, a darker reason.

You even admit that above "yes, they look sexy, its a pin-up". So your saying pin-ups are made to be sexy, and to attract sexual attention so people will look at their picture and hopefully understand whatever concept they are trying to say.
How is that any different then porn sites using women's bodies on Ads to attract attention to their site? Using sex, and the female body, it gets attention.

I read the article quite clearly. And find it to be a big pile of steamy BS.
It's a great example of how people are willing to change their 'views' of something without really changing. More giving it a fancy definition without bluntly saying: "I like this picture because there is a very attractive woman in it and shes semi-nude. But hey, shes not showing off her whole entire body which means its not as bad as porn, right? And they are showing some kind of meaning behind it other then sex."

Anyways, most pin-ups have no meaning. Some of the ones above are of women in skimpy clothing, and posing. It is obvious what they are getting at.

Most immature men that look at them will think of sex, and what will they do after looking at them?
Pull up a new tab and probably start searching for some porn to watch.
SHrrrrrriiipfan's avatar
Well, that's your opinion. I don't agree with you, but hey, you're entitled to feel that way if you so choose.

We'll just leave it at that.
roballen2's avatar
opinions are blind alleys of lazy stupid people...I got 'em, yea, They are flaws in personality.
We have to have one more minute to project our love and perfect our art.
SHrrrrrriiipfan's avatar
I am all for the art! If you're talking about opinions in regard to what's art and what isn't, she is a bit blind, but whatever.

At the same time, everybody has an opinion about everything, they are neither right, nor wrong. You saying "opinions are blind alleys of lazy stupid people...I got 'em, yea, They are flaws in personality", is in and of itself, an opinion.

The best part about expressing yourself freely, whether through art, music, discussion, etc., is that you have the right to agree or disagree, but at the same time, respect their opinions and provide a counter argument.

Remember, if everyone agreed about everything, life would be pretty vanilla, and boring. I do agree we should take more time to project art and love, but don't just shut your ears and not take criticism, or not listen to other suggestions.
angelinabicha's avatar
i loooove pin uppppp
cuervojose's avatar
great article!!!:)
great layout!!!:)
kaidragonslayer's avatar
Extremely interesting article that I have read a couple of times since I first read it on Valentine's Day. It explores the topic well.
o1bloody1o's avatar
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