The Guerrilla Girls are an anonymous group of feminist artists whose focus is to expel sexism and racism in politics, the art world, film and the culture at large. The members wear gorilla masks to hide their identity, but they are guerrilla in their approach and methods. Their actions and exhibitions are entirely impromptu in nature. Their goal is to make people afraid of them and unaware of when they will strike next. Members of the Guerrilla Girls names of dead women artists as pseudonyms (like Frida Kahlo and Gertrude Stein). According to their website, they “want to be subversive, to transform our audience, to confront them with some disarming statements, backed up by facts—and great visuals—and hopefully convert them” to understand and support feminist ideology. The Guerrilla Girls do not understand why anyone would NOT want to call themselves a feminist—if anything the people who say they are not a feminist are the same ones who support feminist issues.
Recently, the Guerrilla Girls skillfully detourned one of their own posters from 1989, 2005, and 2012. The original poster features a photo of a naked woman lying on her side from behind with the infamous gorilla mask covering her face. The most recent original poster reads, “Do women have to be naked to get in to the Met. Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art sections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female”. The posters were in response to a so-called “weenie count” in the museum that even today is revealing of sexism within the art/museum world.
Now, as seen above, the Guerrilla Girls replaced the wording of their classic poster to “Do women have to be naked to get into Music Videos? While 99% of the GUYS are dressed!” The poster now has a still of a woman in Robin Thicke’s music video for Blurred Lines. In fact, Pharrell Williams asked the Guerrilla Girls to be in an expedition called G I R L at Gallerie Perrotin Paris—the girls said yes with the exception they would present this poster and one other. The Guerrilla Girls bring up an important point—why do women have to be naked to get into music videos?
In music videos—namely within the hip hop and rap genre—women represent the success of the artist who they surround. They are accessories to him and treated as collector’s items he has earned with his wealth. Women in music videos are extremely hypersexualized, and as the Guerrilla Girls put it, barely clothed. When this kind of blatant sexism is displayed in a positive light, it further fosters rape culture as well as dangerous, misogynistic attitudes towards women. It is important to consider how the women in the music videos themselves might feel about their portrayal in it. Elizabeth Plank of mic.com clarified this well:
“So what happens when the model in the song doesn’t think the video is objectifying, but other women do? In other words, if a woman is objectified by the viewer, but she isn’t objectifying herself, is she still an object? If a tree falls in the woods, but it doesn’t hear its own sound, did it make one? Moreover, if Emily Ratajkowski (side note: she is one of the models in the video) is stripping down for the camera to point out the absurdity of music videos that portray women who strip down for the camera to the point of absurdity, but her ironic wink isn’t understood by her audience, is it still subversive?”
My and Elizabeth’s answer to this question is HELL yes. Sexism is not something of the past, but very prevalent today which keeps anything about it from being even remotely ironic. Men are not bothered to remove any clothing—in fact the men in the Blurred Lines video were dressed very nicely. Men benefit from this double standard while women are literally suffering because of it. When women are portrayed as objects for men on the screen, they are treated as objects off of the screen leading to our worldwide issue today of violence against women.
When Robin Thicke was asked to respond to Blurred Line’s out lash, he told reporters there was more in the world to worry about than “a little bit of nudity”. However, the song title itself refers to the blurred lines between whether or not a woman wants to have sex with him or not. To add insult to injury, the most common line in the song is “I know you want it”. Many feminists, including the Guerrilla Girls, were (and still are) outraged at the song’s explicit allusion to sexual violence. Thicke also argued that it was acceptable for him to put the song out there because he was a married man. As I am sure most of you have heard, Robin Thicke and his wife have since separated inspiring his most recent album titled “Paula”—a sad and embarrassing attempt to win her back.
It is unsurprising the Guerrilla Girls used Blurred Lines in their poster combatting sexism in music videos. It was especially smart of the girls to reuse/reproduce one of their own classic posters to highlight the issue. Doing this represents how long the battle against sexism has gone one. This is certainly not the end of it for the Guerrilla Girls, either. They are still actively “fighting discrimination with facts, humor and fake fur”!