it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here, but i wanted to talk about a project i did last November/December, and how things have turned out with them since.
This is the second of two quilts submitted to the traveling show Threads of Resistance.
Not So Safe
After the November 8, 2016 election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, a trend emerged on social media. Wearing a safety pin was celebrated as an easy way to show support for those negatively affected by his win, and the idea spread rapidly.
Those in favour of the concept claimed that a simple safety pin attached to one’s coat would show that person to be a “safe space” for people who were being further marginalized by Trump and his followers.
As the idea grew, even people who voted for Donald Trump celebrated it as a way to show the world that the wearer was “still a good person”, despite voting to limit or deny the basic human rights of others.
People who were actually affected by Trump’s racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, ableism and more were less enthusiastic. While certainly some People of Colour (POC), immigrants, LGBTQ, or Muslim people appreciated the thought, many more questioned why a true ally would need a visible symbol of their support for human rights.
Wouldn’t they be visible as an ally because of their actions? Wouldn’t marginalized people learn that they were trustworthy because the person has been taking actions and speaking out against oppression as they witness it?
Oppressed people know all too well the history of well-meaning allies who claim to support them, while simultaneously keeping quiet, refusing to take actions that might endanger their privilege, or outright causing harm to the people that they purport to protect.
While many of the people who wear safety pins may have the best of intentions, marginalized people have no way of knowing which of those safety pins will pop open and harm them, which means that the safety pin movement really doesn’t symbolize anything other than the guilt of privileged people looking for forgiveness from those who are oppressed.
Questioning Safety Pin Solidarity Revealed Why I Can’t Trust White People by Ijeoma Oluo (if you aren’t already following Ijeoma’s writing, now would be a good time to start!)
Dear White People, Your Safety Pins Are Embarrassing by Christopher Keelty
started April 23, finished April 30, 2017
aprox 26 hours of work, including embroidery, not including drafting the pattern
22″ x 32″
Techniques: foundation paper piecing, hand embroidery (couching), machine quilting
Self drafted paper piecing pattern for the safety pins. Pieced using Kona medium grey and Kona white. Embroidery is rayon thread, couched with a strand of Aurifil 50wt cotton. Echo quilted with a walking foot using Auriful 2021 in 50wt.
This is the first of two quilts submitted to the traveling show Threads of Resistance.
Not All Pussies Are Pink, Not All Women Have Pussies
The Women’s March on Washington was held on January 21, 2017, the day following Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States. Although the event was supposed to advocate for many human rights issues at risk due to his election, including immigration reform, healthcare rights, racial equality, LGBTQ rights and environmental protections, the focus was much smaller for the majority of participants.
The event’s organization was rife with mistakes that indicated clearly that organizers were not looking at feminism through an intersectional lens. The original name for the march appropriated the name of a historic civil rights march without acknowledgement. There were more cisgender men on the stage than there were transgender women, and one of the few transgender women invited to speak had her mic cut off part-way through. Shortly before the event, someone edited the mission statement on the march website to remove support of women who engage in sex work.
Despite these clear indications that the Washington march lacked intersectional feminism, satellite marches around the world repeated the same mistakes. The march I attended in Boston remembered to include Black women, but excluded Indigenous women’s groups. The march in Vancouver, Canada, where I live, included Indigenous women’s groups, but neglected to invite the local Black Lives Matter group to participate, or any local sex workers’ rights organizations.
In addition to the organizational problems, the marches themselves were very white and cisgender-focused. POC wondered why the same marchers who claimed to be fighting for women’s rights hadn’t been marching prior to this event. Where were they when women of colour and immigrant women were losing their rights, well before Donald Trump was elected president? And while they were patting themselves on the back for how “non-violent” their marches were, why weren’t they asking why police respond differently to a group of white marchers than they do to a group of black marchers, when both are equally peaceful?
The wearing of pink pussy hats, originally created in reference to Trump’s quote bragging about sexual assault, of “grabbing women by the pussy,” further perpetuated the focus on white women and cisgender women, forgetting that women of colour don’t all have pink genitalia, and that genitalia do not define a woman. The pussy hats encouraged the idea that the marches were primarily about reproductive rights, resulting in many participants carrying cissexist protest signs that reduced womanhood to body parts.
While the Women’s March inspired us all by showing how many people were appalled by Trump’s election and the risk to women that it symbolized, it also showed how far feminism still has to go in order to include ALL women.
started January 22, 2017, finished April 30, 2017
aprox 26 hours of work for construction and quilting, not including drafting the pattern or the embroidery
23″ x 22″
Techniques: foundation paper piecing, hand embroidery (couching), machine quilting
Self drafted paper piecing pattern to symbolize a crowd of pussy hat wearers at the Women’s March. Though there are 100 full “faces” shown in the quilt, all but 13 of those faces are very pale. Kona white, bone and snow were used for the pale backgrounds. Embroidery is on Kona white, with a binding of Kona bone. Quilted with a walking foot using Auriful 2024 in 40wt and 2021 in 50wt.
What I’m doing:
I’m working on a project for the Queer Arts Festival this summer that is exploring the concept of (former and current) role models and heroes, and what happens when they “cross the line”.
What makes us stop considering them a role model? It’ll differ for everyone – my line is different from your line, your line is different from the next person. Not everyone will agree on what’s problematic. Someone who’s no longer a role model for you might still be for someone else. Some people might be okay with having a role model who is inspiring in some ways but shameful in other ways. Some people might write the role model off after the slightest infraction.
Sometimes a role model stands for something that many people respect – like the fight for marriage equality – but that many others don’t have respect for – because they might feel that there are bigger issues for the queer community to focus on, or that the gay marriage movement has a tendency towards assimilation.
And sometimes a role model isn’t even chosen by us, but is assigned to us by society, like when cisgender people assume that all trans people look up to famous drag queens, regardless of how transphobic they might be, or when straight people think that all queers should be fans of gay writers, regardless of how biphobic or misogynist they might be.
How do our heros/role models change as we grow, as our politics grow? What happens when we’re intersectional, but our role model isn’t? How does the constant access to our role models via the internet, in ways that are entirely unprecedented, change our opinions of them? When we can read blog comments that they leave for others, when their speeches are live-tweeted? What happens when we grow up and realize that the heroes we had as teenagers represent the opposite of what we stand for as adults? Those are all the questions I want to ask with this project.
What I want from you:
I have my own opinions, but I can’t speak for anyone but myself.
I’d love to know who your current or former role models are. And I’d love to know why – why they were your role model but aren’t anymore; why they’re still your hero, regardless of things they might have said or done. A role model can be any public figure that you once looked up to – a musician, an artist, a politician, an actor, an activist, a celebrity, etc. It can even be someone who wasn’t actually your hero, but was a role model to other people. Maybe you’ve had a problem with them all along?
I’d like the positive and the negative – a line or two about why the person is a role model, and a line or two about why they might not be or maybe shouldn’t be a role model anymore.
The project will include some words from people who suggested role models (as well as allowing viewers to participate during the festival), so full sentences are appreciated, but not required. It’s anonymous, unless you chose to give me your name, in which case it’s entirely confidential. I understand that criticizing someone who is popular, even when it’s valid criticism, can feel unsafe or nerve wracking, and I want to make this as comfortable as possible.
If you’re not into filling out the survey, for whatever reason, that’s cool too – but would you mind forwarding this on? Sharing it on your facebook or twitter? I’d like to cast as wide a net as possible – I don’t want to only hear from people who agree with me on everything!
exhibited in 2014 Queer Arts Festival community exhibition, Vancouver
though i rarely post them online, selfies took on an important place in my life mid 2013 when i started a long distance relationship. when you don’t get to see people regularly, you naturally want pictures of them! my lover asked for photos almost daily, often specifically asking for images that i would not normally take, such as pictures without my glasses, or with my mouth open. when the hashtag #feministselfie became common, i had been thinking a lot about how my near daily selfies had affected my view of myself and changed my comfort level about different aspects of my appearance.
also, the necklace, earrings and glasses shown in the image are ones that i wore regularly for an extended period. most of my accessories have changed since then, in the year and a half since the piece was started. i especially enjoy this piece as a portrait of a specific place and time.
the commercial fabric, with women’s symbols/feminist symbols repeated throughout, is a random print that i have come across on two separate occasions (previously used here), and it seemed perfect for my selfie background. i used bleach to discharge the colour, since it originally had a black background with bright pink and purple symbols. throughout the piece i handquilted around some of the women’s symbols with 50wt aurifil cotton thread. in person they are slightly visible, less so in a photo.
Selfies allow us to see ourselves reflected in a world that has spent decades trying to pretend that we don’t exist. Fat people, POC, queers, gender variant people, people with disabilities; when do we ever see ourselves portrayed positively in mass media? Selfies (self portraits taken with the front-facing camera on your cell phone) can be radical, empowering and revolutionary.
Selfies allow the subject/photographer to control how they are viewed – for many people, this is the first time in their lives that they’ve actually liked pictures of themselves. After years of trying to hide in group photos, resisting our relatives insistent “smile!”, selfies allow us to present ourselves to the world the way that we see ourselves most often, looking back out of the mirror.
the hashtag #feministselfie was born out of community outrage. in November 2013 a pseudo-feminist website posted a diatribe against selfies claiming that selfies were a cry for help, that people who take selfies are perpetuating a misogynistic world where women, or those viewed as women, (who take the majority of selfies) are valued only for their physical beauty – in short, it claimed that selfies were anti-feminist.
the online community exploded with #feministselfies on twitter and thoughtful, inspiring blog posts. People posted about seeing people of their skin tone as beautiful for the first time in their lives; about seeing other masculine of centre people as attractive and realizing that they could be attractive too; about the role of selfies in their journey to body acceptance; about showing people with disabilities as full people instead of a cause to fundraise for; about portraying alternative beauty in a way that was more than conventional beauty with a few piercings or tattoos added.
life size quilted portrait commissioned for the 2014 National Queer Arts Festival exhibition, Second Helpings, San Francisco
“Second Helpings is a queer intervention into American popular culture’s understanding of the fat body as a deviant body. It is a visual art exhibition, an evening of performance, and a platform for ideation around how, as a queer community, we can deconstruct and reassess body politics to foster a collective understanding of fatness that empowers and heals fat-bodied people emotionally, sexually and politically. ”
What if, instead of being a barrier, quilts were to show what was underneath them? What if, instead of hiding, they displayed?
In our current political climate of assimilation, we are faced with the message that “homosexuals are just like straight people” on a regular basis. That may be true for some people, but it isn’t the case for many queer identified people. We’re not just gay, we’re queer, and that means we aren’t going along with the status quo. We fight daily against mainstream thoughts – gender roles and expression, beauty standards and what is attractive, what it means to build community, how our sexuality should be expressed, how our sexuality should be tamed…
What if, instead of shutting up, instead of hiding ourselves and our loved ones, we made a point of expressing ourselves and our feelings in a public way? What if, instead of covering shameful nudity, the quilt showed the non-conventional beauty below it?
The Femme and the Bearded Lady portrays two bodies nestled together in sleep; their affection and attraction obvious. Both bodies are fat, both are queer. One body is commonly read as female, despite identifying as genderqueer, and the other is commonly read as male, despite identifying as a woman. As the LGBT community becomes more and more mainstream, mainstream beliefs are found more and more within the LGBT community. Both bodies experience fat and gender through the lens of a society which believes them to be unattractive, unhealthy and undeserving of love and lust, while simultaneously denying their gender and queer identities.