Dian Hanson - The Big Book of Legs
The final liberation of the female body started at the time of Queen Victoria by emancipatory acts like dropping of corsets and wearing pants. Later, in the late 60s of last century, the issue of gender equality was fought by burning of bras, wearing lipstick, high heels and short skirts that unveiled the legs. The fact that this phenomenon has started in a time when even the word leg was considered vulgar. At that time opinion that women who put their legs in pants are rebellious, sexually lascivious and are probably lesbians was generally accepted. Even when the pants disappeared under a skirt decorated with lace women were accused that they broke gender boundaries. It was about the change, opposition to the convention. Women in trousers or those who fought for equality were accused of raping a supposedly legitimate gender divisions. Female legs in this context are an important symbol of independence.
The many layers of skirts and petticoats, that women had to wear, not only protected their legs from the cold and hid them, but blocked their activity, immobilized them. This was an unconscious admission that life of men is more desirable than that of women. This patriarchal concept of the assumption that man corresponds to the nature of the activity and the public sphere and women belongs to home matters and stillness.
The movement of women's emancipation, however, found an ally: the bike. Women mounted the bike dropping gradually embarrassing layers. Legs finally saw the day light. A side effect was men's fascination with women's legs, that turned into a business idea An unintentional result of all the discussions was the development of many male fantasies about female legs. Number of ideas on how to exploit this fascination were increasing.
Although in 1915 the boundaries of pornography were much more stringent - even a short skirt revealing legs to the knees would be unacceptable. Within 30 years there has been a quantum leap, magazines dedicated to the legs were issued. During the Second World War there was a boom of so-called patriotic pin-up magazines with the most distinctive symbol of the era - the one million dollars legs of Betty Grable on the cover.
Finally, on the way to liberation of legs, or rather their fetishization, stands John Willie with his heroine, sweet Gwendoline, which became the star of Bizzare Magazine. Bondage and punishment, spanking and other forms of ill-treatment of women launched many discussions on the relation between executioner and the victim and launched a great cultural fetish.
Both good and bad characters wear thigh-high boots on high heels, stockings and petticoats which shows the rapport between sexuality and power. The legs of these women are like daggers, beautiful but deadly, created to desire, but not available.
Dian Hanson is the man behind The big book of legs (the third part of a series on erotic zones of the body). He segregates, analyze and creates the narrative around women's legs as effect having a fantastic collection. The book has 400 pages, it covers the time from the end of the nineteenth century to the seventies of the last century. Models seen on the illustrations are mostly nameless, sometimes dressed only in high heels and nylon stockings.
It’s worth highlighting that the models are often in almost acrobatic poses for the needs of the photograph.
The older pictures, when everything seems to be in its origins, yet as if innocent, evoke a certain nostalgia. On the other hand, it is incredible how the visual code is still in operation now and even, in the context of the female body, has grown to the status of a neutral narrative.
Pictures in the book at some point tire, repetition of the same theme can make us fall asleep, but perhaps the author's intention was not at all to expand knowledge horizons of the reader.. And so the mystery of the enchanted, enraptured gaze of my friend.
Dian Hanson: The Big Book of Legs
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