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As a young woman in the 21st century, I hear directly about protests for women’s rights, such as the Me Too movement from popular news channels. For instance, the red cloaks and white bonnets from Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale have become a powerful symbol of the fight for reproductive rights and abortion. In March 2017, Texan activists donned the handmaiden garb to protest against anti-abortion legislation in the Texas State Capitol building. The costume did not stay confined to the United States, as protesters were observed in the dress in Ireland, Argentina, and Buenos Aires. There was a time when I excitedly learned that some friends posed with the handmaiden cloaks for a journalist. I did not have an experience with a must to get an abortion, but I was the witness to an unhealthy relationship, where a close friend was pressured by an ex-boyfriend to have his baby after receiving an abortion, and treated like a child, rather than her age. Angered, I realized and continued to discover patriarchal othering and fetishization of the woman’s body. As a result, I experiment with drawing from personal experiences and retaining an objective, but charged point of view in my work.
“What is Woman?” This is a question pondered by male, white philosophers and radical feminists, but ultimately serves no purpose, as gender norms, masculinity and femininity are always changing and overlapping, according to feminist Simone Beauvoir. As gender is transforming into a nonstructural, nonconforming dynamic, women’s rights and agency over their bodies grant them power. I seek to document this power, combined with juxtaposing acts of violence that ironically shine a provocative light. Therefore, these nameless women, whose forms exist through red and brown, moist, rough textures, are displayed like marred butterflies pinned to a board. However, these women do not shrink under their own withering weight or under the abuse they have suffered, such as the hard soles of a boot; rather, they dominate those marks. I do not want to glorify the violence (domestic/cultural (i.e, honor killings)) that women have faced, but display prominent representations or parodies of those occurrences, as a form of deterrence. To prevent glorification, most of the women are portrayed as nameless, spilling masses without distinguishable body parts of a woman. Those who possess a clearer form, however, do not have conventionally beautiful features; I place emphasis on a strong presence, hence the inclusion of iconographic images of feminism: the witch, the onryō, the maenad. Despite the gore and violence, I created a utopia for women to live in, a world where we do not feel pressured to prove our strength, intelligence or beauty to society, and we can either thrive on the same social standing as men or dominate them. The utopia is represented by the transformation of women’s bodies into something otherworldly, or plant-like, the embodiment of equating women with the earth.
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Feldberg, Aislinn Kyla, "Marred Butterflies" (2023). Senior Projects Spring 2023. 53.
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