Protest art is nothing new.
For years, people have used art in a multitude of mediums to express discontent with, among other things, a current political climate or the state of the world around them.
And on Valentine’s Day, a dating app called Hater projected an image of a naked Putin fondling a pregnant Trump on the side of buildings in New York’s Williamsburg and Chelsea neighborhoods.
Of course, we’ve seen similar images in the past, like when this mural of the pair kissing popped up in Lithuania’s capital last May.
Sure, the images may be made from artists around the globe, but they all share a common theme: they reinforce the idea that affection or romance between two men is either something to be mocked or a sign of weakness.
And at the end of the day, this outdated belief is rooted in homophobic notions of how men should act with one another.
The artist’s real “joke” here, of course, lies in the fragile, toxic nature of masculinity and the idea that affection between men is so outrageous that depicting these two (very unpopular) world leaders in this way is somehow funny.
But it’s not. And this idea that queer men are somehow weak or more effeminate than those identifying as straight ― and that this makes them mockable ― is something that LGBTQ people have always fought throughout history.
The questions we should be asking ourselves are: Why do we keep seeing different variations of this Trump/Putin image? What is so funny about love between men? Why is the idea that failing masculinity through male-on-male affection one that our culture reproduces over and over again? Even in art-based contexts that are supposed to be progressive?
We all know that masculinity is fragile ― so fragile in fact that it seems to be the end-game that many Americans go to when they’re reaching for something to make fun of Trump about.
But we need to do better. There are ways to critique our president and his alleged problematic relationship with Vladimir Putin without placing that critique in a framework that, at the end of the day, is homophobic.
To be fair, there is something to be said for the idea of reframing their relationship through a queer lens that empowers gayness and celebrates queer relationships. Tenderness between two men shouldn’t be alarming, even it it’s Trump and Putin.
But I suspect that isn’t the intentions of the artists creating these works.
We are all living in scary, surreal times. But let’s be intentional in the ways we’re dealing with that reality ― and intentional about the choices we make with our forms of resistance, no matter what medium that may be.