Angry Womenby Andrea Juno
In this illustrated, interview-format volume, 16 women performance artists animatedly address the volatile issues of male domination, feminism, race and denial. Among the modern warriors here are Diamanda Galás, a composer of ritualistic "plague masses" about AIDS who refuses to tolerate pity or weakness; Lydia Lunch, a self-described "instigator" who… See more details below
In this illustrated, interview-format volume, 16 women performance artists animatedly address the volatile issues of male domination, feminism, race and denial. Among the modern warriors here are Diamanda Galás, a composer of ritualistic "plague masses" about AIDS who refuses to tolerate pity or weakness; Lydia Lunch, a self-described "instigator" who explains that her graphic portrayals of exploitation stem from her victimization as a child; and Wanda Coleman, a poet who rages against racism and ignorance. Goddess worshipper and former porn star Annie Sprinkle enthusiastically promotes positive sexual attitudes; bell hooks eloquently discusses societal power structures in terms of race and gender; Holly Hughes, Sapphire and Susie Bright expound on lesbianism and oppression; pro-choice advocates Suzy Kerr and Dianne Malley describe their struggles for reproductive rights. Incendiary opinions of current issues such as the Gulf War and censorship and frequent allusions to empowering art and literature make this an excellent reference source. These informed discussions arm readers verbally, philosophically and behaviorally and provide uncompromising role models for women actively seeking change.
Read an Excerpt
Angry Women is not just about women, but about the future survival of our planet. This project began with the inquiry: "Which artists are most in tune with the times-delving deeply into issues which concern us now?" Consistently, women performance artists seemed most perceptive (and poetic) in their criticism of social and political inequities; in their radical public disclosure of personal humiliation, pain and injustice (an act of catharsis which benefits society); and in their calls for a new consciousness which for the first time would integrate political action, cutting-edge theory, linguistic reconstruction, adventurous sexuality, humor, spirituality and art toward the dream of a society of justice.
Humanity is clearly on a suicide course-and taking the rest of the planet with it. One has to be in an insane state of denial to not acknowledge that we're in an absolute ecological, economic and moral crisis. Our inherited patriarchal, hierarchical system is breaking apart from within-revealing underlying, foundational flaws. We can no longer do just a "patch-up" job on our problems; we have to totally reassess how we as human beings have been tricked into participating in (and perpetuating) systems of domination and oppression whose ultimate destination is self-annihilation. We're in an unprecedented state of emergency-and emergencies can provoke profound reassessments, drastic solutions . . . perhaps even bring about the birth of a new consciousness, a new language, and a new species.
Thousands of years ago, Judeo-Christianity wiped out the pantheon of colorful gods, goddesses and "nature spirits," replacing them with a stern, white-bearded male patriarch known as "God"-a concept which effectively invalidated woman's status as citizen and potential decision-maker in society. Then the patriarchal belief structure implanted the notion of a mind/body split, which held that the body was evil-the source of dangerous, lustful impulses and desires which corrupted the mind. Identified with Woman, sensuality, pleasure, emotions, the Devil, animals, and Mother Earth-the body was judged inferior and even regarded with horror and self-loathing. Posited as the "superior force" to subjugate the body was the mind (reason, logic, the "higher intellect," god-like science) which was identified with man. Out of this life-denying, pleasure-denying mindset sprang the archetype of the "logical, rational," scientific male expert-exemplified by the 1950s nuclear physicist who, isolated in an ivory tower of scientific omnipotence, develops nuclear devices-unwilling to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of his research. Our ecological crisis, from ocean pollution to the greenhouse effect, is evidence of a blatant disregard for the body of our planet, just as the second-class status of women reflects the patriarchal system of contempt.
This mind/body split is sibling to a host of other dualisms-binary oppositional pairings which are never equal, which always force a hierarchy: man/woman, white/black, straight/gay, primitive/civilized, self/other, new/old. All dualisms are artificial and must be analyzed as part of a system of either/or thinking which imposes restrictive categorizations.
Recently, when we began approaching people with our title Angry Women, a number of women became very defensive and reacted negatively, "Oh, I'm not angry." (This would not be a customary male response, as males don't ascribe a negative connotation to anger.) In the '60s the expression "Angry Young Man" came into vogue (personified by a sexy, desirable James Dean), but there was no corresponding "Angry Young Woman" role model. From the beginning of their lives, women have been conditioned to be [too] polite, compliant, helpful and "nice." Women are very uncomfortable with the idea of being a rebel, and men are very uncomfortable with women outsiders. When rebelliously critiquing society, women have never been cast as sexy or desirable (like a female James Dean)-but rather as a prime bitch: grim, humorless and non-sexual. Women have a different, less destructive relationship to anger than men-especially since it has been a taboo expression for them. Theirs is not the frozen rage of serial killers, which festers internally, but rage that can be channeled creatively-as dramatized by performance artists such as Karen Finley. Anger can spark and re-invigorate: it can bring hope and energy back into our lives and mobilize politically against the status quo. Could there have been a Civil Rights movement in the '60s without anger. We need a renaissance of hope which anger can bring-stuck as we are in the midst of an existential, angst-ridden culture of cynicism which has helped implant a widespread attitude of passivity and submissive acceptance. (No longer are people habituated to create, but to consume-and desire is escalated to such addictive thresholds that satisfaction remains forever out of reach.) All past subcultural revolts (rap, New Age, punk, the hippies, the beatniks, et al) have been appropriated in the service of product marketing strategy. Television commercials present post-punk, leather-clad, motorcycle-riding "rebels" whose mean-spirited selfishness is equated with "sexiness." One of the fundamental contributions of the Women's Movement was the realization that one cannot have a political change without revolutionizing each individual. And that involves each individual's spirituality, personal and family relationships, and emotions-plus the ability to communicate those emotions. All personal growth efforts and self-healing are an essential part of the philosophical remapping necessary for political change, so we can fully deploy the imaginations we were born with. We admit that we don't want to see the world blown up; we are for the human species.
The feminist project of liberation for all is enormous: it involves a total rethinking and remaking of history, culture, law, organized religion (preferably, its total abolishment), psychoanalysis, and philosophy. (And all language which exalts seriousness and fixed identity, which precludes humor and multiplicity of meaning, is ripe for purging. Puns, jokes, and other forms of wordplay that keep alive the spirit of irony and sacrilege, have always been hated by authority figures, who demand unquestioning reverence.) This is a truly revolutionary time-new linguistics, new theories, new ways of thinking are emerging that must by necessity differ drastically from what is considered "traditional." We look forward to a society which will integrate the female and the male (and all other binary dualisms) toward a new, synthesizing consciousness, with which every individual can re-ignite the creativity within. And there are no shortcuts-every single assumption of our civilization must be challenged. Ultimately, everything must be rethought . . . if we are to survive.
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