Why Can't We See Painted Breasts on the News? Why Can't We See Painted Breasts on the News?
Culture

Why Can't We See Painted Breasts on the News?

by Patrick James

April 8, 2011

By now you've surely read about the CIA agent mentally ill woman who attempted to destroy Paul Gauguin's painting "Two Tahitian Women" at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. over the weekend. Citing the depiction of bare breasts and possible homosexuality as evidence of the painting's evil and grounds for its destruction, the raving lady was swiftly tackled by a museum visitor. 

Normally, a person who suffers from mental illness doing something crazy wouldn't be news. What is news, however, is how this story has been covered. Why, for instance, did D.C.'s Fox affiliate censor the image of the painting when reporting it?

Woman Charged in Attack on 'Evil' Gauguin Painting at National Gallery of Art: MyFoxDC.com

According to Gawker, when the Washington Post originally ran the story, it cropped the breasts from photo of the painting (though the full image appears to be up now). What is going on here? One semester of undergrad art history and a cursory Wikipedia search tells me Gauguin is most often associated with Post-Impressionism and Primitivism—meaning these aren't exactly titillating, photo-realistic anatomies. But even that's beside the point. If the premise of the story is that a woman would have to be crazy to attempt to destroy such an innocuous image, then why censor it when reporting the story? What are we in the media so scared of?

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Why Can't We See Painted Breasts on the News?