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When do we draw the line? Rethinking historical misogynist hero worship

Two events have converged in my mind to get me thinking about the way I approach men of note who have perpetrated acts of violence against women. The first is an art exhibition currently showing near me featuring clay models made by the Baroque Italian sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, which I was initially thrilled to go see. The second is the recent tragedy in South Africa, in which Olympian Oscar Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Sadly, it’s easy to think of a slew of other cases that are similar to Pistorius’, involving a male celebrity perpetuating an act of violence against a women. Chris Brown, Jovan Belcher, and Ben Roethlisberger come to mind immediately. In most of these cases (unless the victim is a celebrity herself) the coverage centers around the perpetrator and not about the woman who has been attacked or killed. My response is always the same when these instances occur; horror, and a boycott of whatever the male celebrity is involved in. I won’t see Roman Polanski movies, and I’m certainly not buying Chris Brown’s albums.

What does this have to do with Bernini? He’s a long dead visual artist and architect, and his work was instrumental in leading me to study art history. In college I jokingly referred to him as my dead Italian boyfriend. I’ve listed him amongst my favorite artists since then, and display books on his work in my home. 

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