Art or obnoxious?

January 10, 2007 | 19 comments

My mother-in-law could be described as…quirky. She’s wonderfully wild and unpredictable, one of those people who you want to watch just to see what crazy thing they’re going to say or do next. In a typically random move, a couple years ago she was just delighted to have purchased a very large print (about four feet high) of some French ad featuring a scantily-clad dancer in a sexy pose. She proudly hung it up above the bed in her tiny guest room, just delighted with this new decorative item. Click here to see it (this image is very small, but you get the idea).

Frankly, I find it a bit overwhelming. You walk into the little room and are immediately hit with the thought, “Hey, there’s some woman’s a**.” I never loved having it hang above our bed when we stayed there, but I began to get a little bit annoyed by it when my two-year-old walked into the room on our last visit and exclaimed, “Mommy look at that lady!” (Also, there’s the ridiculousness of the fact that if the text were in English it would be soft porn, but since it’s in French it’s supposed to be artsy.)

Anyway, I’m probably going to ask her to take it down, and she’s probably going to be perplexed by the request. I think she’ll honestly be confused about what my issue could possibly be with this lovely poster. Also, a friend of mine said she doesn’t see what the big deal is. Which makes me wonder: am I the crazy one here that I think it’s inappropriate?

I was trying to think of what other parents I know would think about this picture, and couldn’t figure it out. I could believe that others would be way more or way less bothered by it than I am. So, just out of curiosity, I ask you readers: what would your reaction be if this poster were in the room that you and your kids stayed in at your in-law’s house? Would you ask them to take it down?


  1. Sarah

    Yeah, I’d ask her to take it down. When you referred to it as soft porn, that pretty much sealed the deal for me. That two-year-old will get enough of images you’d rather she not see without having them in your MIL’s house. Then again, MIL may say “forget it!”

  2. SteveK

    I wouldn’t ask to have it taken down. I would simply cover it up (all or just part) first thing upon arriving so my child wouldn’t have to look at it. By doing this you are saying “take it down” without actually saying it. If asked why you covered it up, you can then tell her why. She can leave it up, covered, or take it down – her choice.

  3. Robert

    Mmmm. I think this might be an opportunity to practice the tragically dwindling art of smiling and getting along.

    If your reaction to this poster was moral outrage and horror &c, I could see asking your MIL to remove it. But your reaction seems a little milder than that – and your kids have already seen it, and are presumably still OK.

    I would sit down with MIL and say something like “this is your home and the way you decorate is a reflection of your unique personality, and I understand that and enjoy your quirkiness. But [your son] and I are trying to raise my children in an environment that isn’t drenched in sex-sex-sex all the time. We’d appreciate it if you’d keep that in mind when you’re going to have the children around, and if you could maybe tone things down a bit next time we visit.”

    This assumes you and MIL can communicate without starting WWIII, of course. 😉

    Good luck with it!

  4. Tim

    I’m curious what your husband thinks. Seems to me that if he is equally troubled by the poster, he should be the one to address the issue with your MIL.

    (And for what it’s worth, I think he should be equally bothered by it.)

  5. 4andcounting

    I would ask her to take it down while you are visiting. Or ask for something to cover it up. That way, you’re not asking her to redecorate, just adjust for your children. I think it is tacky, by the way.

  6. Mike J

    I think Robert has the approach that’s most likely to be understood. Particularly the phrase, “[your son] and I are trying to raise my children in an environment that isn’t drenched in sex-sex-sex all the time.”

  7. Anonymous

    Maybe she and the kids could work together and do an “art project” and create a grass skirt or something that she could put on the picture when you are staying there.

  8. Martin

    If it offends you or your family, I’d probably suggest covering it or taking it down and sticking it in a closet while you are there.

    On the other hand though, I took my family on a trip to Italy about two years ago and we saw all sorts of statues and paintings of nudes in public squares as well as in churches (ie. Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s David, Vatican Museums, etc., etc., etc.) Some were of religious figures, some were just nudes for the sake of art itself. So sometimes it makes me wonder if I’m just not being too Puritan when I see things like that here. I just don’t know what qualifies as “art” versus “soft porn”. Personally, IMHO, the poster you linked tends more towards “soft porn” versus “art”.

  9. Bekah

    There is absolutely a difference between art and an ad. Nude art glorifies God’s creation. This ad is selling something by using a woman’s body. It is a utilitarian (at best) use of creation. There’s a relevant post at a non-Catholic blog that was written a few days ago:

    I’m of the “cover it up” opinion. It’s the least likely to cause conflict, and it gets the picture out of view while sending a clear message to the child that such things are not appropriate.

  10. Bekah

    oops…link is cut off.

    The specific title is Ford Motor Company? Hott.

  11. Anonymous

    Jen, I absolutely agree your desire to raise your children without having buttocks thrust at them from their grandma’s walls. Further, I would be offended for myself at having buttocks thrust at me from the walls. I agree with these thoughts:
    1. Your husband needs to do the deed.
    2. He needs to approach it as a temporary adjustment, not asking her to redecorate her home in your taste.
    3. Be prepared, in the event she doesn’t respond as you desire, to take along a lightweight shawl or whatever to drape gently and respectfully (respectful of Grandma’s private property, that is, not the image in question) over it.
    4. Be prepared to explain to your children, at their appropriate level, that you find the image immodest and would rather everyone keeps his/her buttocks covered, but there are people in the world who disagree with you and we don’t need to start WW 3 over it.
    Best of luck!

  12. Patrick

    This so-called art is totally inappropriate in a place where children will see it. I think there is a big difference in allowing kids to see something in a museum vs in your own home. Your MIL is someone they should respect and learn from. What is your child learning? An unspoken lesson is being taught, and it’s not a good one.

    Another option is to tell your MIL that next time you visit you would like to stay in a motel instead of her guest room. She will then ask why, and you can then explain that the picture really bothers you.

  13. MrsDarwin

    I second (or third) the suggestion that your husband approach your MIL about this. You might have to soft-shoe around the issue; he may be able to say, “For Pete’s sake, Ma, can you take that tacky thing down while we’re visiting?”

    I wouldn’t want my children staring at it, and I don’t think it’s any sort of high art, either. This is not Michelangelo’s David we’re talking about — t44bcidehe Folies Bergere is (was) a burlesque show.

  14. SteveG

    I can barely process this. Not that the picture is so bad, but that gram doesn’t realize that this would make y’all uncomfortable to have staring in the face of your toddler. Weird how backwards the world has become?

    I honestly don’t know what I’d do. I think that I agree with SteveK and the others who’ve suggested bringing something along to cover it up and then explaining why if asked. I actually would hope that gram wouldn’t really need an explanation.

    You could even have a bit of fun with the ‘cover up.’ Make a cutout of a really modest dress (June Cleaver style) that would fit the lady in the picture and put some clothes on that woman. 😉

    Dunno how you’d pull that off without damaging the poster, but a little creativity and humor might go a long way towards avoiding conflict.

  15. Catholic-Turned-Atheist

    That poster is the least of your worries. Don’t let your children alone with her.

  16. Tim

    If your husband won’t step up, perhaps this might work.

    Next time you arrive for a visit, tell her that you’re really glad that she is so comfortable with nudity in her house. And then just strip naked and make a bee line for her living room. “This really is more comfortable. I didn’t realize how soft your couch fabric is.”
    My guess is that she’ll say something, or at least have her son say something. And when she does, you can just say, “Well, I guess I had better go put some clothes on since it bothers you . . . and while I’m at it, I better take down that poster.”

    Of course, you run the risk that she may call your bluff and say nothing. Then you’ll have to spend the rest of your visit naked just so she can’t have the satisfaction.

    I got a chuckle when I read today’s gospel reading. You’re not the only one with MIL troubles. 🙂 St. Peter, pray for us.

  17. Catholic-Turned-Atheist

    Jen nailed it. This isn’t nudity. This is pornography. That she would display it in the guest bedroom is bad enough. That she would do so when her 2-year old grandchild is visiting is inexcusable. Something isn’t right with Grandma.

  18. Adoro Te Devote

    That poster is absolutely pornographic. It is not an “artistic” view of the human body. It is a full-color life-size photograph of a woman with nothing to cover herself, thrusting her buttocks suggestively at the “audience”. This does not exemplify art; rather, it appeals ONLY to the prurient interest, thus it has no artistic value, unless, of course, one happens to be a pornographer.

    Now, my advice may not be the best, but if it were me and my child…I’d take the picture off the wall, put it in the closet, and tell grandma in no uncertain terms that that type of “art” has no place coming into contact with my childs vision. And there would be no argument.

    In the oversexed culture we live in, sometimes the BEST place to start WW3 is within our own families; because it starts with us, and if we remain silent about such things, then we are denying purity, we are denying truth, and we are thus denying Jesus Christ.

    This, from a woman who used to not really have a problem with the idea of porn.

    Just my two cents.

  19. Skyhawk

    As a matter of fact this picture is an old ad for the “Folies Bergère” which is a kind of “saloon” that puts on a show with scantily clad women dancers (some of which will even be topless). Today this place caters mostly to tourists (mostly Americans since WWII by the way).
    Bottom line this picture is an ad for a “gentlemen’s” club that is barely better than a strip club. Does your MIL really want to have a strip club ad in her guest bedroom? You might want to point that to her.

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