The New Old Hatred of Women

Oklahoma Senator protests "personhood" bill

To paraphrase a male friend — “Mandatory transvaginal ultrasound, restrictions on contraception, being forced to bring your rapist’s child to term and simply accept it as “a broken gift from God”, demonizing Planned Parenthood, Rush Limbaugh calling woman who want contraception to be covered by health care “SLUTS”, WOW … these Republicans are a bunch of weird and repressive (repressed?) characters who would undoubtedly have been more at home in the 15th Century telling people how to pray and when and whom they could screw …

I find it extremely difficult to believe that all my conservative girlfriends are okay with this kind of idiocy. I get that we can be on opposite sides on a lot of issues, but in this case I can’t see it at all. Why aren’t they up in arms? And the contradictions are almost too twisted to believe.  The old white men don’t want the government in our lives, yet they want to mandate that women can be denied medicine prescribed by a doctor because your boss doesn’t want to you have it.  Don’t like death panels?  They bring us rape panels. Forcing doctors to do unnecessary and intrusive procedures (we won’t even discuss the extra costs) and in some states to read from scripts written by non-medical bureaucrats. And who is getting between women and their doctors?  The Grand Old Party itself, mostly a bunch of old white farts.  This has gone too far!  What will it take to stop them? 

THE NEW AMAZONS. 13 October 2011. Inna Shevchenko, 21, is one of the leaders of Femen. The feminist Ukrainian protest group organizes topless protests against sex tourists, sexism and social problems. Photo by Guillaume Herbaut.

These women in Ukraine have the right idea!

This photo, recognized on Friday with a World Press Photo award, is bound to grab attention, as breasts often do, and the Ukranian feminist group, FEMEN, clearly plays to that reaction.

The Stance: Shevchenko’s pose, with the raised fist, speaks of her mission to teach women to be more assertive. The figure of the ‘Amazonian’ is a central reference FEMEN utilizes. If the identification is to the “other,” suggesting the marginalization these women feel, it also points to ‘Amazonians,’ in the cultural imagination, as a matriarchal tribe made up of fearsome and fearless women.

The Headdress and Tattoo: The headdress is another a reference to the Amazonians, as well as political protest as public theater. This actual garland and brightly coloured ribbons also suggest femininity, something which the group is keen to display in contrast to some feminist groups in the past. As for the garland tattoo, it shows how Shevchenko’s cause is so essential it is physically mapped to her, her body as both cause and message. The strategy overall involves the reversal of signs: if femininity is seen to equal weakness and vulnerability, Shevchenko and FEMEN demand that it equal strength. What could be the crown of a beauty queen is willed to equal the headdress of a tribal warrior.

The Location: Shevchenko is depicted in open grassland on the edge of what seems to be a cluster of Soviet-style apartment blocks. This speaks of marginalization as well as the groups Ukrainian and urban environment. The grassy field upon which Shevchenko stands is another clever double symbol representing both marginalization and pastoral freedom. It reveals a dream of an Eden, a renewed innocence directed at and by the female body in contrast to the body’s exploitation by mainstream culture.

What this portrait also tells us is that, exposed or hidden, women’s bodies are a hot topic. (I mean, see all the worry over the fact that the woman in the World Press winning photo is wearing a burkha).Veiled or on display, the female body is defined by sexuality in a way that male bodies are not. (It is worth pointing out that if a man walked down the street topless he would not get arrested, and neither would he attract much extra attention at a protest). With this simultaneously innocent and knowing revelation of the female torso, I think Shevchenko is also asking us to realize how “exposed” or “hidden” are false distinction — that it is the human form and, as such, represents identity, physicality and power.

FEMEN considers it a risk worth taking to draw attention to the problems women face in their society. This picture as a photographic object must undergo the same difficult process of interpretation – is it a kind of pornography or a protest item that raises the awareness of FEMEN’s cause? It is highly reliant on context. But in a world where the female body is so often appropriated by others, especially by visual media, it’s also FEMEN’s statement and demand to use their bodies as visual tools to further the cause of equality. Full article here

American Women Unite! We can take back our power, too! Lysistrata, Amazon Women, good old Frontier Women. We do not have to take this crap!!!


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