The Guerrilla Girls is the name given to a group of female performance artists. These women are known for their feminist statements and the radical way they go about making their statements. The group currently consists of three different groups: Guerrilla Girls, Inc., Guerrilla Girls Broadband and Guerrilla Girls on Tour. Originally they covered all three areas within the primary group, but as their popularity grew, they felt the need to change things by letting different people focus on different areas.
The Guerrilla Girls originally got their start in 1985 in New York City. The Museum of Modern Art featured an exhibit called "An International Survey of Painting and Sculpture" and that exhibit inspired the group. Several women in attendance noted that only a small number of minority and female artists were on display in that exhibit and sought to change that. The idea behind the Guerrilla Girls is that feminism isn’t as scary or as harsh as some would believe. They use humor as a way to get their point across and as the initial idea that draws someone in.
In 1989 the group used shocking posters to make New York City residents think about female artists and look at women in ways that went beyond dating or sexualized stereotypes. The posters used bright colors along with the tagline, “Do women have to be named to get into the Met. Museum?”. They based the posters on the idea that the museum had only a small number of female artists, while a majority of their nude portraits featured the female body. Originally they planned to run the poster as a billboard, but when it was rejected they instead placed the posters on buses traveling across the city.
They also attacked the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, California. They rented a billboard near the event and compared the Oscars with the United States Senate. The billboard pointed out that Hollywood has less female directors than the US Senate has female Senators. In a previous year they compared the Oscar statue with the male dominated winners on another billboard.
The Guerrilla Girls are also known as radicals because of the way they dress. They wear gorilla masks that keep their faces hidden, fishnet tights and short skirts. They also refer to each other by the name of famous women artists who are no longer alive. The idea is that no one knows who the Guerrilla Girls are, or even how many women take part in the activities.
There are a few different ideas behind how the group got its name. Members agree that they use the word girls because they want to play on the stereotype of girls as sweet and wholesome versus the idea of women being more adult and mature. The "guerrilla" in their name came about because they wanted to take on the idea of warfare, in that no one knew what their next move might be. Another story claims that a member spelled gorilla wrong when they first decided on the masks and they decided to stick with it.
Resources on the Guerrilla Girls include:
The Guerrilla Girls depend on the support of their fans quite a bit. They encourage fans to use stickers based on their posters and use them in their own towns. This not only helps them spread their word, but also leads to confusion among the public. With people in other areas acting as Guerrilla Girls, it’s impossible to determine just who is a member. All the group admits is that they have less than 30 real members and only 2 of the original members are still involved. Given their past, it’s clear that this group will keep working and acting out in the future.
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