Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Guerrilla Girls on Tour in CT...

Ok so tonight I’m finally pissed. I am entirely sick of people telling me why I am or am not a feminist. Please refer to a previous post I wrote about why someone would or would not identify with feminism and the importance that identity has on activism and collective action. Tonight D and I went to see the Guerrilla Girls, which I have been incredibly psyched about and looking forward to for weeks! Unfortunately, we both left disappointed. There were a number of comments and assumptions made that totally pissed me off, let alone the dreadful performance.

I first learned about the Guerrilla Girls in a women’s studies class, Feminism and the Arts. I couldn’t believe how unique, creative, compelling, pertinent, and hilarious they were. The Guerrilla Girls use humor to disarm and educate people of sexism in the arts. Equally cool is that they take on the names of deceased kick-ass women and wear masks to conceal their own identities. They do this to keep the focus on issues rather than on themselves. The images in this post are some of their more famous posters.

So, now you understand why I was very excited to see the Guerrilla Girls tonight. Here are just two of the many things they said that pissed me off:

1. They did a segment in their performance that responded to letters they’ve received. One letter was written by a woman clearly struggling with feminist identity. She wrote that, especially seeing the Guerrilla Girls perform at her school, she really wanted to identify with feminism. Her only concern was that she doesn’t support abortion due to the "negative consequences" it has on women. She wanted to know: can she still be a feminist? The Guerrilla Girls’ response was a straightforward and unapologetic: “NO.” Period. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I think this issue is SO much more complicated than that so I brought it up to them after the show.

I asked if they could expand on their response because being pro or anti abortion does not a feminist make and there are so many other facets of feminism that need to be taken into account. Obviously this woman, struggling with her own feminist identity, was looking for a genuine response from the Guerrilla Girls, not a simple “no.” The Girls’ response when I brought this up was to lecture me (read: preach to the choir) on the importance of reproductive rights to the feminist movement. Yes, I AGREE and I get it, trust me. I am pro-choice, I am pro-reproductive rights and freedom, I am pro-women (especially pro women making decisions about their own bodies.) That wasn’t at all, in the least bit, my point. My point was that if this women did not agree with abortion, or even if she (OMG I’m gonna say it) was anti-choice, she could still be a feminist. There is not just one strict way to identify with feminism and to isolate those who do not assert the same feminist beliefs as us seems closed-minded and does not better the movement in the least bit. What if this woman worked daily against rape and domestic violence? What if she volunteered as a big sister and mentor to young girls with body image issues? What if she headed a committee at work for the advancement of women in her profession and equal pay for equal work? What if she spent hours campaigning for women to get elected to our male dominated government? What, fucking, if? Not agreeing with one feminist notion does not disqualify someone from being feminist. Yes, reproductive freedom is incredibly important to me and I find it difficult to see how someone anti-choice can consider herself a feminist but if she does, who the hell am I to stop her?

2. I almost forgot I wanted to talk about a second thing. I hate when my entries get too long because then I fear you’ll get bored and not continue reading. I’ll post the second thing the Guerrilla Girls said to piss me off tomorrow. Primarily because I am tired but also because it has a lot do to with the primaries and I’ll wait until all the results are in before I vent. It also has a lot to do with me finally putting an end to apologizing for who I am. I mean this very clearly: in my personal life, in my political opinions, in my relationships, and in my identity as a feminist.

To be continued... :)


Christopher said...

That "No" is quite a disturbing response. It is one thing to be very passionate about reproductive rights. But to be dismissive in that manner does such a disservice to those who are pro choice by making them seem very closed minded, and making feminism seem like a bratty exclusive club that only the cool kids can get into. It is especially bad since they try to present concepts in an artistic and unique way that will draw people in that they would be so fundamentalist about what constitutes a feminist.

Especially on a topic like abortion where any number of experiences might cause someone to fall into the anti-abortion camp without being remotely fundamentalist about it.

FeministGal said...

Chris, i couldn't have said it better myself... i totally agree with you.

Smirking Cat said...

I really don't understand the complexity of "what is feminism" or the concept that it needs to be laid out with specific rules. The most basic attitude of feminism is that women are people, and that men and women should be regarded as equals with the power to make their own choices. "If I believe this, am I feminist?" or "If I believe that..." overly complicates a relatively simple concept. I question how or why it became so convoluted to believe women are people deserving of rights.

FeministGal said...

Smirking Cat: I know, right?!