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Do women have to be censored to get on CBS?

16 January 2016

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

It seems lots of people enjoyed the Guerrilla Girls’ appearance on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday night. And really, who wouldn’t? It’s not every day you get to see three gorilla-headed feminists argue politely for the better representation of women in the art world, on national television. But the Rake does wonder, was anybody actually watching properly? Because if they were, they may have noticed that CBS, while offering the artists a platform, also censored their most iconic image.

Less than a minute into the segment, Colbert whips out a copy of the Guerrilla Girls’ poster from 1989, which famously asked, ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?’ Next to some rather depressing statistics about the percentage of art made by women vs the percentage of nudes that feature women in the Met collection, is a striking image of Ingres’ seductive Odalisque with an angry gorilla head superimposed on top.

Screenshot from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, 13 January 2016, on CBS

Hovering over the poster for the duration of the segment were two censorial smudges, carefully blotting out the nude’s right buttock and the outline of a breast. Women may have to be naked to get into the Met, but to get on CBS they should cover back up again.

Granted, CBS is governed by the FCC’s hysterical indecency policies (as Colbert himself has satirised), but regulatory technicalities didn’t stop people criticising Fox5NY for censoring a Picasso last year. Maybe everybody was too busy uploading naughty paintings onto their Facebook profile to notice this time.

How do the Guerrilla Girls feel about policies like this? Given their anger at a bus company’s censorship of this very poster back in 1989, the Rake would have to guess – not great.

Screenshot from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, 13 January 2016, on CBS

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.