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Don’t laugh; naked Donald Trump statues are beneath us

Passers-by take selfies with a naked Donald Trump

Passers-by take selfies with a naked Donald Trump statue in Los Angeles on Aug. 18 2016. The unauthorized art installation was created by INDECLINE, a self-described anarchist group. The statues also appeared in San Francisco, Seattle, Cleveland and New York. Photo Credit: EPA / Eugene Garcia

I call foul on the naked Donald Trump statues.

I’m not the first person to register my discontent, but I’m chiming in because we have about 2 ½ more months until the presidential election, and we can all do better.

Anarchist art collective Indecline placed life-size sculptures of the Republican presidential candidate in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Seattle last week, showing Trump with no clothes, a bulging belly and in want of certain anatomy. The installation was titled “The Emperor Has No Balls.”

Ha, ha, ha, right? Let’s laugh at the gross body, where the parts we like big are small and the parts we like flat are bloated. Let’s focus on his reproductive organs and mock him accordingly. And let’s do all this in the name of dissent.

Better yet, let’s not.

The easy taste test, of course, is to imagine a far-right group doing similar statues of Hillary Clinton. Many feminists and progressives - starting with me - would be outraged at the attempt to reduce a political candidate to her body parts and then mock those parts for failing to adhere to cookie-cutter norms of attractiveness. As though that has any bearing on a person’s ability to lead (or on attractiveness, frankly).

We’re already getting a dose of that at the Trump rallies that sell buttons touting a “KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts . Left Wing.” They’re tacky and cheap and add nothing of value to our political discourse.

The Trump statues are worse.

City officials removed the statues quickly (Cleveland, the most quickly), but not before people gathered around them, snapping selfies and declaring their genius. “It’s horrendously, tragically beautiful,” one woman told The Guardian.

I disagree.

We don’t get to be the movement that preaches inclusiveness - particularly around gender - if we embrace this type of mockery. We can’t, in good conscience, advocate for civil rights protections for transgender folks - to safely use public restrooms, for example - if we point and laugh at reproductive organs. We can’t push for women to fill more offices - political and glass - and then indicate that lacking testicles is a liability.

“Nothing is being said by the piece that is difficult for one in the current political climate to say - that Trump is a joke, or that fat people must be shamed, or that male bodies that don’t conform to masculine notions of genitalia deserve scorn,” Meghna Sridhar writes in a Feministing essay. “Indeed, the real naked emperors seem to be the installation’s smug audience instead, parading around in seeming robes of progressive politics, which actually, upon closer inspection, are their own naked delusions of open-minded, non-oppressive grandeur.”

More simply, she asks: “Are we really turning the tables on the oppressor, or are we continuing to stomp on the oppressed?”

The latter, I would say, under the guise of the former.

We can spend the next 70-odd days making our voices heard, agitating passionately and thoughtfully for whatever candidate we choose. And we can leave anatomy out of it.

Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may email her at hstevens@chicagotribune.com

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