Monthly Archives: May 2011

Remembering Dr. Tiller

Today marks two years since the cold-blooded murder of late term abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller.

Dr. George Tiller (1941-2009)

Dr. Tiller was a courageous physician in Wichita, Kansas, who continued providing abortion services to women despite death threats and harassment by extremist groups such as Operation Rescue (which I’ll discuss further in a moment). Despite being shot in both arms in 1993, having his clinic vandalized, encountering more death threats from nutjobs than I can count, enduring aggressive protests by groups that would physically block patients from entering the clinic, and so much more Dr. Tiller never quit. He was one of only three late term abortion providers in the US at the time, and he knew that his services were already incredibly difficult to acquire.

Dr. Tiller also knew that women seeking late term abortions were not lazy, baby killers as anti-choice groups so often depict, but women who ended up chasing the fee and couldn’t afford the service until after 21 weeks, women who discovered their unborn child had a life threatening condition and would not survive outside the womb, women whose own lives were endangered by their pregnancies. Dr. Tiller helped these women, and while many groups claim he was some sort of angel of death, really, Dr. Tiller was protecting women’s lives. In fact, his motto was “Trust women” and trust women he did. So often “pro-life” groups only care about the lives of fetuses. What about the lives of women? Are women really worth so little?

Operation Rescue is one such group preaching the “pro-life” gospel. Here’s a snippet from the about us section of their website:

Operation Rescue® is one of the leading pro-life Christian activist organizations in the nation. Operation Rescue® recently made headlines when it bought and closed an abortion clinic in Wichita, Kansas and has become perhaps the most visible voice of the pro-life activist movement in America. Its activities are on the cutting edge of the abortion issue, taking direct action to restore legal personhood to the pre-born and stop abortion in obedience to biblical mandates.

Note how they claim their visibility rises from their buying a closed abortion clinic in Wichita. Really? Because I thought that their visibility rose from their hateful stunts (although I guess buying the clinic would fall under this category), backwards reasoning, and largely from Scott Roeder’s actions. Scott Roeder, the man who walked into Dr. Tiller’s church and killed him in front of his family.

And the part about “obedience to biblical mandates”? Anti-choice groups aren’t even pretending to be about life anymore. It’s about forcing their skewed vision of Christianity onto everyone else. And restoring legal personhood to the pre-born? I cannot even cover how ridiculous that statement is. 

This group is using fear and coercion to prevent women from receiving abortions. And they’re not just targeting late-term abortion providers. They’re targeting every clinic offering abortions. They rely on terrorist actions such as these to further their own screwed up moral code. They kill and threaten people under the guise of preserving life.

For a 3D design project at my school we designed a memorial to the person, group, or concept of our choosing. I could think of no one more deserving than Dr. Tiller. 

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Why I’m Going to the Chicago Slutwalk

Trigger warning: Some of the entries from Slutwalk’s DIY Poster Contest I’m posting here are offensive and potentially triggering. Many depict women as objects, overlook the intended message, and contribute to the confusion surrounding Slutwalk. 

The Slutwalks spreading across Canada and the US (And apparently Tehran, although this walk is problematic in ways the Canadian and US walks are not) are some of the most publicized and heavily debated anti-victim blaming actions occurring in recent times. They’re also a mixed bag. While I’d like to believe that their popularity stems from women and men finally becoming serious about ending the toxic culture of victim blaming, it seems that most of it comes from the controversial and “exciting” name.

Calling these marches Slutwalks succeeds in drawing in many who would normally not participate in protests against victim blaming and slut shaming. Raising awareness of such a worthy cause is admirable, and the walk organizers clearly have the best of intentions. Asking what a victim was wearing, saying that she was “asking for it”, and really placing any blame on a victim of rape or assault is appalling. It’s important that the public is aware that this occurs and that we speak out against it.

It’s past this point that problems arise. Many of those drawn in by the name don’t realize what the walk is for. A number of my friends and acquaintances who plan on going to the walk did not realize it was a response to victim blaming, they thought it was a fun parade of skimpy clothing and showing skin. Which is all fine and well, if anyone wants to show some skin, they should be allowed to show some skin!  But this attitude is becoming confused with the walk’s message. Media venues are reporting the walk not for its main purpose, but for the fishnets and lingerie and “controversial” way of expression.

More after the jump!

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Chicago Slutwalk

I’m in an airport with only ten minutes left of free wifi, so I have to make this quick.

Chicago Slutwalk is coming up on June 4th, it’s going to be a great protest against victim blaming, sexual double standards, slut shaming and overall rape culture. I’d encourage everyone who’s able to go to go! Their website is here.

They’re holding a DIY poster contest, so I made this entry:

If you could go to the page and like it I would be very grateful! The one with the most likes gets printed and mass circulated around Chicago. I worked a while on this, seeing it on flyers around the city would be amazing.

Thanks for the help!

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Kearse Awards

Just thought that I would share this photo with everyone! It’s from the Kearse award ceremony which highlights one paper from each section of RIT’s college of liberal arts. I was really excited to have my paper on Harriet Hosmer and Hiram Powers win the Akyuz-Ozmen Award for excellence in feminist scholarship! I’m especially thankful to my amazing professor Dr. Tina Lent (who taught the Women/Gender/Art class and submitted my paper), who has opened so many doors for me and encouraged my and my peers’ growth as feminists and activists.

Here we all are, awkwardly posing with the COLA dean. I'm the underdressed one in the red shirt, I came directly from another class and had no time to change! (I'd also like to point out the prep/hipster hybrid from my dorm fourth from the right wearing the tux and the black frame glasses. This brave soldier is paving the way to a preppy hipster future full of skinny jeans and frat parties...)

I’m majoring in illustration but I want to further explore women and gender studies. I’m very passionate about working towards full societal equality, and particularly passionate about women’s reproductive rights. I want to be able to make a difference and I’m lucky that illustration is a field where being vocal about my pro-choice views won’t hurt my career. Where having this blog won’t harm my chances to get a job in the future. I’m working towards a concentration in Women and Gender Studies, which I’m hoping to work into a minor with only two additional classes (although my mother is heavily pushing art history as a minor with women and gender studies as a concentration).

So thank you to Dr. Lent! You’re amazing. And thank you to everyone in my life who has helped me with my writing, my artwork, and getting to where I am today. Without my family and my friends I doubt I would be at RIT today and I especially doubt that I would feel this comfortable in voicing my opinions. I’m incredibly privileged to have so many loving people in my life. Thank you all.

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Women in Art: Artemisia Gentileschi

Today I’m going to talk about an artist you’ve likely heard of, Artemisia Gentileschi. Or rather, most of us have heard of her as the woman artist who was raped and then spent the rest of her career depicting her personal revenge upon men in her artwork.

Which, in case you were wondering, is complete and utter crap. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, some background!

Sidenote: Generally I refer to artists by their last names, but as I’ll be discussing both Artemisia and her father Orazio in this post I’ll be using first names. Not pulling a Bill Clinton is Clinton, but Hillary Clinton is Hillary type thing!

Artemisia's "Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting"

During the 1600’s women were not well received as artists, and needed exceptional circumstances (read: either money or privilege and often both) to pursue artistic careers. Apprenticeships were generally only open to young men. Women who wanted to go into art had to be either wealthy, born to an artist, or go into a convent that produced artwork. Artemisia Gentileschi was lucky enough to be born to the painter Orazio, opening doors that would be closed to many other women of the time period.

Not to say that she owes her success to her father. Artemisia was incredibly talented. Her technique and her unique perspective on frequently used artistic subject matter separates her from other artists of the time. She’s one of the few women artists who is consistently featured in art history classes, often the only woman artist. In my high school art history class she was the only woman artist we learned about before the 1900s.

So Artemisia was able to apprentice under her father. She learned much of her stylistic techniques from Orazio, who followed Caravaggio’s style. However, Artemisia’s work is much more naturalistic compared to Orazio’s idealization.

Orazio's "Madonna with Child"

This is when things become truly depressing. Artemisia was denied entrance into the all-male academies of art because of her sex. Women were not allowed in the academies, no matter their level of talent. Seeing as how Artemisia was incredibly talented and deserved to become an artist, Orazio asked one of his peers, Agostino Tassi, to privately tutor her. Under his tutelage Tassi raped Artemisia, and then coerced her into continued sexual relations with the promise of marriage. Once Artemisia realized that Tassi would never fulfill this promise she told her father what had happened. Orazio sued and Tassi pulled out all of the stops, having friends claim to have also slept with Artemisia, and generally damaging her reputation in any way he could. It eventually came out that Tassi was already married. Tassi was allowed to choose between jail time and exile from Rome. He chose the latter, but returned only four months later.

A horrible experience for anyone to go through. And to make it even worse, it would define her artwork in the eyes of historians and critics for a very long time.

More after the jump! Continue reading

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Women in Art: Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold is an incredibly impressive woman. An artist of many techniques, her story quilts, soft sculptures, and masks always contained strong themes of identity and women’s strength. She was an enthusiastic participant in the black activist community and in the feminist movement from the 1970’s onward.

Faith Ringgold

 Considering her fervor for the feminist movement, it’s interesting to note that she did not always enthusiastically support feminism. In Ringgold’s own words:

In the 1970’s, being black and a feminist was equivalent to being a traitor to the cause of black people. “You seek to divide us,” I was told. “Women’s Lib is for white women. The black woman is too strong now—she’s already liberated.” 

Eventually Ringgold came to disagree with those rejecting feminism, recognizing that in some ways sexism negatively affected her life and career more than racism, as sexism was present not only in the outside world but in her own family and community. Ringgold became very vocal about the need for equality in the art world, both racial equality and equality between the sexes, establishing a theme we see running throughout her artwork.

"The Flag is Bleeding" 1967

"Woman Freedom Now" 1971

Ringgold’s activism is fascinating to learn about. For the sake of simplicity here are the three events she’s most well known for presented in convenient bullet point form!

Read more after the jump!

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Women in Art: Harriet Hosmer and Hiram Powers

Harriet Hosmer was an American woman sculptor working in Rome in the 1800s. Her work isn’t necessarily something I personally love, but I really respect her mastery of technique and her impact upon the artistic world. She’s often ignored in history books, but with the recent resurgence of feminist art historians searching for overlooked women in art history, I feel that she will become more renowned and admired as time goes on.

Hosmer's "Oenone"

I wrote a paper about Hosmer and Hiram Powers last quarter, comparing how the two were treated by historians and critics and how that may have been affected by her gender. I’m actually very excited about this paper (From which I will be stealing much of this post). My incredibly badass and inspiring teacher, Dr. Tina Lent, submitted it for the Akyuz-Ozmen Award for excellence in feminist scholarship, part of RIT’s Kearse awards, and it won! Thank you art and feminism! You never lead me astray…

But back to the artists. Looking at their careers, it’s very obvious that gender played a huge role in how their work was received and how their careers played out. Hosmer was generally treated much more critically than Powers. Her work was often attributed to other artists, including to her teacher John Gibson (a great sculptor in his own right) as well as to her workmen.

The defining scandal of Hosmer’s career lay with what many consider her greatest work, Zenobia in Chains. This sculpture is very similar in subject and style to Hiram Power’s renowned The Greek Slave. In fact, it was and still is frequently compared to Power’s piece. However, while Powers was given large amounts of adulation for his sculpture, Hosmer faced accusations about her integrity and ability to sculpt. Because of Hosmer’s sex, many questioned her ability to work with the heavy tools and solid stone, citing her fragility and delicacy as a woman. Members of the art community accused Hosmer of hiring workmen to create the sculpture without her input, printing slander in periodicals and newspapers of the time including Art Journal and The Queen. Hosmer did use carvers and assistants to create the piece, a practice that was typical of her time. While prominent sculptors would conceptualize and create the piece in clay it was left to assistants to actually carve the finished marble. This was done to save time as sculptors of her caliber were often called upon to create more and more work, including copies of previous works. Hosmer defended this practice in an issue of The Atlantic Monthly saying

“We women-artists have no objection to its being known that we employ assistants; we merely object to its being supposed that it is a system peculiar to ourselves”

Hosmer's "Zenobia in Chains" and Powers' "The Greek Slave"

Hosmer fully understood the accusations against her, and made her point well; men sculptors used assistants too, it was not a “weakness” specific to women sculptors. In fact, Hiram Powers also used assistants to carve his work. Using the same process as Hosmer, Powers would sculpt a clay model and have his studio assistants carve the final piece. Unlike Hosmer, Powers did not face any accusations of not creating his own work.

More after the jump!

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Who are the women who obtain abortions in America?

This is a great video. Very well narrated, animated, and organized. With all of the misinformation about abortion out there, whether intentional or unintentional, it’s so important to know the facts. 

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