For me, feminism is a tricky, tricky thing. It’s a minefield of prejudices, stereotypes and incomprehension, despite the fact that the concept is really quite simple. The no-brainer definition is this: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
Personally, I don’t like talking about it. Mostly because I don’t really understand it all as there’s already been over two hundred years of politically charged discourse and the end result of equality is still not resolved.
If you asked me point blank if I’m a feminist, I could honestly say yes because I do believe in that whole equality thing, but if you wanted to get into a deep meaningful discussion (discourse) on the state of modern woman, I’d start getting cagey and I’d probably start looking for ways to escape you because I’d suddenly feel philosophically out of my depth.
I’ve always had a passing interest in the Guerrilla Girls though… Founded in 1985, whenever I’ve seen one of their “subversive” messages, I’ve given it some thought:
I’ve given it some thought but there’s a great deal that I find disturbing.
I can understand the reasons that it was started. It’s true that the curator for the “International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture” show at the Met Museum in 1984 shouldn’t have given interviews saying that any artist who wasn’t in the show should rethink ‘his’ career. To this, a couple of women threw down their paintbrushes (figuratively, I couldn’t very well use the term “gauntlet” since women have never worn those unless they were in drag), and staged protests outside of the museum. To little effect. They regrouped and formed the Guerrilla Girls.
Apparently, the gorilla thing was an accident (spelling error) that they decided to qualify into a “fortuitous accident” in terms of the group’s symbolism. Primarily a masculin symbol, the Guerrilla Girls enjoy juxtaposing a gorilla’s head onto representations of the female form. As well, the idea that art apes nature (ars simia naturae) is seductive in itself.
However, it’s the anonymity of the group that I find bothersome. If you’re protesting in women’s interests (as feminism’s MO appears to demand that women’s rights are elevated to the status of equality), why are you hiding behind a facade of anonymity? I suppose the gorilla masks are intended to represent Guerrilla warfare but it still means that the protester itself (neither male or female but animal) is reduced to being a scary puppet rather than a human being.
I find this especially troublesome after reading this article by Germaine Greer. It’s essentially about women and their great capacity for guilt and societal shame and not related to the topic here except tangently. But reading into the Guerrilla Girls today after reading this article made me leery.
Germaine Greer writes, “Any victim of sexual offenses who denounces the perpetrator should incur no shame. But she does. And to conceal the identity of a victim of a sexual offense, which is routine, is to endorse this profoundly misogynist prejudice. Until women feel free to identify offenders without shame, the wounds inflicted on them will remain unhealed.”
In other words, until women feel free to identify offenders without shame and without concealing themselves behind anonymity, the wounds inflicted on them will remain unhealed.
I can’t help think to myself that perhaps the Guerrilla Girls’ technique of protesting anonymously is not really furthering the cause of feminism at all.
If such is the case, what is it really doing?