They speak with hands, fluid shoulders and in a language that I’m not used to hearing. Language that is emotive, tactile and descriptive — such that you can taste the words coming from their mouths — feeling their physical presence.
Which really makes for an interesting afternoon.
I had the utmost pleasure today to co-host A Feminist Tea Party with the amazing Caitlin Rueter and Suzanne Stroebe. Our weekend of tea, sweeties and conversation started last night when Eryn and I joined the installation for a discussion on what makes art feminist — which was absolutely inspiring and had me dreaming of second- and third-wave feminism and the power of objects to convey messages — be they intended, real or imagined.
It’s been encouraging, educational as well as a privilege to enter into this discursive space in order to meet new people, share ideas and learn from each other.
Using FEMEN’s recent Topless Jihad and the anti-FEMEN counter protest as a starting point, we talked about Muslim and other feminism(s), how intersecting groups could work together in positive ways, but also whether FEMEN’s “sextremist” protest is an effective vehicle.
Here are some of the thoughts the group shared. We didn’t solve the world’s problems or draw up secret plans to blast the Earth with equity. I mean, c’mon, we only had an hour. But if you feel inspired to add your own thoughts and ideas to these snippets, please feel free to join the conversation in the comments.
When I think about the Play of protests, with the attention-grabbing tactics of protest culture — like colourful costumes, drums, huge puppets — it makes me think protests can also be a platform for creative energies. That using the body can be part of a large political issue, but that the message also has the potential to get lost in a picture printed in a newspaper.
When you use your body as a form of protest, you have to be cognizant of all the consequences. You may just want one thing to be heard, you know, your message — but if you’re sending something else out there, if you’re willing to do anything that’s publicity-seeking, that it gets the attention of young men… You may want them to listen to your message, but is that really the way you would engage them in a meaningful way, in a graceful way?
We live in a cynical media culture. It’s either smart to take your clothes off or cynical. They’re just using the tools available to them to get attention. Especially in this day and age where a lot of important messages are drowned out by a lot of meaningless drivel. How do you break through?
“I want attention now. I want attention now” Doesn’t lead to a civil discourse on inequality.
If you’re doing something that radical to get attention, how do you then direct this attention towards your Actions to make them meaningful? How do you elevate the conversation to where you want it to be?
There is a reason people are attracted to this form of protest and expression. There is a reason people feel most articulate not using words, but by using the visual form. There are also people who feel more articulate with the written word. And those who are better listeners than they are readers. The oral tradition forces a kind of decorum, a civility rather than saying, “You’re stupid” in less than 150 words. So why not start speaking TO each other instead of FOR each other.
Perhaps the key to supporting and getting involved is amplification. If you have the privilege and the power to do that, it’s a good starting point. Work with dialogue and understanding and then use your position to support the message of others. Why not start there?