Is a snake female or male?
but not at the same time.
In Western tradition, the serpent is a symbol of seduction and sin.
Eve, in the Garden of Eden, woman and weak, was persuaded by the Snake to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, thus precipitating the human being from the Earthly Paradise to his condition of mortality.
The viewer in Girl Plays With Snake is undoubtedly male.
We can tell this from the image of a woman posing with a snake, surrounded by a group of men, three of whom are photographing her. A few pages later, a cutout that Strand has applied to the image highlights the previous peripheral crowd of men with grim looks.
One poem, among many in the book, reads: “A live necklet / draped around her / two deadly snakes / tamed by her / snake-farmer father”.
Also, texts formed using online poetry generators with the words scribbled on the back of these images. Evocative songs, nursery rhymes or disjointed, haunting statements: ‘7 foot python / on her head / snakes are my thing / she said’.
The snake, which here becomes decorative, threatens to strangle the woman carrying it as well as bite the male who enjoys the spectacle. It thus reveals the role that both men and photography have played in keeping women in roles of decoration and display.
Do your daughters fear snakes?
They say they are good mothers.