“Young women artists are revolutionary”

7 03 2009

In December 20, 2008 Emma Bee Bernstein committed suicide. She was only 23 at the time. She was from the upper west side of Manhattan and graduated from the University of Chicago in 2007 with a degree in Visual Arts and Art History. She focused on art theory and media studies and completed her senior thesis on how feminism manifests in contemporary photography. She and her best friend Nona Aronowitz embarked on a road trip where they photographed and interviewed young women across the nation about their relationship with feminism.

This is how her photographs were meant to be installed and displayed:

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Here are some other photographs that Emma took:

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For the full collection click here.

In a panel at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Museum for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, she wrote the following about intergenerational feminism (bold emphasis mine):

There is good news: young women artists are revolutionary. They are making works that deal fervently with gender and sexuality, that deconstruct beauty standards, that unveil the veiled. They revel in the grotesque, the cosmetic, celebrity culture. They poke fun at themselves. They show us their obsession with the “feminine”, but it is pop essentialism, deadpan gender. They do not care if you think they are vapid sluts, clad in designer trends. They look with a female gaze, they have autonomy, they are not marionettes. They are, indeed, artists who are feminists. Young women thinkers will say they are gender revolutionary before they are feminist-identified, and just as they seek to explode the binaries of sex, they mix-media and ideology, creating a patchwork of consciousness that is as thoroughly contemporary as it is politically feminist.

This is such a beautiful and poetic paragraph and it truly speaks to the aliveness of feminism today. It speaks to how despite the oversaturation of unrealistic standards of beauty, misogyny, overly sexed up women, double standards, etc. in our society, young women are not duped. They do not all passively sit there accepting and obeying ridiculous imposed definitions of femininity, but they find some way to rebel.

As International Women’s Day approaches us it’s important to remember the strong, visionary women who came before us and it’s important to be hopeful and think of the strong, visionary women of today – women in our lives that we know and may be friends with, may be related to, may have classes with, etc.


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