Sunday, 16 March 2008

‘Scared of being branded a “feminist”’

Friday March14th 2008
Branded? Can we just run that one past again? Branded? Who exactly is being branded here? Owch!
What is so frightening, so scorchingly terrifying, about someone thinking or saying you’re a feminist, that it counts as ‘branding’? It isn’t just a ‘figure of speech,’ it’s a profoundly emotive word. How could being considered a feminist possibly feel that bad? That frightening?
Why are artists, of almost any sort, so afraid of what this word means?

Ok, let’s try this out.
Let’s consider what really is frightening:
Being beaten half to death by your husband/ boyfriend/ ex-boyfriend/ father/ brother/ pimp/ dealer/ landlord/ mother’s husband/ boyfriend/ pimp/ dealer etc./ Yes. All of those, they’re all terrifying, and so is the threat of any one of them.
Being raped. Be it by ‘friend’/ boyfriend/ husband/ employer/ stranger/ all the rest etc. Yes. Unquestionably.
Attempting to report any of the above to the police, dealing with the Criminal Justice System and with predatory journalists. Yes.
Being scared of an impending home office visit, of the bang on the door at 5.00 am and finding the immigration police. Yes. Of deportation. Yes, be absolutely terrified.
Of Mahmood Ahmedinejad, the Guardian Council and the religious police. Yes. Of solitary confinement, interrogation and torture. Yes.
Approaching the check-point of the occupying army. Yes. Of landmines, of “precision” bombing, of ‘collateral damage,’ of snipers, of artillery fire from the surrounding hills, of car bombs, suicide bombers, death squads, partisan militias. In short of all forms of male violence, and in particular the organised, militarised sort. Yes. BE VERY VERY SCARED INDEED.

Of the aids test coming out positive. Yes. It is frightening. Of Alzheimer’s, of your sight or hearing or movement becoming impaired, changing, going. All dealable with to be sure, but all scary, especially at first and if it’s wholly unexpected.

Of being stuck up a big mountain on your own, at night. Of being in a desert without water. Of walking barefoot down a dry riverbed in Australia. JUST DON’T DO IT.

There are a thousand things to be scared of. Some truly terrifying. Some beyond the scope of what we can reasonably deal with. Others, scary at first, then become part of being normal.

But the lady at the laundrette thinking you might be a feminist? The shopkeeper thinking the same? Your daughters maths teacher suspecting a hint of radicalism perhaps? Someone asking if your work’s feminist? Or saying it is. Or writing it?
I’M SORRY. NO. If just doesn’t figure.

What kind of state of mass psychosis have we arrived in if we really are more scared of the woman who shouts about being raped, than we are of the suited gentleman (or the hooded gang) who raped her?

There will now a follow a couple of minute’s silence while we contemplate this state of intergalactic derangement.

Investigating ‘The Feminine.’

Saturday March 15th 2008.
‘The feminine’ has been lurking in the long grass of the artist statement for some years now. I happened upon it again on Thursday night, at the opening night of 'Myths and Legends' at Contemporary Applied Bonnets and Silk Scarves in Percy St, London. (Oh yes. I get around.)
Clustered together there, like so many little Easter bunnies, was a cell of 'the Feminine.' I decided to chase them out and see what could be made of them.
I’ve used this expression, and I’ve found it used a few times by makers talking about their work, but what do we mean by it?
I use a very simple definition which is ‘characteristic of woman.’ This means pretty much anything from blistering fury or ‘well ‘ard,’ to any of those gentle nurturing characteristics which are supposed to be found in abundance among females. Thing is, you can’t nurture without getting into a state of blistering rage or being well ‘ard as well. They’re part of each other’s territory.
‘Feminine’ can also mean that peculiarly sanitised, diminished, bleached, washed out, enfeebled version of woman – the sort that never gets angry, doesn’t smell of anything except soap, doesn’t bleed, except her heart of course, and the reason you’ve never met her is because she doesn’t exist, and never has. She is, of course, just a construct. So we can discard her for now. Actually how about forever?
A third use of the word seems to be creeping slowly into accepted-use status. ‘Concerned with "the feminine"’ seems to be – SHUDDER- the acceptable face of feminism. Feminism was never meant to have an acceptable face. THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT. But it does appear to be used by women, mostly, whose work or activities are obviously influenced or in some way shaped by feminist thinking, but who for some inexplicable reason, don’t want to say so and instead opt for something which is, apparently, more acceptable. Nicer. Problem is, if you return to the simple linguistic definition, ‘characteristic of woman,’ it isn’t any ‘nicer,’ just womanly.

'The Human Condition'

Since we’re now investigating the more squalid reaches of the above mentioned long grass, could we now discard this one too… forever? If anyone writes in muttering flakily about ‘the human condition,’ I SHALL enable the moderator. You have been warned. We shall have no more of this sort of nonsense, not on this blog anyway, because, it doesn’t mean anything. There is no ‘human condition.’ Our conditions are not universal. They never were. And I’m a fully paid up, hard-core, structuralist, which is how I know there are no universally shared human conditions. The impossibly complicated web of social and political structures, which enmesh our lives, forbids the existence of such a beast.