The Women’s Liberation and Appreciating Women’s Bodies

Hu Ming, "Stand Up." Size: 140 x 106 cm. Oil on canvas painting, 2007.

Hu Ming, “Stand Up.” Size: 140 x 106 cm. Oil on canvas painting, 2007.

During the People’s Republic of China Era, the Mao suit was created to symbolize the unification of the country and the elimination of individuality. Mao Zedong tried to instill his socialist ideals through a uniform that publicly showed his people’s support for him. The Mao suit successfully supported the cultural revolution of socialism through its uniform look to disidentify with personal individuality and gender. Hu Ming, the female provocative contemporary artist, challenges the Mao suit ideals with her artwork as shown above. By highlighting the one female soldier in a hyper-sexual way, Ming forces the audience to realize that one cannot silence the beauty of the female body.

The painting “Stand Up” portrays the Red Guard army in their traditional Mao suit uniform lined up, ready for duty. Hu Ming’s artwork highlights the complications of attempting to hide individuality and forcing commonality, especially for women. Ming artfully used four modes of the painting to highlight her appreciation of women in the army—the uniformed look, color contrast, transparent uniform, and exposed female body. The artist used “Stand Up” as a way to comment on the women’s liberation movement that occurred in China during the Red Guard era. contemporary art about political past

Uniformed look:

At one quick glance, the audience can notice denotations of the uniformed look of the figures in the painting right away. Every figure in the painting has the same height and straight posture. Every soldier is in a tidy, clean Mao suit, indicating their involvement with the Red Guard army. We can conclude connotations that Ming wanted to accurately represent the Mao socialist party present at the time. She wants to indicate to the audience that these were soldiers, unified to protect their country, and complied with what is expected of them under Mao’s rule. It is clear that looking out of order is undesirable.

Color contrast:

Another easy denotation of this painting to notice is the explicit color contrast that is lighter on one of the soldiers, the visible woman, than the others. The audience can notice the lighter portion of the painting very quickly, that draws attention to the outlier of the seemingly uniform group. The color contrast seems to be larger and closer to the audience, as opposed to a figure later down the line. From these denotations, we can create connotations that assume that Ming wanted the audience to notice the woman first. The female figure blatantly does not physically look the same as the other soldiers. Ming used the color contrast to remind the audience that women will always hold a different place in the army, be it positively or negatively, that we must quickly recognize in such a monolithic society.

Transparent Uniform:

Perhaps the most important denotation to take from “Stand Up” is the transparent uniform of the one female figure in the painting. It explicitly reveals her breasts to highlight the subtle difference in her uniform. Ming painted her uniform slightly different that catches the eye of the audience quickly. From these observations, I would predict connotations that blatantly disregard Mao’s rule of uniformity. Although the female soldier may explicitly follow the socialist rule, Ming shows that women will be inherently different. Women cannot hide their feminine beauty, and they should recognize and appreciate their differences, although the liberation movement has been to their advantage.

Exposed Female Body:

The exposed female body is a denotation that cannot be ignored in this painting. As discussed earlier, Ming used several painting techniques to allow the audience to be drawn to the female soldier before noticing the other figures. I believe that Ming used such explicit denotations to comment on the beauty of femininity, even in a society that values uniformity. The connotations of the exposed female body indicate that one cannot ignore the qualities of womanhood.


Ming used several modes of painting technique to allow the audience to slowly analyze denotations (no need to repeat the word too often) that reflect the connotations of her opinions. Ming supported the women’s liberation movement, and this is reflected in her work to highlight the beauties of the female body specifically in the Red Guard. In “Stand Up,” Ming used her art to comment on the Chinese Revolution as a time of change and anonymity, but not to forget about the celebration of the women’s liberation. Her work is important to provoke thought about how Mao’s China influenced public opinion, political affiliation, and army support, as well as its effect on the appreciation and respect of women.

nice organization and explanation!