Vermeer's Curtain: Privacy, Slut-Shaming and Surveillance in ‘A Girl Reading a Letter’

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Lucy E. Thompson


This essay brings a Dutch old master and a subreddit into apposition to argue that slut-shaming of the ‘Creep forum’ variety is not a new cultural formation. Moreover, by attuning ourselves to its historical emergence, we gain new insights into the dynamics of this mode of inspection and regulation in the present day. Offering a historicized analysis of Vermeer’s ‘A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window’, along with a contextualized approach to the construction of ‘slutz’, this article seeks to recalibrate our understanding both of the importance of shame within the surveillance canon, and specific modalities of female experience of asymmetrical inspection. Finally, this essay offers a hybrid methodology that, by bringing together (slut)-shame and surveillance discourse in relation to paradigms of discipline, responds to recent calls by Hille Koskela, Kirstie Ball and others for a gendered approach to surveillance. 

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Author Biography

Lucy E. Thompson, Aberystwyth University

PhD Student at Aberystwyth University.