Scribbles on a blank white page. Splattered canvases of pastel soy milk vomit. Getting a piece of artwork into a contemporary museum seems so easy, a Kindergartener could do it, right?
While the times have changed, as have the styles and forms of art expression, so have the mediums through which such artists express themselves. The other day, my sartorialist friend sent me an interesting BuzzFeed link about one such case.
The link lead me to an O’Keefe-esque photography exposé of beautiful abstract waves streaked with shades of plums, violets, and magentas. The medium du jour? Menstrual blood. While societal instinct would have it to be immediately taken aback with a gag gesture, the real question is what exactly are we gagging about?
For years, the topics of “female issues” such as menstruation have either been considered taboo or patriarchal tools of purity control. (Cough cough, in Romeo & Juliet’s days, the monthly gift was a celebration– people would literally parade blood splotched bedsheets around town…but to celebrate the fact that the girl was still pure. I rest my case).
With regards to our contemporary and oh, so “progressive” times, girls are still humiliated to talk about their periods. I, for one, remember in high school that my friends and I would make a drug deal esque ordeal to pass around spare tampons. Furthermore, some women are even afraid of saying the word, “VAGINA.”
Vagina. (Not Voldemort.) Let it sit with you for a hot second, and I swear I’ll get back to the topic of how this relates to art. Okay.
Vagina is like the gnarly monster under your bed–the elephant in the room. Art is a form of expression, whether that expression is love, passion, struggle, hatred, psychedelic influence, what have you. It is a movement that promotes change. Artists are the soldiers and paintbrushes are their bayonets.
By using such a medium, artists like Jen Lewis, at least how my dear friend and I interpreted it, aim to promote a change on how we view women and their bodily functions. By making something beautiful out of something considered dirty and gross, this art has the ability to start a conversation through an unconventional means.
This expression is not just limited to art! Social media was abuzz with Anglomania with regards to Ms. Kiran Gandhi-– the badass who ran the 2015 London Marathon while letting her Crimson Tide flow freely.
Gandhi’s aim? To shed the light on another issue related to the menstruation topic: the access (or lack, thereof) of many women across the world to feminine products. Gandhi also aimed to encourage women to not feel embarrassed by their periods.
26.2 miles later, she says, “I ran to say [the pain and oppression that come with menstruation] do exist, and we overcome it every day.”
As a fellow marathon runner, I can honestly say that I’ve run every long distance race while receiving my monthly gift, including my very first marathon. While I did not choose to follow suit, Kiran’s message speaks loud and clear, and that is that women should also never feel incapable because they have their period; that much can be accomplished, and that, no, you are not a disgusting human being.
These blatant testimonials to vaginal function liberation may help getting people on board, because, let’s face it, hearing things on television or by word of mouth can feel like sitting through a two-hour-long chemistry lecture. People have short attention spans and are visual beings. Seeing such forms of expression through art or athletics may just be the tool we need to move forward with how we treat other women.
Sound crazy? Brilliance…um…flows from it.