Disturbing the Peace, 2013 Trump edit
Artist: Guerrilla Girls
In 2009 the Gallery of the University of Quebec at Montreal asked us to do a poster commemorating the 20th anniversary of the l’Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989, where a disgruntled gunman went into an engineering school in Montreal, separated the women from the men, then proceeded to shoot the women engineering students. The massacre was a huge turning point for Canada’s gun control laws and it galvanised the Women’s Movement, forcing the serious discussion around violence against women in Canada. We decided to focus on the history of hate speech against women and feminists, from Ancient Greece to Rush Limbaugh. We’re bothered that is has always been OK to make denigrating public statements about women, and shocked by the violence and abuse this language continues to provoke.
“Disturbing the Peace” was made in English and French, and we took our message to the streets of Montreal by plastering hundreds of posers throughout the city. While people were confronted by the onslaught of shocking and irrational hate speech through the ages, we grounded the posters with the very rational words of Bob Herbert of the New York Times:
We could become much more sane, much healthier as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem, and that the twisted way so many men feel about women, combined with the absurdly easy availability of guns, is a toxic mix of the most tragic proportions.
The Guerrilla Girls are feminist activist artists. They wear gorilla masks in public and use facts, humour and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film and pop culture. Their anonymity keeps the focus on the issues and away from who they might be; they could be anyone and 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 behaviour and discriminatory practices. . . What’s next: More creative complaining! More interventions! More resistance!
Guerrilla Girls say that women’s rights, civil rights, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender rights and black lives matter are the great human rights movements of our times. According to Guerrilla Girls, ‘feminists who believe in intersectionality, fight for all human rights. No-one is free until everyone is free. Feminism is changing the world . . but there is still so much work to do’. They cite the gender pay gap, the continuing violence, sexual abuse and gender stereotyping that are still major issues in every country in the world, the lack of proper sentencing for violence against women, the lack of support for transgender employees, the abuse in the tech industry and the harassment that women gamers experience, and the continuation of slavery. But feminism is gaining support ‘let’s make the F word feminism, the f word for the future and let’s all join with feminists on the right side of history’.
According to the Guerrilla Girls guide to behaving badly, ‘Let’s make trouble together. Be crazy. Political art or activism that points to something and says ‘this is bad’, is just preaching to the converted. Instead, try to change people’s minds and do it in some unforgettable way. A trick we learned is that humour helps you fly under the radar. If you can get people who disagree with you to laugh at an issue, you have a huck right into their brain and once there you have a much better chance to convert them’.
Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality extend a special thanks to Guerrilla Girls for the fabulous work they do and for the use of this exhibition.
Copyright @ Guerrilla Girls.