Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Guerrilla Wars #WomenOfBlogging

Last week I was at Tate Modern, where I was introduced to the Guerrilla Girls -

" The Guerrilla Girls are feminist activist artists. We wear gorilla masks in public and use facts, humor and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture. Our anonymity keeps the focus on the issues, and away from who we might be: we could be anyone and we are everywhere."

They were formed in response to an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1984 where a revolting fact came to light, that of sexism in the art world. Amongst the 169 artists represented, only 13 were women. When normal protest did not rouse any interest from the public, they found new ways to revolt using street art. In the middle of the night, they took to the streets of SoHo and pasted posters that named New York galleries that showed no more than 10% women artists and listed successful male artists who allowed their work to be shown in galleries showing little or no work by women.

Using irony, satire, humour, rhetoric and public shaming they have been going strong for more than 30 years now. All the while staying anonymous. They wear masks and help unmask the hypocrite society we live in.

One of their posters that really caught my attention asks, “Do women have to be naked to get into U.S. museums?”

Guerrilla Girls conducted a count at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, comparing the number of nude males to nude females in the artworks on display. The results, in 2012, reveal that less than 4% of the artists in Modern Art sections are women, but 76% of the nudes are female.

Women in popular culture, have always been objectified; the sexualization and commodification of female bodies has been in our narratives for so long that it doesn't seem vulgar or objectionable. But of course, when a narrative changes, when a woman wants to tell a female oriented story - a story about four women, each chasing their own dreams and desires - all hell breaks loose. I am speaking here of the recent decision by the CBFC to refuse to certify, hence block the release of the film, 'Lipstick Under My Burkha'. The board stated their reason for refusal as "The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life." 

Is there no space for women's voice in a democratic India? We are either silenced (by force) or keep it quiet fearing what the patriarchal society might say (Obviously, it is your fault!). I myself did not speak out, until just a few years back, on my experience of sexual assault.

I was speaking to my sister yesterday on these same topics and between this and that, she reminded me on how I had always been so conscious of being heavy chested, and asked me why? It is true; my breasts, and the attention they attracted, made me deeply uncomfortable for almost all of my growing up years. Perhaps because I was the first in my circle to hit puberty, developed faster than other girls my age and I did not have enough examples around me who appreciated their bodies. There were, however, enough examples around me that told us what was 'decent' and 'acceptable', and so I covered up, wore baggy clothes, prided myself on being a tomboy and hid my insecurities.

There are these idealized notions of women proposed in all walks of life - how we should behave, what we should wear, female stereotypes in Indian cinema, in art, in Hollywood and it is time to let go and move past  this deeply ingrained cultural nonsense.

To me, much of these identity and gender roles that we have to perform to meet social expectations, became a talking point only after marriage. How there is a 'subconscious' shift in behaviours of even the most liberal parents is something me and my recently married sis, both witnessed. In our hour long call yesterday, we also discussed the ritualistic and deeply depersonalizing aspects of applying sindoor, wearing make up, or even putting on bangles that we are politely asked to do. There are women who love to dress up and then there few of us who couldn't care less. What all women want is, just the privilege of this choice.

We want to to be able to choose and create our lives, if that is in any way is a shift from the "natural" order of things, well, respect it. That is all we ask. If at 30, I want to put myself first, chase my dreams, and not think of starting a family, respect it. If my sister, wants to concentrate on her career, and if that means the newly-weds will have to stay in two separate cities for longer than you might have expected, respect it.

Like the Guerrilla Girls, we all have our own little battles. In thirty years, the statistics haven't changed much, and so the masked women are fighting harder than ever.

Image source - http://www.guerrillagirls.com/

And so should we. Speak out in whatever way you can, not only so that your voices are heard but they are respected as well. For years, we have been following a narrative that is 'expected' 'usual or 'natural'. If your narrative does not align or conform to it, it is okay! More than okay!

It’s International Women’s Week & if you’ve written a post about being a woman or a special lady in your life, link it up here.

Read the fabulous posts and share the love!


  1. Absolutely agree with every point you mention. There is so much we have put up with and need to change. Each one of us has our own experiences which shows how difficult the world makes it for women. More power to you and to us. Happy Women's Day 😊

  2. Lovely hop. Off to read the posts!


  3. Spread the word, cheer the thought! Happy women's day.

  4. True Aditi it is definitely more than okay. You have brought out your point really well, I absolutely agree

  5. Yes, we need to speak out... Through written words and verbally too. I was made fun of because I was stick thin... Unfortunately by women mostly. This perspective needs to change. I love what guerilla girls are doing. Brilliantly written Aditi... More power to you.

  6. I strongly agree to all your pointers Aditi! There is a need to speak up, no one has the time or the mentality to feel emphatic to you, they all have their own worries, unless you ask for what you what you dont get it, and I strongly make it my choice to shout out when it comes to the right of women.

  7. Respect for our choices, is that really so hard to ask! On the days I feel down, or tired of speaking up, I will come and read this post to remind myself there are people actively fighting for all our rights. Let's face it, on some days, when all we see are things like a movie being banned for being "lady-oriented", we end up wondering if we're going forwards or backwards. On days like that, I need posts like these to keep my sanity.
    I wish I could BE one of the Guerrilla Girls.

  8. What an inspiring post, Aditi. It is sad that even people one looks up to will never budge on the stance they hold against women's rights. I am sorry I didn't know about this linkup. :) More power to the Guerilla Girls. I know women who work hard to make a change have such an uphill task!