The Guerrilla Girls

From their formation in 1985, the Guerrilla Girls weren’t like
any other feminists in America. They have managed to blend the
seriousness of a manifesto-driven art movement with the wit of a
comedy troupe, and it has paid off. After nearly twenty years the
group has made over 100 posters — some of which have been added to
the collection of the Museum of Modern Art — and three books. They
have spoken at colleges and institutions all over the world.

The gorilla masks are a play on the group’s ‘guerrilla’ name and
a way of keeping the focus off individual personalities while
maintaining a sense of humor. Each member has chosen a nom de
guerre — usually the name of a deceased woman artist. The
Guerrilla Girls use the masks and aliases for their public
appearances, which include interviews, workshops, speaking
engagements, and of course protests.

The Guerrilla Girls website is large and very well put-together.
The best parts are the ‘Hot Flashes’ newsletter and the
‘posters/actions’ section. ‘Hot Flashes’ offers ‘the dish on
discrimination’ on a quarterly basis. The information here ranges
from reportage to the Guerrilla Girls’ actions, and is a
fascinating read — well worth scrolling all the way through.
Recent highlights include photos of the Guerrilla Girls’ design for
male and female librarian dolls (Betty the Bookworm and Merrion the
Librarian), a refutation of Bush’s claim that Afghani women are
better off since the American invasion, and news that things are
improving for the women of Morocco. The ‘posters/actions’ section
shows a selection of the group’s work over the years, and some of
it can be downloaded.

A poster from 1989 asks, ‘When racism and sexism are no longer
fashionable, what will your art collection be worth?’ It has a list
of nearly 70 artists, and states that ‘for the 17.7 million you
just spent on a single Jasper Johns painting, you could have bought
at least one work by all of these women and artists of color.’ But
not all of the Guerrilla Girls’ actions are art-related.

The Guerrilla Girls make us laugh where other activists,
feminist or otherwise, polarize us. This may be the secret to the
group’s longevity. The hilarious ‘Schwarzenegger Shield’ to protect
women against the groping governor, the ‘Women’s Homeland Terror
Alert System,’ and the Girls’ poster asking women to send estrogen
pills to the White House show that humor is a very effective way to
expose sexism to a fickle public.

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Guerrilla Girls

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