The Guerrilla Girls Go Bananas in 1987
“Men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.”
Not just men. Women are part of that traditional use of “men,” to mean humankind.
Case in point: The Guerrilla Girls.
Few outside of the art bubble know about the monkey shines of the Guerrilla Girls. Briefly, the Guerrilla Girls are a feminist arts activist group formed in 1985. Their shtick is that art, like the rest of Western Civilization, is sexist and needs a do-over. They wear gorilla masks to hide their identities, and adopt the names of female artists of the past. They do so as they claim the art world would retaliate against them for their criticism. The secrecy gimmick emboldens the Girls: “… put a mask on.” suggests Guerrilla Girl spokesperson Not-Really-Frida-Kahlo. “You’ll be surprised what comes out of your mouth.”
The group is still active today; there’s currently an exhibit of their propaganda posters up in the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art.
On their own website, the Girls describe themselves:
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. We believe in an intersectional feminism that fights discrimination and supports human rights for all people and all genders. We undermine the idea of a mainstream narrative by revealing the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair. We have done hundreds of projects (posters, actions, books, videos, stickers) all over the world. We also do interventions and exhibitions at museums, blasting them on their own walls for their bad behavior and discriminatory practices…
That’s a whole heap of Woke to try and choke down, but it’s a teachable moment, as we are so often told these days. Let’s critique these self-appointed cultural commissars.
What is their point? They claim discrimination has prevented women from being recognized as artists-although they borrow the names of celebrated female artists for their pseudonyms. Contradictions are no obstacles for cultural Marxists; they just double think their way through that stuff.
As far as the quality of the contributions the Guerrilla Girls have made to our shared cultural life, here’s Exhibit A: one of their posters. Let it act as conclusive proof not only can the Left not meme, they make lousy art as well.
When Racists Attack: It’s Not Bigotry When They Do It
Exhibit B, the masks, because nothing screams integrity like claiming you are bravely making a principled stand, while trying to hide yourself as you do it. Trying to advance identity politics with no identification is a cop out. Nevertheless, the Guerrilla Girls are just carrying on a fine tradition activists have followed for decades:
Birds of a Feather
Exhibit C, it’s absurd to assert these feminist activists would face any consequences if their identities were known. The establishment art world has long been a huge promoter of the Postmodern virtue of organized and vocal misandry. In the great intersectional faction wars waged for elitist social status, transgressive females attacking the patriarchy were the cutting edge best, they were lionized. Or they used to be, until the new T in the LGBTQSUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS community started stealing their limelight.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if male artists who identified as females started to undermine women’s advances in the arts, just like they are devastating women’s sports? Well, you can’t scramble a deconstructive Marxist omelet without breaking some eggs, hearts, and sanity.
As far as what might actually happen to the artists if the gorilla masks came off, we have some examples.
As I was researching this article, I came across references from multiple sources that two alleged group members had their identities revealed in a court case. And yet none of the articles actually stated what the names were. It was funny. The exposed artists had been memory holed so effectively, you would have thought they were CIA agents planted in the White House to fabricate “whistleblower” claims.
Finally, I found an article the censors had missed, from the New Yorker in 2005:
As the Girls’ dominion began to grow—they incorporated as Guerrilla Girls, Inc., in 1999—tensions developed within the group. After 2000, the Girls weathered what they came to refer to as “the banana split.” A branch of the group devoted to fighting discrimination in the theatre now performs around the country under the name Guerrilla Girls on Tour, and an online enterprise split off, too, calling itself GuerrillaGirlsBroadBand. In October, 2003, on behalf of Guerrilla Girls, Inc., two of the original Girls, “Frida Kahlo” and “Käthe Kollwitz,” filed a federal lawsuit against the on-tour and broadband entities, and against several of their former colleagues, including Gertrude Stein, charging them with, among other things, copyright and trademark infringement and unjust enrichment. What bothered the defendants and the other Girls as much as the lawsuit was the fact that the two plaintiffs, in filing the case, chose to identify themselves by their real names. As litigants, Kahlo and Kollwitz unmasked themselves to become plain old Jerilea Zempel and Erika Rothenberg.
Funny how these righteous progressive warriors got enmeshed in a litigious struggle over money and brand names. Regardless, we can now review creations made these two participants, and consider if there was a patriarchal conspiracy needed to thwart their artistic careers. You be the judge:
“Guns and Rosettes,” crocheted tank cozy by Jerilea Zemple
Tanks for Nothing
“The Right to Life Boutique” mixed media by Erika Rothenberg
The Massacre of the Innocents as a Punchline
These tired examples of leftist dogma are what these tired examples of wannabes produce in their ongoing attempt to replace artistic merit with politics. And yet, despite being outed as Guerrilla Girls, and producing these doubtful results, their careers aren’t suffering. There are pages of listings for exhibits and articles for them. The Guerrilla Girl gimmick paid off.
The Guerrilla Girls are like the feeble media art star Banksy: They get to play at being oppressed rebels while actually doing nothing but advancing the Postmodern establishment’s cherished progressive tropes, and being rewarded for it.
The saddest thing here is how the Guerrilla Girls were ahead of their time; since the 1980s the establishment art world has increasingly relied on conflating art and activism. The Marxist march through the institutions demands the totalitarian approach that everything must be all political, all the time. The airing of grievances is supposed to be the art of our era. A lust for collective retribution is supposed to drown out the lack of artistic merit. And virtue signalling meltdowns, such as the Guerrilla Girls championed, are the new artistic methodology. As I describe in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization:
Postmodernists compensate for the lack of a genuine inner life by showing off what they think is expected of them. Postmodernists pretend to feel whatever their situational ethics informs them is the politically correct way to feel. Their stance is perpetual posturing.
In this delusional state, they misname their ravenous appetite for domination as “pragmatism.” Their version of pragmatism basically means they get their way, always. Yet their position is essentially one of weakness. Having no substance of their own, they are reduced to living vampire-like, trying to suck resources and obedience out of society, while offering nothing useful in return.
It’s hard to get normal people to cooperate with this hunger, since Postmodernists are fundamentally bottomless maws in desperate need of validation. There is no end to their demands. But the Postmodernists have a strategy for petty tyranny so simple it’s known to two year olds; they whip their unregulated emotions into what they hope is an intimidating frenzy.
Adrift in a world unstructured except by their own unearned sense of superiority, Postmodernists know nothing about impulse control, or respect for others. Nothing gets these special snowflakes more offended than a challenge to their imaginary entitlement and arbitrary righteousness. Look at college campuses these days for many, many examples of this behavior. There’s no true passion or commitment behind these tantrums; they’re putting on a show as a crude attempt at manipulation. They seek justification for the sadistic pleasure of lashing out blindly. Never believe whatever the stated social justice cause of the moment is supposed to be about; it’s just a hypocritical excuse to act barbaric.
So what’s next for the Guerrilla Girls, apart from the usual laudatory museum and gallery exhibits, academic fawning, international speaking gigs, and media tongue baths?
Their website volunteers: “More creative complaining!! More interventions!! More resistance!!”
Nothing about art, of course. It’s all about power, the highest aspiration of the failing Postmodern elites.
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