Inviting the mysoginistic art world to an arm wrestling battle


Performance art is a field very much dominated by women. At least that’s what you read in feminist arts history. Women’s crafts weren’t taken very seriously! If we wanted to paint we would get told it could never be as good as men’s even before we picked up the brush! And no this just didn’t happen in the Victorian times and now that we have liberation it’s all-fine! Only last year “artist” George Baselitz claimed, “women can’t paint very well…” this simply goes back to the idea created by Renascence historians who claimed ‘it’s just biologically impossible for women to create art.’ And who can go against men talking scientifically?

Of course women did. We started to create as much as we could even if we had to sign our name as a male name or dress how men did. But we created; we started to perform because when they saw our name-tag on a painting they’d just walk around it because there was no way it could be good. But in a performance we can stare them in the eye and make them watch and listen. Through performance we have the power, we set the rules and make them act by them and for that we have a long list of women around the world to thank. However even now when I sit in my performance studies class all I here is a man’s voice listing other men’s names that successfully practiced live art and once in a while a woman’s name would pop up.

Sarah Maple and Meg Mosley’s performance piece “Feminist Arm Wrestling” performed on the 17th of October 2015, was a very creative women’s studies class and also a performance, it included presentations based on fourth-wave feminist figures such as Beyoncé, which the audience went mad for! Where they asked audience to battle each other in arm-wrestling competition representing second and fourth wave feminism.

I adore Maple very much, she isn’t afraid to take anyone to battle. And I’m not just talking about an arm wrestling battle, she has taken the art world into a political battle and has opened a path for our generation of artists. We can just express our woman-hood knowing she has gone through it and has survived.

Her work constantly opens up conversation on misogyny and also challenges religious views which some times restrict women without they’re will, although she received a lot of hatred from the public it has made her stronger. She has constantly made us questions; why is seeing period blood shameful? Why can’t we imagine women in high profile jobs? And recently she has challenged the idea of victim blaming, by creating an “Anti Rape Cloak” and wearing it in different public areas.

Her cloak reminds me of Chadors women wear in Iran where I grew up. They are meant to protect your body from the un-clean eyes of men, and prevent sexual assault. But it does neither. The way she challenges the public eye and culture makes the new generation feel more confident with what they create. Knowing your voice will always be heard if you try hard enough.

This new performance piece had a combination of her style of work, and Mosley’s video work. And to me it was a great example of live art today because :

-It was a combination of visual arts and theatre ( which is my personal definition of Live art) , by offering audience a taste of fine art as well as a semi-scripted and theatrical experience

-Engaging the audience, and being generally amusing but at the same time challenging their views

-But also very educational on feminist history, as well as challenging how as feminists we view each other today.

What is great about art is that it allows the artist to have an opinion but to be able to prove their point in a creative way. To say one person is unable to do so because of their biology is a very harmful and Inhumane way to treat them, and that is how we have been and are still treated by misogynistic art history, but thanks for people like Sarah and all the women before and after her who make our path a little less rougher, on our way to prove the history wrong.

Katy Jalili

SoN Guest Blogger