I went to see The Guerilla Girls speak here on campus on International Women’s day. On this day, a Tuesday, I woke up early to tan. I had class, but not until later, and my friend and I decided to lie out by her pool and listen to rap music in our swimsuits. Behind shades I scrolled through my iPhone and figured out that it was Women’s Day (“Shouldn’t that be every day?” texted and posted several guy-friends), and that the Guerilla Girls were lecturing after my class got out.
“They’re important, right? We should see them, because they’re important.” And not that I needed one of those plastic bike-bottles filled with red wine and a Vicodin to get there, D. and I were pretty stoked on our way in. We were late, and the hall was packed, but two empty seats beamed at us from the second row. Perfect seats for snickering at jokes and outfits that fell flat.
The lecture was about, from what I’ve gathered in Art History classes during undergrad, what every Guerilla Girls lecture has ever been about since the 90s: The lack of female representation in the art world.
I’ll jump ahead for a bit, just to put some things in perspective: During the Q & A portion, a woman mentioned the lack of female presence in publishing/literature. The GGs kind of nodded and said something about wishing they had more info in other areas. A man in the audience questioned—in a tone so polite it was apologetic—the new focus on “people of color.” The GGs defensively and kind of rudely answered that they have always focused on both women and people of color, never one or the other.
It made me wonder about the appropriateness of the gorilla masks they wore. As D. put it, these masks are almost in direct opposition to their message, anyway. If this form of protest is to be viewed as art, then why not become the women they wish were represented? Why not become great female artists, instead of complaining that there are none?
Of course, as part of the lecture stated, some of the Guerilla Girls are successful artists. And the GGs themselves as a group have been successful: They have had huge exhibitions in huge museums. And those exhibitions have criticized the very museums they were placed in. And the audience laughed at this fact, as if to say, “Those silly men, agreeing to put up your work. They have no idea!”
This is why it’s hard to keep saying I’m a feminist. This is why I like tanning and listening to Nicki Minaj and Lil’Kim for Women’s Day.