Through history, the white heteronormative male has been a marker of precedent in how society frames perceptions of bodies, opportunity, privilege and power. In modern-day society, feminist revolution has started to shift this precedent. However despite intersectionality* amplifying in recognition as central to feminism, white, able-bodies still come out on top. It is these voices and these struggles that still attract the most attention, and minority truths continue to fight to gain visibility and recognition. From the suffragettes and Sojourner Truth’s ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ powerful speech; to the Stonewall Riots, Disability Rights Movement in the U.S, and the #blacklivesmatter movement; those ‘othered’ in mainstream discourse are still fighting for a seat at the table.
The intersectionalities of oppressions – disability, race, gender, sexuality that place individuals at multiple disadvantage are exacerbated further in times of crisis. Covid-19 has highlighted this. Bodies marginalised under patriarchal standards are suffering during this global pandemic and for their rights to be adequately met, the differences between race, ability, sexuality and gender, at best, must be duly considered as part of society, not outside of it. We hope to reflect some of these stories within the scope of this exhibition, and remove the label of ‘invisibility’ that has surrounded them.
*Intersectionality is a theory coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 and denotes the acknowledgement that individuals experience varying levels of oppression depending on the interconnected nature of their varying social categorizations such as gender, race and class. For example, a disabled woman of colour will suffer greater discrimination under capitalist structures than a white, able-bodied woman.
“My work reflects the hidden nature of chronic pain and illness. It reflects on the recovery days that we need to take at home alone stuck on the couch or bed. Similarly, it connects to the crisis going on currently with COVID-19 where people are stuck inside. People with chronic illnesses and disabilities are at even greater risk for danger from the virus and may face the challenges now of strict isolation, fear of getting sicker, and even more limited access to health resources.”
Witches and witchcraft have existed through history in the global, ancient and shamanic context, each era with differing perspectives on the role and significance of ‘the witch’. Throughout history the term has been lumbusted with negative connotations directed to shame women either on the margins of society; widows, women of colour, poor, disabled and elderly, or those in public life resisting conventional norms of what was and is still expected of women. Although these same connotations apply and can be regarded as a form of ‘invisible violence’ against women and girls, the term has been reclaimed by feminism to symbolise an ‘anti-capitalist’ resistance. ‘The witch’ has become a means to reconnect with the roots of femininity and collectivisation of womanhood, offering hope and possibility to reimagine the archetype of ‘woman’ along independent lines. We felt including recognition of this within the exhibition as important to not only highlight the messages that witchcraft and the history behind it carry through to society today. But to also remind us of the urgency and ability for women to reclaim definitions of femininity, womanhood, and sexuality in order to be truly ‘free’.
‘Domestic Pleasure’ plays with the tropes of the witch, reminding us of the urgency for transformation during these precarious times. The broomstick presents us with a symbol of the oppressed powerful woman who was demonised because of her sexuality. The long tresses of hair cascading from the broom’s surface are representative of feminine desire, recalling imagery of ‘the temptress’ with long flowing locks who was exiled on account of her lustful sins. The broomstick was said to have been used as a device which 16th century women would anoint with liquid mandrake, a plant lethal to ingest orally. They would then insert the stick into themselves to ‘fly’. The broomstick represents the mundane domestic object that could be repurposed to satisfy women’s desires and perverse pleasures.
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