To the single mothers in Chicago and Berkeley, the “fatfemme” taking up space in front of and behind the camera, the historians at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Spelman College, the poet-warrior-mother whose prose incites tectonic shifts in the hearts of her readers, and to the many more women and femmes who have shared their stories as they raise our children, write or revise our history, embody survival: We owe you. We owe you our grandest thank you and support—we owed you yesterday, we will owe you in the future, but we especially owe you today on International Women’s Day.
It is you and your work that has kept me buoyed in moments of self-doubt, courage, and process. Today, like everyday, is a day I want to be surrounded and embraced by women and femmes. I want to bathe in your resplendence.
Full disclosure, I’m challenged by the concept of a “Day Without Women,” because I couldn’t imagine a day where women aren’t instrumental in every single aspect of life. Moreover, I’m actually fascinated by the prospect of constructing a day, month, or movement that is dedicated to expanding how society defines womanhood. Personally, I’d love to dedicate more days to uncovering ways we can assemble an architecture for a “new womanhood” that is more radical, celebratory, and inclusive. More than anything, I believe that today is a day for reflection. Today is a day that we should spend editing, recharging, and re-considering what we’ve been taught about the world around us.
In our political climate, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with how our vocabularies are constantly evolving as they are transmitted around the internet. In my work personally and professionally, I write content for digital and analogue platforms, “read the comments,” and understand very intimately how the echo chamber of social networks can impact our brains and hearts. On Fridays, I might see an unfurling of positive images and on any given Tuesday, I might watch someone be shot point blank in the back on my Facebook feed. And so, in a cyberspace riddled with “pussies grabbing back” “now more than ever,” I’m curious about we can use the language of protest to promote inclusion and destroy oppressive binaries.
How can we use our hashtags to incite and inspire conviction in each other? How can we simultaneously uplift women who stay home from work, those whose work is in domestic spaces, those who live with illnesses that prevent them from working, those who are incarcerated, and those who cannot afford to miss a day at the office?
The women’s movement of today has to be more complicated than any we’ve ever seen. It’s time to get difficult. It’s time to break the rules.
I think that a good start is being thoughtful about who we are referencing when we use words like, “we,” “they,” and “us.” Solidarity is to be earned and without it—collectivity is frail and progress is doomed. In addition, we must be reminded that danger, wellness, and survival are all relative to our levels of access and privilege. Therefore, it’s also important to strive for more than equality. It’s a time to be abstract in how we view the future. Rather than concerning ourselves with where we start the race to freedom, it’s a great exercise to think about who’ll be at the finish line.
In the essay, “What I Think It Is I’m Doing Anyway,” Toni Cade Bambara writes, “I am well aware that we are under siege, that the system kills… but death is not a truth that inspires, that pumps up the heart, that mobilizes…” As Bambara notes, moments of crisis don’t afford everyone an opportunity to survive. Each day, women around the world are in an absurd proximity to danger. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Kuantan city, Malaysia, and elsewhere, women’s lives are at stake. Where can we find truths that inspire us?
Perhaps today can be a day for seeking alternative motivators for women and femmes across the globe. The election and initiatives like the Women’s March inspired us to speak truth to power, but I’m wondering if we can spend today thinking about the power that we harness internally. How can we, as women and femmes, celebrate and nurture our own power?
We have to claim the future we want.
Kimberly Drew is the Social Media Manager for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, creator of the Tumblr “Black Contemporary Art,” and the voice behind @museummammy on Instagram and Twitter.
The Art of Politics: What Happens When 15 Artists Take On the Campaign Poster
The Italian provocateur Maurizio Cattelan is best known for satirical art works that send up art history and notions of grandeur—institutional or national—such as his life-size wax effigy of Pope John Paul II downed by a meteor. For W, he created an original image suggesting the quackery threatening our most revered symbols.
Nina Chanel Abney’s large-scale paintings confront the social issues of the Black Lives Matter movement and the relationships between police officers and people of color. Irreverent, bold, and pop-savvy, they’re layered with words and faces in a bright mash-up that recalls Matisse’s cut-outs.
George Condo burst on the scene in the early 1980s alongside artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, helping to usher in a new age of painting that mashed up classical sources with a street-art edge. His most widely seen artwork is likely the five provocative covers he made for Kanye West’s 2010 My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He has titled his W poster All Saints All Souls Election Day…CAMPAIGN FOR FREE TIME.
The Berlin-based artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, who created the pool at Rockefeller Center in New York City this past summer and the Prada store in Marfa, Texas, explore identity, sexuality, and mortality in site-specific sculptures and works that are often tinged with dark humor. Their election poster is no different. (There’s always hope, right?)
Marcel Dzama, 42, and Raymond Pettibon, 59, began collaborating in the summer of 2015, when they first swapped and completed each other’s drawings. In this poster, as in their joint drawings, their styles combine so seamlessly that it’s as if each artist absorbed and anticipated the approach of the other.
Zoë Buckman and Hank Willis Thomas teamed up to produce a poster for the campaign of a powerful woman—in this case, Jemima Kirke, an artist and star of the HBO series “Girls.” Here she wears rose-colored glasses made of specula to envision a brighter future. The London-born Buckman has focused on feminism in her work, while Thomas has long examined how race, class, and sexuality have been depicted in mainstream media and advertising.
Founded by American artists Nicole Eisenman and A.L. Steiner, Ridykeulous mounts exhibitions and events primarily concerned with queer and feminist art. Their work uses humor to critique the art world as well as the culture more broadly. As a solo artist, Steiner has worked in performance, video, and photography to explore questions about sexuality, gender, and politics. Eisenman, best known as a painter, was the subject of a solo show earlier this year at New York’s New Museum and a 2015 recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant.
The Turner Prize–winning artist Jeremy Deller, who represented the U.K. at the 2012 Venice Biennale, creates collaborative installations and projects that have included parades and battle re-enactments. His 2001 The Battle of Orgreave, which was filmed, brought together nearly 1,000 people in a public re-enactment of a violent confrontation between miners and government forces. Here he creates a poster in the style of famed 19th-century British designer, craftsman, activist, and poet William Morris, who pioneered the Arts and Crafts movement and was also a social activist. Vote for the artist as social activist.
Kathryn Andrews’s first U.S. solo museum show, “Kathryn Andrews: Run for President,” riffed on Bozo the Clown’s presidential bid—something Bozo’s alter ego, Larry Harmon, actually pursued in 1984. (You might say there are still imitators.) The exhibition included a mural of political-documentary photographs that invited viewers to think about how politicians, celebrities, and artists use imagery to gain and maintain power.
Moscow-born, New York-based painter Sanya Kantarovsky loves pictures—whether by the Russian masters, Western modernists, or Soviet political cartoonists—that tell stories. Drawing on a wide range of sources, his tantalizing paintings and drawings are tense with drama and dark humor.
Born in Poland and based in London, Goshka Macuga, a 2008 Turner Prize nominee, makes large-scale tapestries, sculptures, photographs, and theatrical installations that explore how art can be used to spark public debate and bring about social change. She was the subject of solo shows earlier this year at the New Museum in New York and the Prada Foundation in Milan.
“Women’s Rights Are Human Rights”: 62 Fashion Insiders Speak Out in a Powerful Video for International Women’s Day