Whats it feel like? BAD GIRLS CLUB ART EXHIBITION @Union Club Hotel
I arrive at the pub just as it is opening and there is no customers. Just sunshine of the afternoon spilling in through plate glass windows. The women responsible for the exhibition and the creation of the zine, are yet to arrive. This is why I am able to be taken upstairs to the deserted art spaces and wander around all alone with the art and my thoughts. It is utter bliss.
The floor squeaks under my feet as I walk around and explore the rooms that are awash with natural light. There is so much to look at. The cross stitch is one of my instant favourites and I would happily hang it up on my own bedroom wall. My birthday is coming up and so I take a picture to show someone who is most likely to want to get me something romantic. Something that really shows that they know what it feels like to be a girl like me.
The exhibition spans all through the pubs second level that could have been an apartment. There are disused fire places and linoleum floor as well as carpet and sloping floors. In the first and biggest room the floor squeaks under my footsteps. It smells like my high school best friend’s house as both her parents smoked inside. One room is set up like a teenage girls bedroom. A teen age girl circa the 90s. The bedspread on the bed is blue with yellow stars and moons all over it. The sight of it makes me catch my breath with sudden recognition. It is the bedspread that I had or a dear friend did at least. There is a clothes rack with clothes all hung up on hangers: tops and dresses that would not fit me. There is illustrations on the walls and even a notebook left open on the bedspread, as if the girl had been called to dinner or a phone call. There is a shrine with tea candles everywhere and a book on Andy Warhole and his art with the front cover torn.
Throughout the show there are many references to what being a bad girl can mean or represent. It is like stepping into a planet created by girls for girls. What do you feel like doing today? nothing? everything? smashing male middle class white capitalist oppression? Take up space? Kick, sniff and snot at a bus stop while waiting for no bus in particular? Let me take your hand, this art show seems to whisper, let me show you some possibilities. Let me show you that you don’t need to cower yourself and make smaller all the things you have to gleam and shine out into the world.
There are images of girls taking pleasure in their own bodies. There are illustrations of girls doing what makes them feel good and not asking any person for assistance. They can help by simply keeping their distance. Instead of explaining how we need to make space for men in feminism, this art show makes it clear that it is them that need to simply pay attention to more stuff created by feminists and women of all types and simply make space in their own life that can stand as beacons of feminist understanding and support. It occurs to me as I wonder this art show how I never see work by women ( art, music and the like) shared and gushed about by men. Especially the men i know who make music themselves. My foot steps get harder as the anger bubbles up.I remember a drunk male friend (sort of) who came up to me after my first try of stand up. It was at a warehouse party and i think it went alright. This drunk guy comes up to me and says, ”Talking about yourself is fine but, there is other stuff out there in the world.”
I smiled at this person and said ”thanks so much.” While a woman came up and handed me a bottle of wine to swig from. Is that not a perfect example of why women are simply better? Some guy wants to tell me that I am not enough. In the same second a woman comes up and hands me over what she can and some enthusiastic support. You, see that guy was not totally wrong. There is a great deal out there to talk about. He failed to understand that a tiny weird looking young woman who is not afraid to get up and try something that involves pouring out your heart and soul and making a huge group of people laugh with you at your own foibles, is actually a huge accomplishment. He simply did not have the capacity to understand or comprehend that some people are not here to stroke his particular brand of self perception. It was a shock for him to see someone doing something that was not, like most things in his world, catered to his gaze. I found that as i was looking at art and remembering, I had also muttered out loud to myself the words, ”Fuck that guy.”
The final room I enter is a large room with lino on the floor and bay windows that sit behind a large table full of flower arrangements and empty beer long neck bottles. The long neck bottles are also in a corner of the room. There is a collection of artworks on the walls and in the centre of the long table is a basket filled with copies of the zine that you can buy for 15$. There is nobody around and i really want a zine. I write a note to the people in charge of the show and write in orange sharpie
DEAR BAD GIRL ZINE
THIS ART SHOW TOUCHED MY 16 YEAR OLD HEART AND PINCH PUNCHED MY PRESENT DAY HEART EVEN HARDER. HERE IS 15$ FOR ONE OF YOUR ZINES. THANKS SO MUCH XJESSX
I slipped a zine in my tote and held the note and the exact cash in my hand as I continued looking around. Unable to resist my curiosity I sat on the floor in the corner of one of the rooms and read the zine from cover to cover.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A BAD GIRL?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A GIRL?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE BAD AT ALL?
These three questions are in the front page of the zine in pink capital letters. next page there is an introduction by the zine creator; Fox who says at the end of the introduction
here’s to never being perfect- in the words of Dolly Parton
”Find out who you are and then do it on purpose.”
The zine introduces you to some defiant and uncompromising ”bad girls” from history.
Rosa Luxemburg joined the proletariat party ( Poland’s first socialist party) when only 15 years old. She completed a doctoral thesis in Switzerland on The Industrial Development of Poland. In 1897 Rosa married Gustav Lubeck, a son of an older friend. She never lived with him and they divorced 5 years later. Thanks to that relationship Rosa was able to carry out political work as a naturalised German. She was imprisoned a number of times for being out spoken in her views and active participation in revolutionary activities in the 1905 revolution. Insulting the Prussian Officer Corps. In 1914 she was accused of sedition. Rosa Luxemburg was a bad girl to some and a revolutionary/ academic to others. I am sure she angered many a man who was not used to having to deal with one woman daring to take up so much space in the world. what a legend.
If you think it is difficult being a female identifying individual in the art or literary scenes today. You may gain some perspective and thank some random but lucky stars being born in the last century. by reading about the talented painter unlucky enough to be around during the seventeenth century: Artemesia Gentileschi. Artemesia was the only daughter of Orazio Gentileschi who was a contemporary of Carravigio. Her and her brothers spent much of their childhood in their father’s studio, but, it was Artemesia who showed the most talent and gift for painting. Her father did describe her talent and promise as an artist as ”Peerless in her work. Her mastery of the medium, her creativity and artistry was unparalleled.” Her early work was dismissed as being done by her father. In 1612 a mentor was organized for the 19 year old prodigy painter by her father. I wonder if Artemesia felt uneasy when she first met the mentor Agostino Tassi. Did he leer at her or breath with a creepy weez? Or, was he handsom and charasmatic? Did he seem trustworthy to Artemesia’s father? She could have been excited at being given such an opportunity to continue with what she loved to do, instead of being married off like all the other girls.
He raped her. The mentor did. Artemesia did not stay silent. Artemesia went and told her parents. They wanted Agostino Tassi would marry her. H e would not do so. It was only then that her father decided to put it through the law and build a case against Tassi. Since being raped was not enough trauma for a young woman, Artemesia was made to under go intrusive and painful gynecological examination. She was also totured while giving her testimony. It was found that Artemesia was a virgin before her rape and that Tassi was a serial rapist and had intended to carry out many other crimes. He was sentenced to one year in prison and did not complete his sentence.
Artemesia decides to paint the story of Judith who saves her city by seducing and then beheading Holophernes the general of the besieging army. Artemesia’s paintings of this story show Judith and her maid having far more agency and the depictions of the beheading are cathartic depictions of rage and violence. Artemesia’s paintings also help show the importance and value of unity between women. A great deal of her work was attributed to men and it was only through the tireless worrk of feminist art historians, that her work has been recognized and accredited to her talent, drive and her uncompromising determination.
Reading the story of Tura Satana I am struck almost to the floor with how much Inspiration and strength can be garnered by the stories of other women and their resilience, their strength and the depth to which they can endure and fight. Tura was born in Hokido Japan in 1938. The family moved to the United States in 1942. At ten years of age Tura was gang raped by five men. In response to this her father taught her karate and aikido. Over the next fifteen years, Tura would track down each of the men and extract her revenge. She even formed a gang with her neighbourhood friends called The Angeles. Her rallying and leadership skills drew the attention of the authorities and she was sent to a reform school. She started burlesque dancing at 15She was talent spotted while working and living in LA. in 1965 she stared in a film called Faster Pussy Cat, Kill Kill. Tura developed the look and dialogue of her femme fatale character, Varla and The Astro Zombies (1968). In 1974 Tura was shot by a former partner and quit film.
The zine shows many images of women that you would think do not even exist if you relied on what you were shown in commercial television and commercials. Women who look powerful, thoughtful, defiant and happy. They are not all cookie cut outs of the perceived ideal that is shoved down our throats by hollywood and magazines.
In the zine Hope Mathumbu writes about how finding Black Girl Dangerous: a multifaceted online forum for the literary and artistic expression of queer and trans people of colour, is so important to her. it is a place for her to go and ‘Cleanse myself of the anxieties that have been introduced through white supremacy, colonisation, religion, patriarchy and various other social constructs that were designed to control me.’
There is text about how discussing your body with female friends in public can still feel revolutionary when you are told to shush by an older eavesdropper. Te sadness that comes with speaking out about the actions of a male friend and mutual friends choosing the male friend’s side.
There is an interesting write up on the woman who Ronald Reagan once vowed would never teach again in the University of California system. Today Angela Davis is a distinguished professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at The University of California, Santa Cruz. Her most famous book is her 1981 Women, Race And Class that explores black women and thier place in the US and their struggle for equality and liberation. The book explores how these struggles fit into the movements to end end slavery, the women’s suffrage movement ( a movement that became less and less inclusive to the rights of black women).
When i have finished engulfing the entire contents of the zine I stand up and stretch. I am starving. I walk around the exhibition one more time before making my way down the stairs. I slip the zine into my tote and fish the note and money from my coat pocket.I handed the cash and the note to the guy manning the bar.
The BAD GIRLS ZINE is compiled by Fox Smoulder( on Tumblre and Facebook) Possum Parcel (Instagram, Etsy and facebook) You can get in touch if you would like to contribute anything to future editions of BAD GIRLS ZINE. You can email them at [email protected].
Just go and buy the zine.