A few nights ago, five statues appeared in cities around the US, ostensibly showing off everything a particular presidential has to offer. Yes, five statues of a nude, ball-less, Donald Trump were put in place, an art protest organized by INDECLINE, an activist group. The exhibit is called called The Emperor Has No Balls, and while everyone may have gotten a good chuckle out of seeing a man who took a Stone Cold Stunner at Wrestlemania 23 laid bare on our restless street corners, people began noticing problems with the piece.
It’s body shaming
The statues aren’t built to ridicule Donald Trump the candidate, who offered to pay the legal fees of supporters who assault protesters at his rallies, nor Donald Trump the person, who advocated killing the families of members of terrorist cells, both of which are undeniably awful. Instead it comes at Donald Trump the body. Clocking in around 345lbs, naked Trump and naked me probably look pretty alike. I’ve got my fair share of body issues, and this piece hits a lot of them. “Look at this thing,” it says. “The disgusting corpulence of this man. His gross huttness that yearns to sweatily fondle your nation.” We get it. Donald Trump is fat. He’s old. He’s got cellulite and saggy bits and a giant buttcrack. But if these are the things that are wrong with Donald Trump, then they are the things that are wrong with me. If anything, the statues bring to light the only side of Donald Trump that I could learn to like. Marissa Jenae Johnson’s article at the Establishment digs deeper into this, and the issue of the privilege that offers the opportunity to equate fatness with soullessness.
It’s toxically masculine to the core
Somehow managing to swirl transphobia, patriarchy, and schoolyard teasing into the world’s lousiest Frosty, The Emperor Has No Balls must assert that the emperor needs balls. Really. In the first race at the presidential level to include a woman in American history. If the emperor needs balls, where does that put Hillary Clinton? Where does it put trans people? In its race to reinvigorate our grade-school bully selves, the piece abandons any pretense of caring about context or nuance, preferring to remind us that leaders have balls and that small penises are funny and bad, in case that had slipped your mind. Meghna Sridhar’s article at Feministing looks at this angle, outlining why reacting to Donald Trump’s toxicity with similar schoolyard tactics doesn’t do anyone any favours, especially vulnerable segments of the population.
It’s symbolically vacant
The piece associates itself with Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, painting INDECLINE as the little boy speaking truth to power, but somehow manages to grasp that point and miss it entirely. In the story, the emperor is tricked, and everyone goes along with him. His advisors, his citizens, they buy into the idea of nothing as something. When the child points out his nakedness, he’s shown for a fool. His appearance isn’t even described. Interpreting the tale as an exposure of the emperor’s ugliness is like reading Little Red Riding Hood and concluding that it’s a lesson in why grandmothers shouldn’t open the door to strangers.
It cannot be otherwise
I may be being unfair. Let’s grant the piece the benefit of the doubt on all counts, and dig out its intent and significance. It wants to show us the ugliness and vulnerability of Donald Trump, the candidate who invited Russian hackers to commit a crime against his opponent. It wants to show us that he is dour, and awful, and has no courage or conviction. So it stands him naked on street corners, a pile of saggy emasculated flesh. But look at the statue. It’s not vulnerable, it’s serious. It stares straight ahead, its shoulders square. It’s not a stance of fear, but one of power. “Here I am losers,” it says. “Deal with it.” If Beyoncé put out statues of herself like this, it wouldn’t look weak but fierce AF. The piece gives us the unaccommodated man, naked on the heath. Warts and all. If the vector of the piece isn’t body-shaming and garbage masculinity, it loses all its strength and builds up Donald Trump, the candidate who calls his opponent crooked but hasn’t released his tax returns, rather than taking him down.
It’s not the first time
INDECLINE has done some bad news activism in the past, and this has all the hallmarks of that. While I applaud them putting the names of black victims of police brutality on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they were also responsible for the construction of a mural on the Mexican border that read “Rape Trump”, in reference to the candidate’s remarks that Mexicans are rapists. Making the argument that activism needs to be intersectional is a topic for another article, but activism needs to be intersectional or we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater down to a street that is literally on fire.
We don’t need to see Donald Trump the body. We need to see everything but that. The empty suit that says it will make America great again. Empty. No heart. No compassion. No values. No commitment. No consistency. No experience. Just an empty suit with empty promises. To hit Donald Trump, the candidate who said he’d consider not assisting NATO treaty members in their defense, it’s not necessary to show people that he’s fat, old, saggy, or ball-less. Just show them who he is. A loser.