Wednesday, June 27, 2018

fighting back

I was looking through a book I read in college, more than twenty years ago. I found this little study tucked into the pages, depicting a femicide in Ciudad Juárez:



It was a study for a painting I wanted to do in an oil painting class I was taking. A painting I never made because the professor told me that I was not representing or interrogating violence, but perpetrating it. He said that I was no different than a rapist or a murderer. I asked. For him, my work meant that I was like a Brock Turner. Even painting subjects that he deemed admissible, I got a C in his class, which almost cost me a scholarship.

I guess it didn't occur to him that it was a little suspicious that the cis-gendered, straight, rich, white-dude professor should police the tone, content and form of an expression from a gender queer, first generation Mexican immigrant...

It was the first time I heard that criticism in particular, one I would hear over and over from dozens of people like him: rich, educated, insulated from violence by privileges of many sorts. 

Funny; in equating a text/ image with violence, with a police baton or a rapist's cock, these arm-chair academics and activists make themselves into brave, front-line guerrillas. And I become an enemy they can actually fight, because I won't descuartizarlos.

I should probably thank that professor, Jack Girard, actually. His white-bread rad-feminism, his arrogance and aggression, is what pushed me towards feminist theory. Theory for me started as self-defense, as a justification of my right to exist, to speak my truth.

Funny; 20 years later, I am still making that painting and practicing self-defense:





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