“It’s important to make fun of the oppressor – that’s the one thing they can’t stand” Guerrilla Girls, Amsterdam 8th March
One aspect of feminism is not taking for granted the world around us, to look twice at society and to check the equality within. In the past decade, society on the whole has a greater awareness about the concepts of diversity and equality, but when we really challenge what that means and look at the facts, the parity just isn’t there. Comedy has always been an effective mechanism for challenging societal norms, flipping them on their edge to generate a laugh. There’s a sweet spot in the world of comedy where you can be funny and informative, making people laugh and think at the same time.
For International Women’s Day 2018, I was excited about the night Mama Cash planned at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, featuring a live session with the Guerrilla Girls, DJs Ruby Savage and Josephine Chime, a live model drawing and a feminist open mic session. It certainly did not disappoint and I felt inspired and hopeful, exactly the emotions required on this day.
The Guerrilla Girls are an excellent example of feminist activism, bringing inequality to the forefront of people’s minds, using thought-provoking artwork showing the facts that people overlook. Their most iconic piece of art is a poster asking “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” Starting from 1989 they have compared the number of female artists to the number of female nudes at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. In 2012 the poster read, “Less than 4% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 76% of the nudes are female.”
Inspiration from the Guerrilla Girls:
- Be anonymous: keep the focus on the issues you represent, it’s not a personal battle but a united front
- Be a creative complainer: complain and don’t apologise for it
- Behave badly: disrupt the system
- Criticise art museum right inside their walls
- Make fun of the oppressor: they can’t stand it
- Feminism = future
The Guerrilla Girls have been anonymously dropping posters, stickers, billboards, videos and actions since 1985, wearing guerrilla masks when they appear in public. Their focus is the gender and ethnic bias within politics, art, film, and pop culture, adding humour, which they admite, can sometimes be the only way to influence the oppressor.
There was a buzz in the room before they came on stage and soon after they appeared, they organised a collective scream. Demonstrating that a lecture or keynote presentation by the Guerrilla Girls is not going to play by the rules. They called out the very museum we were in and did a fantastic portrayal of the concept of female hysteria, the history of vibrators and in their way explained that “feminism cured the disease of female hysteria” and that we must not be afraid to be proud feminists and to get the message out.