REFIRING: The Guerrilla Girls, Reclaiming “Tomboy” (5/6)

The Guerrilla GirlsGuerrilla Girls-01 are a collective that’s been going strong since 1985, dedicated to using art to expose prevailing sexist and racial discrimination in the artworld. Among their many approaches to “reinventing the ‘f’ word” (not necessarily the f-word you’re thinking of!) has been to don their gorilla masks (to keep the media focused on their message, not their looks) and give themselves the names of famous dead female artist identities (to keep their memories alive–and protect themselves from any negative backlash from artworld bigwigs). Now, thirty years later, their passion remains on fire; despite acknowledged progress, they still burn for greater equity. If their work sparks your inner art-ivist, click for your own free Guerrilla Girls starter kit found hereand you can visit their artwork and books at their table in the New York Art Book Fair.
~Victoria C. Rowan, Ideasmyth Creatrix-in-Chief

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© The Guerrilla Girls, Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers

“The Tomboy wasn’t always a girl. The term’s long history dates back to the 16th century when it was used to describe a young guy who drank too much and carried on with wenches. By the 19th century, the naughty label was bequeathed to the opposite sex and came to mean a rude, crude, immodest woman—a slut. By the 20th century, ‘Tomboy’ was a label for a physically active girl who liked to do the same physical things as a boy—in other words, a jock. At a time when girls were expected to stick around the house and learn to cook, clean, and sew, a girl who liked sports was thought of as unfeminine. Guerrilla Girls see it a little differently. Girls who were Tomboys took a look around and saw boys had all the luck: They could run, jump, play sports, and express themselves physically. These girls ignored what was expected of them and joined in the fun! They didn’t necessarily want to be biological boys, they just wanted to do what boys always had the freedom to do. A Tomboy was amusing and accepted, but at puberty she was expected to ‘grow out of it’ and become ladylike. If she didn’t, and kept up her boyish behavior as an adult, well then, maybe she was…homosexual. Many a parent feared that a Tomboy daughter might grow up to be a Lesbian. Female gym teachers were always suspect. In the early 20th century, America had a celebrity Tomboy: Mildred ‘Babe’ Didrikson. Born in 1911, Babe excelled in sports from an early age. Not just one or two, but every one she tried: basketball, baseball, tennis, track, acrobatics, swimming, skating, squash, and billiards. In the 1932 Olympics she qualified for five events but was allowed to compete in only three. She set records in each. In a world where women athletes couldn’t make a living, Babe was forced to cash in on her celebrity status by playing football in publicity films and starring in a vaudeville routine driving golf balls into the audience from a treadmill while singing. Finally, she devised a way to become one of the first professional women golfers: She started the LPGA tour. Babe was butch. Asked by a reporter if there was anything she didn’t play, she said, ‘Yeah, dolls.’ When a female spectator questioned her gender by shouting, ‘Where are your whiskers?’ Babe fired back, ‘I’m sittin’ on ’em sister, just like you!’ Long before Muhammad Ali, she proclaimed herself not just good, but ‘the greatest.'”

–From Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls’ Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes

See more of The Guerrilla Girls’ Featured Creative posts on our Ideablog

Guerrilla Girls Abrons Arts Center New York 2015~~~The Guerr­illa Girls are feminist masked avengers in the tradition of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Wonder Woman and Batman. Over 50 women have been members over the years, some for weeks, some for decades. They use facts, humor and outrageous visuals to expose discrimination and corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture. They undermine the idea of a mainstream narrative by revealing the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair. Over the past 30 years they have reinvented the f-word ‘feminism’ in more than a hundred posters, street projects, actions, books, and billboards. They’ve unveiled anti-film industry billboards in Hollywood just in time for the Oscars, dissed the Museum of Modern Art in New York at its own Feminist Futures Symposium, and created large scale projects …They are authors of street projects, stickers, billboards, posters, and several books including The Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art; Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls’ Guide to Female Stereotypes; The Guerrilla Girls’ Art Museum Activity Book; and The Guerrilla Girls’ Hysterical Herstory of Hysteria and How it Was Cured, from Ancient times Until Now…

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