From the moment I understood men and women were not viewed as equals, I was a feminist.
For me, this moment came in first grade, when a boy in class attempted to convince me that girls were just not as strong as boys. In response, I called him an idiot and pushed his chair over so he that he would fall on the ground. That was probably a bad move on my part, and first grade Ashley definitely felt remorse when her teacher called her out on it.
Regardless, the moral of the story is I love girls and have always loved girls. To me, feminism is the belief that anyone identifying as female should receive the same respect and social standing as any identifying as male.
This long backstory is supposed to explain why I was so excited to attend the opening reception of “We the Tits,” so let’s talk about that now.
Politits: Art Coalition is a self-described group of “strong female artists” that aims to create “provocative performance and visual art” to be displayed in various Rochester spaces.
On Friday at the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, Politits had the opening of a new exhibit, the aforementioned “We the Tits.” As also aforementioned, I was pretty excited about this exhibit, as there is very little in this world that I love more than art and girls.
And the word “tits.”
Anyway, because I’m a freshman, I don’t have a car and also don’t know a thing about public transportation, so I walked from Eastman to the Gay Alliance’s Gallery Q. Something that always strikes me about Rochester is how fast the scenery can change. One moment you’re covered in the glow of coffee shop fairy lights, the next you’re wondering what kind of person really has to go to the seedy, yellowing pawn shop at the end of the alley.
I took in this change as I walked, and thought about the types of women Rochester has to offer, and how separate they are kept as gentrified streets lead farther and farther away from the city’s center. This undeniable separation was made once again clear to me as I entered Gallery Q.
I am the daughter of immigrants, a biracial woman who grew up in Queens, so let’s just say, sometimes, I get taken aback by the high concentration of Anglo-Saxons in upstate New York.
That was fine, though. I wasn’t there for all the white people, I was there for the art. Until I got to the art, and noticed only one piece representing a person of color. Hm.
I continued my way around the small gallery room, trying to soak in every piece as best as I could. But everything seemed the same.. Textile-based vaginas, girls covered in glitter, euphemistic representations of periods.
Something I get tired of in modern feminist art is how damn cute everything is. Like, a photo of stretch marks, but on a white cisgender female with a Western-approved body type. It sits on the verge of rawness, but then retreats into the hollows of the gender norms it claims to be challenging.
It’s not a challenge, it’s a redefinition.
Repackaged societal constraints presented in the form of glittery white girls and their crochet vaginas.
This is what I felt at “We the Tits.”
Women are not all cute. We come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and with varying parts. In Friday’s exhibit, I feel like the opportunity to display this female intersectionality was missed, and thus, in my opinion, the opportunity to create truly “provocative” art.
In spite of this, there will never be a time when I completely rebuff any female-led project. I do not think Politits, or the opening event itself, had any intention of being exclusionary. Their commitment to advocating for female artists, who represent an amalgam of things society rebukes as substandard, is truly palpable and admirable. The joy in Gallery Q that night was hard to miss, and when you know a joy like that comes from the celebration of women, it’s a good feeling.
But as I left the fairy light glow of the building and traded it for the yellow light of inner-city Rochester, I couldn’t shake another feeling: there was more to be addressed.