For connoisseurs of civilizational decline, the delights keep accumulating. Contemporary art is especially generous in building the case that Spengler had it right. If only he had been an art critic. The ignorance and terminal vulgarity of what passes—still—for feminist art disqualifies most of its practitioners from any claim on civilized attention.
Newly arrived is a press release from Ceres Gallery, a women’s not-for-profit collective in New York, announcing a not-so-unique exhibition Meet My Uterus. Vaginas have been over-exposed, laid bare every which way from Sunday. Time, now, to turn the speculum on a different site in the female viscera. Ceres’ catchy exhibition title links the expo to another feminist production: The Art of Resistance: The Exquisite Uterus. Organized by ladies in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the latter is part of a more strenuous effort called Power, Politics and Performance, and the Snatchel Project which inspires gals to knit uteri and mail their handicraft off to congressmen with the statement, “Hands off my uterus!”
If you’ve been paying attention, you will recognize this as the inevitable follow-on to fevered women demanding that their bishops “Get your rosaries off our ovaries.” That was a clever, if misleading, catchphrase. No rosaries were ever on their ovaries. More to the point and above all else, abortion—the issue that sparked the slogan—is a philosophical and scientific matter before it is, by coincidence, a religious one. It cuts to the core of what kind of society we choose to be. Are we willing to adopt the National Socialist principle of life-unworthy-of-life? Was Catherine MacKinnon right when she argued in Feminism Unmodified (1987) that women will never be free until they have “the right to kill”? These are grist for considered policy discussions, not occasions for aggressive know-nothing stances. But I digress.
Who would have ever envisioned the need to fight for, of all things, contraception in 2012? Women’s reproductive rights are being eroded. Because of government interference with women’s healthcare decisions, these women artists felt the need to express their concerns in the way they know best. They have gotten creative with the image, the shape, the form, the essence of the uterus and we have presented them all in an exciting and visually arresting format of high density and over-the-top repetition of one thing: the uterus.
Contraception was never an item on the national agenda, never at risk in November’s election. Raising the specter of an end to contraception was a low rhetorical feint used successfully by Democrats against Republicans. Texas’ ultrasound initiative was a common-sense ruling that largely codified existing practice. Planned Parenthood and close to 99% of all responsible abortion facilities already perform the ultrasound. It verifies that the mother is truly pregnant; it establishes the size, age and positioning of the unborn child. This, in turn, aids in determining whether the infant will be killed by vacuum or by needle, and whether surgical procedures will be used at all. The ultrasound also helps guard against harm to the mother as the infant is being dismembered. In short, the law mandates what is already standard procedure.
But this is not the kind of information that art is capable of conveying. Art is an effective medium for bypassing the rigors of thought by delivering a political position immune to contention. It cannot be contradicted because it is a stance, a gnomic position of more sound than sense. It is not an argument. Yeats said it best: “You can refute Hegel, but not the Song of Sixpence.”
Organizers of The Art of Resistance are members of the Women’s Studies and LGBTQ Studies on the Oshkosh campus of the University of Wisconsin. Who was it who recommended that all graduates of “studies” programs be sent to re-education camps? When they go, self-styled feminist artists and their exquisite uteri should travel with them.
© 2013 Maureen Mullarkey