Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Leather workers' calendar gets the fur flying

There aren't a lot of images I shy away from posting on this blog, because I don't consider myself a prude. But I won't post the nude images from the Pelle di Toscana calendar that's causing a lot of upset in Italy. Not because they are obscene, but because it's a campaign that is all about puns.

It's the association of Tuscan leather workers, you see. And "pelle" is a word that means both "leather" and "skin". But to look at the calendar itself, you'd think they were selling fur.

"Ummm... what?"

I'll just come out with it: The calendar features nothing but close-up pictures of pubic hair. Female pubic hair. In several colours, and in a natural state that for some reason isn't fashionable anymore.

"Haters gonna hate..."
Adding to the controversy is the notoriety of the photographer himself: Oliviero Toscani, who is known for his shock ads for Benetton and the anti-anorexia campaign starring the nude and emaciated (now late) Isabelle Caro.

Toscani defended his choice of subjects as an artist: "There are lots of calendars with sexy women with their thighs exposed, not at all like mine. My photos are not diabolical at all, they capture a beautiful, healthy part of the body."

And an inspiration for many hilarious euphemisms.

I can't really argue with that. It's the commercial calendar aspect, and associations with the leather industry, that have people up in arms:

Some feminists have argued that the graphic images offend female dignity and are "unethical," and a ban could be on the way after a formal complaint by Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna.

"We are outraged at this umpteenth example of women's bodies being used for publicity," said Roberta Gavagna from the Artemisia association against domestic abuse.

"Is Toscani suggesting the essence of women lies in their genitals?"

I have both positive and negative feelings about this calendar. As art, I think it's fantastic. The human body is beautiful, and I can actually see the championing of a more natural approach to intimate grooming as a positive movement. The porn-influenced trend of extreme man- and woman-scaping is part of the same obsession with a manufactured body image that brought us labiaplasty.

This poor woman has been forced to hide
her naked shame with a xenotransplant.
Won’t somebody please think about the models?

Besides, the pictures I've seen don't really show "genitals" — just as this picture does not show bigfoot picking berries:

Although he is totally in there. You just know it.
The negative is that it's just one more men's calendar using women's bodies for sexual interest, which is not helping. Although I have to admit that the choice of leather workers — as opposed to, say, mechanics — for this subject is slightly justified by the "skin" pun. (If I really wanted to over-analyze this thing, I'd add that the similar-sounding word "peli" is Italian for public hair — although I'm not sure how well that pun works for a native speaker.)

Coincidentally, Toscani is shooting for Pelle di Toscana. But now this blog has completely gone off the rails.

What were we talking about again?

"Don't ask me. I did not approve this message."

If you want to see some samples of the pics, Copyranter has them.


  1. "Public hair"? Spellcheck is a bitch.

  2. Indeed it is! Fixed, thanks.

    Funny, because usually I make that typo the other way around. You have no idea how often I've written "pubic transit" and "pubic health"...

  3. Your choice of photos/captions made me giggle like a little tween hearing a double-entendre for the first time.

    If you haven't seen it, watch Amanda Palmer's "Map of Tasmania" music video - same concept (close-ups of lady bits) just more Arts & Crafts, less natural woman-scape.

  4. I have, indeed seen the "Tasmania" thing. Hilarious.

  5. I believe the protest over the calender goes a little deeper than preference for natural body hair. You have to look further, into the place of both men and women in this issue. Where are the men in this controversy? They are the creators of the calender, they are the the buyers of the calender, they are the leathermakers. The women, however, are just pussies on a page.