‘The creation of medical conditions and identities has always been a tool of control. We know that operations of power, truth, and violence are required to turn someone into a woman or a man. We know of the many apparatuses that conjoin to create a certain type of subject. And it may seem obvious that all of these operations that conspire to place each of us at the centre of a series of identities, that hold us in a spider’s web of subjectivities, also restrict our potential. We are coded into certain permissible behaviours and over impermissible ones.’
The Tyranny of Imagery. Or, Escaping the Zoopraxiscope // Anonymous
(image found on Twitter: @rmayersinger)
The marches across the globe on the 21st day of 2017 were preliminary to any legislative attack on female access to medical aid. Yet Trump’s presidential actions on the 22nd day of 2017 justified the marches, the US leader signalling a global gag rule, which threatens organisations were they even to give reproductive advice to women, likely preventing many global health organisations from offering HIV prevention and treatment services, maternal health care, and Zika virus prevention. Large global family planning organisations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Marie Stopes International have confirmed they won’t stop their services – so they will lose funding.
The collective march symbol was the pink pussy hat. The hat project, ‘the ultimate feminist symbol’ for Teen Vogue, is claimed by creator Jayna Zweiman to utilise fashion as fashion is ‘a powerful tool’ to express and broadcast ‘the zeitgeist’. I question what message a universal fashion statement like this, specifically one of a pink wooly hat alongside placards with large, pink wombs on, conceals within its folds.
In The Pussy Hat Project’s words, the power of pink:
Pink, according to fashion scholar Valerie Steele, was genderless prior to around the 50s. 2nd wave feminists in the 60s critiqued pink for being childish. Their critique was so successful that, for Steele, it solidified pink’s feminisation, paving the way to model sparklier and ever brighter PINK adornments for Barbies in the 90s.
(image found on Instagram: @Kevin Banatte/afrCHuBBZ)
This election, 94% of black female voters voted for Clinton, whilst 53% of white female voters voted for Trump. The project’s statement doesn’t mention critique of feminism for it’s inherent public whiteness, or pinkness (though this ignorance is of course whiteness’s predominant trait). In an article on the march and WHITE TOKENISM, Amiya Nagpal says, ‘the march conflated womanhood with having a vagina. The march conflated being a woman with having a pink vagina. Pictures from the various events show seas of people in bright pink vagina hats. My vagina is not pink’. In the 1890s white American suffragettes actively excluded black women to make it easier for them to secure the vote (ironically, there were lots of people dressed as suffragettes at the various marches).
“The people with power, in this case white women, need to help platform issues that affect people without. This means moving away from an ‘all lives matter’ narrative, and recognising that intersectionality is necessary. This means supporting undocumented people, native people, trans people, disabled people, and more. This means showing up to NoDAPL (the campaign against the Dakota Access Pipeline) protests and Black Lives Matter protests. This means acknowledging that cuts to Planned Parenthood will disproportionately affect trans people who require access to hormones. This means being present and consistent in your activism”. Amiya Nagpal.
In EGG AND THE SPERM (1991) Emily Martin questions why the scientific language propping up the explanation of ovulation and spermatogenesis cannot be equivalent, or homologous. For time, female ovulation is negatively connoted because female eggs are more finite than male sperm. Reversing this perspective, for Martin, the ‘real mystery’ is why trillions of unused sperm are wasted. It is amazing there’s so few pop-culture references to sperm as weak, the only known to her is this:
Click on the sperm below to watch a Youtube clip from WOODY ALLEN’s, Everything you’ve wanted to know about sex: SPERM SCENE .. …
What I question is why a woman’s march must be unified by the colour pink, and (essentialist) genital icons, the combination of which speaks on some levels only to cis-white (feminism and) womanhood. And this type of womanhood is just not as in threat by recent political developments as other types of performing womanhood.
For example, GERMAINE GREER, a feminist voice in the 1970s and well known for her books on sexuality and gender, writes now about trans women being “ghastly parodies” of women. She was glitter-bombed last year by queer activists for her continued transphobic comments. Similarly, though befriended by an elderly marcher and included, KATELYN BURNS blogged about the imagery at the march: ‘It’s not my place to invalidate anyone’s language, but I am constantly aware of my own incomplete womanhood between my legs…I began thinking about the decision that’s been dominating my life recently: whether or not I should try for Genital Reassignment Surgery…I wish I was able to live with the genitals that I already have, but I don’t think I’m strong enough to be one of those women’.
This self-reflexive gaze towards woman’s own forever imperfect body is a replication of patriarchal dominance. Woody Allen’s scene, with the personified sperms, catches Emily Martin’s attention because it is rare to direct the gaze within a male testicle. Men do not organise under the collective symbol of their genitalia or their anatomy often. That concept has been mocked (crudely) online post march, it is funny for men.
George W Bush’s gag rule in areas of Africa resulted in an increase in abortions. The gag rule is a cruel draconian measure that will lead to more women world wide dying. Building communities that celebrate difference rather sameness, assures inclusion of all and new emerging types of femininity. The universal pink wooly hats and dancing womb symbols can be seen not to challenge cultural beliefs about gender stereotypes, if we realise the main stereotype about gender is rooted in the biologically essentialist pussy or dick dichotomy, which informs societies pink or blue dichotomy. Emily Martin describes science as cultures of no culture, seeing science idealised as a citadel – its tower rising above the town and the people (like the university as the ivory tower). I see the women’s march a bit like this. Pink pussy’s are not the only way to do womanhood, they are actually an old (white cis) way of doing womanhood. To strengthen womanhood, let’s grow it!