I imagined myself as a woman in late 18th-20th century Europe, who similar to the contemporary street artist Banksy, wanted to express the many repressions women faced. Learning about the lack of opportunity for women to express their opinions and issues during this time, I wondered if there had been a street artist to depict these obstacles perhaps the reforms that later took place would have been expedited. Street art is very powerful because of its ability to exist in the public sphere, making the images and words accessible to all. Women had no real chance to express the concerns regarding their roles, sexuality and basic civil rights therefore street art would have been an ideal method to portray their woes.
Following the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, men had begun to use the new humanist thought process to work towards the pursuit of fundamental rights for themselves. The female point of view was hardly allowed in the patriarchal society, however some activists such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Ann Wheeler and Theodore Gottlieb Von Hippel began to raise protest. While their works such as Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), and Von Hippel’s On the Civil Improvement of Women (1794) were progressive, little came of this propaganda. The French Constitution of 1792 actually banned women from public life, and was similarly reinforced in the Napoleonic Code of 1804. On top of this, European women were also devoid of equality in voting, divorce rights, sexual and reproductive health , as well as property rights. The role of a woman in society was also very restrictive as women even through the 20th century after decades of performing in the workforce during wartime. Women’s forced role of remaining in the home and taking care of children interfered with the ability to participate in anything political or educational. In my opinion, this is what forced the sexist depictions of women as being nothing more than weak beings that are only equipped for housework and childbearing. And once women had started to unwind the entanglement of these roles and embraced their sexuality as a source of empowerment, they were scrutinized for being promiscuous.
In my work I set out to depict the voices of the repressed women in history and support the judged voices of the feminists. I aimed to show that there is power and independence in embracing one’s sexuality as shown in works 1 and 2. In other works, such as 3, 4 and 5 I use Banky’s method of dramatizing the effects of social repression to raise the voices of women who are unfairly forced into the roles society has enforced. Finally in 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 I have shown a later point of view in the feminist movement, calling stark attention and action towards the rights women are entitled to.
These works are controversial and would have raised absolute chaos amongst men if placed in public during the early parts of the feminist revolution. It is important I believe to keep these in mind in a modern light as well, as not all countries protect rights of a woman’s choice, and women in Europe still earn 30% less than men. The most important aspect of this art is that it is universal and images can express points of view more than words at times.
“Guided History.” Guided History NineteenthCentury European Feminism Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2015.
Jerram, Leif. Streetlife: The Untold History of Europe’s Twentieth Century. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.
“The Women’s Movement.” The Women’s Movement. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2015.
“Welcome to – Womeninworldhistory.com -.” Women In World History Curriculum. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2015.