Revolution #263, March 25, 2012
Taking "War on Women" Graphic—and the Need to Act—to Downtown Artwalk
After reading about the "War On Women" art piece that was done in another city and how it was taken to people in building for the March 10 International Women's Day protests ("Report on Taking Out Our Amazing 'War on Women' Display..." at revcom.us), we decided to re-create this here at the monthly Downtown Artwalk, which happened to land on International Women's Day. Downtown Artwalk is a monthly celebration of art from local galleries and draws a lot of people. We laid the butcher paper out on the sidewalk in a well-lit spot in front of some galleries and from the first tracing of a female body outline, people began to stop to see what this was about. As we put down boot prints over the women's bodies and laid out facts about the war on women, we discovered we had a continuous flow of people stopping to look and standing around reading all the facts.
The effect on people is hard to describe. It shook some people up. One couple with a young boy stopped. They all stood reading together. They were standing in front of the words, "Every day 3 to 4 women are killed by their partners." The husband tried to make light of it, telling his wife jokingly that she'd better be careful. She wasn't laughing or smiling. The child, practicing his reading, read the words out loud. Husband and wife were silent and stone-faced. We showed them Revolution newspaper and said this is a war on women, a war we're losing, and it's time to change that. She pulled out a dollar and her husband fished out two more to make a donation.
Most people had never heard ANY of these facts, much less seen them all laid out together. Several people pointed in shock to what was written about El Salvador, where women are arrested out of hospital rooms and their uteruses used as evidence against them. The metaphor is apt of people using muscles they've never used before. For example, even in some of the conversations with people who oppose abortion, it was the first time they had ever thought about the question of abortion as a question of liberation or enslavement of women (instead of life or non-life of "unborn babies"), and there was real engagement about this. An ex-military guy said it is true that the degradation of women is everywhere, the strip clubs, the pornography, and that right on that corner we were standing within a block of two brothels. He said he found violent porn on his daughter's boyfriend's phone and asked why are you watching this shit? And the boyfriend said the apps are there, it just gets sent to me. A gay woman confided that she hates this violence and domination and it happens in lesbian relationships too.
Most of the responses we got were very positive, but the controversy was very much alive. One woman wanted to know why we say the church keeps women oppressed. One guy who has been part of Occupy saw the boot prints that read, "porn," "church," "`beauty' standards" and said, "that's perfect!" But when it came to abortion, the struggle began. The biggest controversy was about porn, with many people saying it is just a choice made by women. One guy who came to be part of our crew brought a couple friends with him and the struggle broke out before they even made it to where the display was, with one friend saying, if women are going to disrespect themselves, why should I do anything different? The guy from our crew fought for the position that women should be treated like human beings and not objects. Though the friends didn't stick around, he stayed the whole night, specifically to struggle with other men.
Swirling around in all these discussions were questions of how to deal with all this—the need to act, and specifically to get into the streets on March 10, and the need for revolution. A high school student took a stack of flyers to pass out at school and broke into a huge smile when we tagged him with a sticker that said, "If you can't imagine sex without porn, you're fucked!"
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