Is Sally B sexist?

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(B-17 ‘Sally B’)

With the world having become so politically correct is the sexualised content of many a nose art piece still acceptable in the modern consciousness? Times have changed, it is no longer acceptable to describe a woman as the “little lady” or assume her place is in the home, after all woman burnt many a bra in the name of feminism. But should that mean that art from another decade, another way of thinking should be cast out as being degrading and demoralising to the so-called fairer sex? No one is suggesting that the voluptuous ladies painted in the 1600’s by Paul Rubens are sexist and degrading so why are the pin-up girls of the 1940’s? Is it just another example of the P.C brigade controlling our democratic right as individuals to express ourselves?

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(Rubens ‘The Judgement of Paris’ http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/upload/img/Rubens-judgement-paris-NG6379-r-half.jpg) 

Some say that the RAF are planning to eradicate to the practice of displaying a high-heeled (and often not a lot else) clad painted lady on the side of their warbird to protect the feelings of the female staff. In 2007 it was decreed by the RAF that offence was being caused after receiving some 5,400 complaints from women within the RAF. Are they not just being a little over sensitive? Or is this an acceptable view to take? Surely the MoD have more pressing concerns than whether a shapely leg is going to cause a complaint? This came after a visit from modern pin-up or page 3 girl (though of course that has also now been eradicated) Lucy Pinder to the RAF detachment in Kandahar where she posed with and signed a painting of herself on the side of a harrier jet. Pinder described the sexualised art as “harmless fun”, (see an interview with Lucy in the link below) whereas an RAF spokesman described it as against equal opportunities and that “if you have women flying aircraft and working on them as engineers then these kinds of pictures are inappropriate…it’s crossed the line and that’s why they have been removed”. Surely if equal opportunities is the concern, then women should just add a few painted men to the mix? Preferably a few ripped, 6 packed and well endowed half-naked men sporting the slogan “Spunky Town”. Not sure that would get past the RAF bosses though.

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Of course upsetting the delicate female is not a new thing, but then back in the 40’s surely it was even more sensational for a woman to be confronted with a risqué painting of a naked or near naked woman than it is today when we are assaulted by the naked form every time we switch on the TV. Often when the wife of the C.O would be visiting the barracks the crews would have to paint over their luscious ladies so as not to cause the genteel and probably well-heeled broad to reach for her smelling salts. However this didn’t deter them, they used a water based paint when covering the art work so that once she had departed they could simply soar through a rain storm to return to bird (and warbird) to its former beauty. Even during World War II the USAAF attempted to censor what was allowed and at times even attempted to ban it, generally though those in power would turn a blind eye. As documentary maker Gail Downey states “The crews were young. What else did those boys think about but girls and what good would it do to clamp down on it?”

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(B-26 ‘Hard to Get!’)

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(Spitfire ‘Hello’)

Will this about turn eventuate a total removal of our historic art work as well? What a loss that would be, and surely if that were the case then half of the art in most museums should be removed and burnt as it may cause offence to 1% of the world-wide population. Thankfully an article in 2013 stated that the Air Force would make an exception for historic nose art and as such none would be removed from display. Col. Cassie Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing is quoted as stating “I think the tradition and history at the Air Force museum is just that…That’s our history. We’re not going to go back and change those because that’s part of our history and that’s an important part of our organisation… the museum will keep the displays that they have just as they are”.

If it is more about the modern use of the art form then shouldn’t the sensible shoe wearing anti nudity promoters concentrate their efforts on less artistic and uplifting art forms such as the top shelf of many a news agents?

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(Lancaster ‘Sugar’s Blues’)

Shouldn’t women (and as I am one I feel I can make this statement) embrace the beauty of our female form and take it as a compliment that these pilots and their crews choose to lovingly adorn their beloved aircraft with representations of their loved ones, the ladies they left behind or even their dream girl? Is it the sexuality they abhor or is it in fact the unrealistic representation?

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(B-25 ‘Heavenly Body’)

As Ernie Pyle once wrote “There are so many different ways to die…” surely if one has to die in the horror that is war then they should be afforded the honour of doing it with their choice of art work adorning their bird, no matter what the so-called do gooders think.

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(B-17 Flying Fortress ‘Sentimental Journey’ featuring Pin-up Betty Grable)

So whats next?

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(PBY Catalina ‘Next Objective’)

What do you think?

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31 comments

  1. zeod · June 24, 2015

    I think we each, and all, have the right to be offended by a wide variety of things. I also think it is unfortunate if we allow a small percentage of the overall consumers of whatever it is that offends (nose art in this case) to affect or restrict the thing at issue. We have reached a point with many, many things where being offended is considered an anathema. It is not! It is an acceptable reaction to something. It is not the same as being injured. Being offended is not license to inflict that opinion on other people. So, I encourage the continued availability – and creation of – nose art. – Wes

    Liked by 1 person

    • lenahedges · June 25, 2015

      oh of course Wes, I wouldn’t suggest denying people the right to their views. I just feel that if it offends then don’t look at it. The art form shouldn’t be relegated to the museums and history books on the say so of a small minority. Also is there not much more offensive material available which has little or no artistic value? Thanks for your comment Wes, obviously this issue is opinion driven and no one is right or wrong. Personally I agree that the use of nose art should be allowed and encouraged.
      Lena

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tony Wilkins · June 25, 2015

    This was an absolutely fascinating post and well balanced. Artwork on aircraft is as old as air warfare itself and was a means of of distinguishing one’s aircraft from the others as well as a means of lifting rather low spirits. The girls were an expansion of this policy and you are right these were young men fighting and getting killed in their prime. What else would they be thinking about?

    However in the 21st century I have to agree that the policy of pin-up girls on aircraft is a little outdated. There are other ways to decorate an aircraft and maintain that moral-raising factor. Actually the RAF’s Jaguars in the Gulf during 1991 had both male and female characters on their nose inlcuding the legendary “Buster Gonad and his Large Testicles”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tony Wilkins · June 25, 2015

    Reblogged this on Defence of the Realm and commented:
    This was an absolutely fascinating post and well balanced. Artwork on aircraft is as old as air warfare itself and was a means of of distinguishing one’s aircraft from the others as well as a means of lifting rather low spirits. The girls were an expansion of this policy and you are right these were young men fighting and getting killed in their prime. What else would they be thinking about?

    However in the 21st century I have to agree that the policy of pin-up girls on aircraft is a little outdated. There are other ways to decorate an aircraft and maintain that moral-raising factor. Actually the RAF’s Jaguars in the Gulf during 1991 had both male and female characters on their nose including the legendary “Buster Gonad and his Large Testicles”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jfwknifton · June 25, 2015

    Historic nose art should be left as it is, but I can see that, as the years go by, ideas might change, and similar art might be thought less welcome. On the other hand, the PC brigade do seem to spend an enormous amount of time and energy fussing about relative trivia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lenahedges · June 25, 2015

      That they do. Tastes may change but surely ones freedom of expression should remain!?

      Like

  5. John Curatola · June 25, 2015

    I just gave a presentation on nose art at the National Archive. I prefaced my presentation that I will be showing depictions of actual nose arr in its historical context. If that bothers you then you need to leave. No one left and from my feedback, it was a well received and fun event. Context is the issue, this is a historical record or time, temperament, and contemporary mores. It provides insight in to the period. No defense is required here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lenahedges · June 25, 2015

      Thank you for your comment. I am sure that was a very interesting presentation. I think it is a very minor percentage of individuals who would find it offensive. Though times have changed, you are now more likely than ever to see nudity, violence etc… In the media. I would much prefer to see an artists representation of the female form.

      Like

  6. atcDave · June 25, 2015

    The offensive thing to me is this silly expectation to never be offended. And yet no one seems to care that this offends me…

    Liked by 1 person

    • lenahedges · June 25, 2015

      I’m not suggesting people aren’t allowed their views but if they take offence then don’t look! Thank you for your comment.

      Like

      • atcDave · June 25, 2015

        Oh I agree entirely. I was being a little silly there, I’m a little annoyed at the culture warriors who want to homogenize everything.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lenahedges · June 25, 2015

        I wasn’t entirely sure what stance you were taking lol

        Like

  7. Loving TandA · June 27, 2015

    A supreme irony that anyone in this day and age can get offended at anything anymore when you consider that tits have been around much longer than aircraft or their noses onto which tits are portrayed. I remember the B-25 “Yellow Rose” that had the best tits of any nose art for years. Then, that dark day when the Sunday School teachers decided that tits at the Air Show on a Sunday afternoon after Church didn’t work for them, so the veiling vest was added to her ample bosom. Then the worst insult – her new namesake now looks like well-past-her-prime Reno hooker on dressing up to go earn cash for her $500 a day crack habit. Dear people – American men in WWII held breasts in the highest regard and represented many, many things to them, so denying us the right to see what they held dear is not only censorship, it is just hypocrisy when you let your kids watch and view the rankest filth on television, movies, and the Internet, but you scream at the idea of a bare breast on a piece of art. Pathetic.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Rob · March 10, 2016

    If anyone wants to see that picture of B-25 Yellow Rose, the best bosom ever on a plane, let me know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lenahedges · March 12, 2016

      Feel free to share it! As you see in the article I am pro nose art and do not find it sexist.

      Like

      • Robert · March 13, 2016

        Would absolutely love to share the picture of B-25 Yellow Rose, but I am unable to find a way to post the pic. Can you assist?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robert · March 13, 2016

        Doh! I found your FB page and posted 2 pics of Yellow Rose. My apologies for being at bit slow this evening.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lenahedges · March 13, 2016

        No worries, sorry I didn’t see your comment before. It always makes me laugh how people assume this article is anti nose art. Glad you found where to share your picture.

        Like

      • lenahedges · March 13, 2016

        I can’t seem to find where you’ve posted it though.

        Like

  9. John Kidd · March 10, 2016

    I am a pinup artist and I supplied dedicated pinups (free of charge) to our troops and their allies throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, there was some resistance from the MOD here in the UK but as I sent the stuff straight out to the men doing the fighting their was little or nothing they could do about it. These are young men and women fighting in awful conditions thousands of miles away from home, anything that makes them feel they have not been forgotten is always welcome. As for the female service personnel, I never received or heard of one single complaint, and as one female soldier told me, they have the pick of the cream of our men to ogle while they’re out there so why shouldn’t the boys have a few pictures ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • lenahedges · March 10, 2016

      Haha, brilliant! Love the comment About the “cream of our men to ogle”. As I hope you gleaned from the article I am very pro nose art and do not find it sexist at all. Unfortunately a lot of people who comment when it is shared on Facebook don’t read it and take it the wrong way. Thank you for commenting. Lena

      Like

  10. billiken1 · August 8

    Hi There, I came across your blog whilst googling ‘nose art’. I’m not sure if nose art is sexist in context, but I am thinking that if a woman or women in the RAF is / are experiencing sexism directly, and feel that they are struggling to be taken seriously, then I can see how certain types of nose art might be seen as yet another example of women being objectified and seen as ‘less’ in some way. However, seen in the context of the Second World War, these paintings are fantasy and a product of the age, wish fulfillment for young men who didn’t know if their number was up from one day to the next. Context is everything and I’m pleased to hear that men are now getting representation in the nose art stakes too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lenahedges · August 8

      Thank you so much for your comment and how lovely that you stumbled across my blog.
      I think it’s all relative, it was a different time and as with old paintings hanging in galleries , you can’t destroy history to stand up to modern sensibilities !
      I hope you enjoyed the article and will follow for more!!

      Like

      • John Kidd · August 8

        As someone who has spent the last 11 years producing pinup art for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan I can tell you in all honesty that I’ve never had a single complaint from a servicewoman in all that time, as one female soldier explained it to me; they have a higher than average percentage of gay women in the forces that are as keen on my work as the lads are and the remainder of the women are surrounded by the finest young men our country has to offer so they plenty to look at (her words, not mine).

        I have, however, had more than my fair share of criticism from do-gooders with no idea of what it feels like to be 19 years old and fighting for your life thousands of miles from home. If I’m honest I see upsetting them as a happy biproduct of looking after our troops.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lenahedges · August 8

        Haha! Thank you for re-telling. If anything, it should be seen as a compliment. There is nothing worse than do-gooders who have nothing better to do with their time! I’m a big nose art and especially pin up style fan!

        Like

      • John Kidd · August 8

        Never underestimate people’s ability to take offense at something that’s none of their business

        Liked by 1 person

      • lenahedges · August 8

        When I first released the article so many people on aviation related facebook pages and groups were offended by the title. They hadn’t read the article and were under the impression that I was stating that it is sexist!

        Like

  11. billiken1 · August 18

    I think any post mentioning the word “sexist” these days is going to elicit strong opinions! It’s good to see the range of arguments on here and the civilised way people are expressing their opinions. So many threads these days are full of angry people venting “I’m right, you’re wrong” vibes. In the words of Jeff Bridges as The Dude; that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. billiken1 · August 18

    I love the Sally B nose art for the Memphis Belle film (and the touching way Matthew Modine’s character talks to her). The artwork for ‘Viscillating Vera’ is a bit more of an eyebrow raiser!

    Liked by 1 person

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