If You Put a Bag Over His Head: Objectifying Men in the Age of Terror
The photographs included in the series, IF YOU PUT A BAG OVER HIS HEAD seek to engage the viewer in a dialogue about the nature of objectification. Much has been written about the female gaze – the way in which women regard the world, and whether it can include the objectification of men. Can women, despite being the most common victims of sexual violence objectify men in a real and dangerous, even violent way?
In 2004, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke after CBS released photos of prisoners in Iraq being abused and tortured by US military forces. The resulting scandal would include the trials of 11 soldiers, including two women. If the photos of their actions are any indication, men can be objectified by women. Both women were shown in multiple photos participating in the physical and sexual torture of hooded detainees. However, some would argue that the two were also victims themselves of their commanding officer. Just as the portrait of the obscured face confounds the viewer, our understanding of cruelty and objectification are questioned when victims assume the role of perpetrators.
The hooded models in these photos were asked to mime basic prompts enacting traditionally “masculine” activities and sexual behaviors. With their faces obscured our reading of their bodies changes. Shown here, they are simply males who have been stripped of their identities, reduced to serving as a reflection of a gender. To further reduce their individuality and imply interchangeability, they have all been given the same non-descript name, John.