#45: The Breeze and I

     Starting in to write abut a photograph its maker has called “She” is to sail into the choppy waters of wariness, caution, self-censoring checks and balances, embarrassments, redresses and abashments we think of as the characterizing the Sea of Sexism.  There’s no way around such tensions in this cripplingly self-conscious age.
     For a moment or two, the title She awakened in me happy memories of the high-adventure novel I read in my pre-sexism youth by H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925).  The full title of the novel, which was published in 1887 and has never been out of print, was She: A History of Adventure and featured a beautiful, white, enlightened, Amazonian Jungle Queen named Ayesha, “she-who-must-be-obeyed.”  She fuelled a young boy’s fantasies for years.
     But Ayesha notwithstanding, the “She” of Lee Ka-sing’s photograph(s) is substantially less commanding than Haggard’s jungle queen.  Unassertive to the point of ethereality, the woman in the photograph floats on the surface of our vision like a water lilly on a pond.  Her neck is like a swan’s.  Her sudden black hair is the weight of the world.
    She’s hardly a She at all.  Floating like this, she could be a modern-day photographic Ophelia.  She looks like a page torn from a book.
     There’s no escaping sexism and I don’t care very much.  Look at the word “she” itself.  It’s sexy (i.e. pertaining to the sexes).  It’s sexy compared to “he’ I mean.  “He” sounds like a big inhaling of one’s breath—before taking a whack at somebody maybe.  “She,” by happy contrast, sounds like rustling of a breeze in the hallway.  Or a wind in the treetops.  “She” sounds like a sigh.