Guerrilla Girls, Humour and Hope

Since 1985, the Guerrilla Girls have been raising awareness about the minimal representation of works by women and people of colour in museums. Their number one warfare tactic is humour. Donning gorilla masks and hairy hands, they have been brandishing posters and stickers, staging street theatre and demonstrating at art gatherings to bring attention to their cause. The Girls go by pseudonyms of famous women artists, such as Emily Carr and Frida Kahlo, never revealing their true identities. Their tagline: "Fighting discrimination with facts, humour and fake fur."

One of their most famous campaigns was "the Weenie Count," in which they tallied the number of male and female nudes exhibited at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. They discovered that only 3% of the artists in the Met's collection were women, yet women made up 87% of the museum's nudes. This gave rise to the creation of their now famous poster, which they plastered all over the streets of New York. The Guerrilla Girls eventually expanded their brand of activism to other cultural arenas, including the film industry in Hollywood. To raise awareness about discrimination in cinema, they posted headlines around Tinsel Town during Oscar season that read "The Anatomically Correct Oscar: He’s white and male, just like the guys who win!" The Guerrilla Girls even created a poster to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Montreal Massacre with the Université de Québec à Montréal.

For more examples of their work, please visit their site, which is both edifying and hilarious. Their posters and books can be purchased on their site. I just bought the Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art.

In 2001, some former GG members created a theatre collective, the Guerrilla Girls On Tour (check out the great downloadable posters and stickers!), while another group was formed to address Internet and workplace issues, the Guerrilla Girls Broadband. All three groups use snark and humour to raise awareness about sexism and discrimination.

I have been following the Guerrilla Girls On Tour on Twitter for about two years, and last November, I was pleased to see one of their tweets. The GGsOT announced that the New York Times had given into pressure from feminist groups and women's rights activists like the GGs and named 50 books authored by women in its 100 Notable Books of 2010. Enfin success!

This entire week I have been writing about sexism in the Canadian publishing industry. I've even suggested a girlcott. However, now I'm thinking more about the awareness that could be raised through facts and humour...Let me know what you think, and remember it's dead easy to print stickers. MaHaHa!

Other posts-related to sexism in publishing
Publishing: What If...?
Publishing: What's "Good" and "Important"  (Stats on the # of books authored by women that are reviewed)
CBC: The Elephant in the Room  (Terry Fallis's book beats Carol Shields in CanadaReads)
Reads from Men



Guerrilla Girls On Tour | February 21, 2011 at 9:04 AM

It was Guerrilla Girls On Tour! (one of the three groups that formed when Guerrilla Girls officially split into three new groups in 2001) that tweeted about the NYTimes 100 Notable books of 2010. We also wrote about it on our blog:
-Guerrilla Girls On Tour!

Heather | February 21, 2011 at 8:27 PM

Okay. Thanks for taking the time to tell me this. I'll include a note about the other two GG groups and their websites. Thanks for all your fab work!

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