Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Women's Words

The most recent challenge from my art quilting group was to make a 16 x 20" piece inspired by a story or anything literary. With the vitriol of the election underway, I chose The Handmaid's Tale, in which literacy (and therefore Scrabble) was forbidden by an authoritarian theocracy. When Margaret Atwood published her book in 1985, she described it as “Speculative Fiction.” By the time I read it in the mid 1990s, I cavalierly believed that earlier generations of feminists had pretty much solved the biggest problems for American women in the modern world, that there might be some ironing out and fine-tuning left to do, but that the bulk of the work had been done.


Even a cursory level of attention to news about women’s healthcare, body autonomy, and political voice makes it clear that for every inch of progress, there has been pushback strengthened by economic woes, a poorly educated populace, and shamefully misinformed male decision makers.
The question I want this piece to inspire is: How “speculative” is this fiction?
Women's Words (16 x 20", 2016)
The grid arrangement of Scrabble words are inspired by the novel itself, but in quilting the spaces in between, I added some contemporary quotations that illustrate just how very far women still have to go. In mostly chronological order, starting with the outrageous example that probably inspired me to read the book in the first place:
“The facts show that people who are raped -- who are truly raped -- the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work and they don't get pregnant," North Carolina State Rep. Marvin Warren “Henry” Aldridge (R-Greenville), 1995
Women's Words, detail (North Carolina State Rep. Marvin Warren “Henry” Aldridge [R-Greenville], 1995)
“if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” – US Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri), 2012
Women's Words, detail (US Rep. Todd Akin [R-Missouri], 2012)
“ ‘If you’re going to go down that road, you may have consensual sex that night and then the next morning it may be rape.’ So the way he said it was, ‘Just remember, Roger, some girls, they rape so easy. It may be rape the next morning.’ ” – Wisconsin State Rep. Roger Rivard (R-Rice Lake), 2012
Women's Words, detail (Wisconsin State Rep. Roger Rivard [R-Rice Lake], 2012)
“If it’s an honest rape, that individual should go immediately to the emergency room. I would give them a shot of estrogen….” – US Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), 2012
“Bimbos”… “dogs” … “fat pigs” … “slobs” … “bleeding from her wherever” – Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump (1946 - ?)
Women's Words, detail (US Rep. Ron Paul [R-Texas], 2012)
Women's Words, detail (Donald J. Trump)

Women's Words, detail (Donald J. Trump)
So, again: Speculative?