Marquette Wire

Guerilla book fuels feminism

Tim Cigelske

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The book is written by an anonymous group of women activists and artists who don gorilla masks and take the names of famous dead women. The group burst on the New York scene in 1985 with billboards suggesting that posing nude for a painting was the only way a female artist could get into an art museum.

In “Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers,” the Guerilla Girls use their trademark satire and humor to make light of stereotypes to show their absurdity. The Tribune recently spoke by phone with Guerilla Girls Frida Kahlo and Kathe Kollwitz — the noms de guerrilla for the book’s author and designer, respectively — about Britney Spears, the bitch myth and MILFs.

Tribune: Your group says it is reinventing the F-word — feminism. So how would you define feminism today?

Kollwitz: There are so many types of feminism out there. We don’t want to get into fighting amongst ourselves over the definition because we’re all moving toward the same goal. We don’t want to get into, “Oh, my feminism’s purer or my feminism’s better.”

Tribune: What was the impetus for “Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers”?

Kahlo: We were all just sitting around one day and making a list of all the female stereotypes and laughing about it. There’s just so many of them and they’re so ingrained in our culture. And then we tried to make a list for men and didn’t get nearly as far.

Tribune: If I give you a list of real women, could you give me the stereotype?

Kahlo and Kollwitz: (Both laugh) That’s a loaded question!

Tribune: I mean the stereotype the culture assigns them, not you stereotyping them. How about Angelina Jolie?

Kollwitz: She’s a femme fatale. That’s Lara Croft. In our book we say she’s not a “girl next door.”

Kahlo: But that’s the stereotype Hollywood has given her. She may not be anything like that in real life, but that’s the image people get of her.

Tribune: Britney Spears?

Kollwitz: (Laughs) You mean before or after her kiss (with Madonna on the MTV Video Music Awards)?

Tribune: Yeah, what’s your take on that?

Kollwitz: We embrace lesbianism in all forms. Actually, Britney’s been through so many stereotypes, I think she’s going for them all. Who knows where she will end up?

Tribune: What about college girls?

Kahlo: We go to campuses all over and it’s so diverse, so it’s really impossible to say. There are a lot of different stereotypes associated with college girls. Which one is your favorite?

Kollwitz: He likes the girls gone wild (laughs).

Tribune: Not true, not true. This one might be the hardest one. What’s the cultural stereotype for the Guerilla Girls?

(Both laugh) Kollwitz: Hairy, bra-burning feminazis.

Kahlo: Yeah, dirty women’s libbers.

Tribune: How do you respond to that?

Kollwitz: Oh, it’s all true.

Tribune: Do you have a favorite myth or stereotype you like to debunk?

Kahlo: I think the “bitch” stereotype is changing for the better. Women are actually using it as a positive and taking it back. They’re realizing that being tough, being successful and taking no crap actually might not be a bad thing.

Tribune: Do you see any old stereotypes making a comeback or any new stereotypes emerging?

Kollwitz: The thing about stereotypes is that they’re as fluid as our culture and are always changing. One of the latest is the “yummy mummy,” or the “MILF.”

Kollwitz and Kahlo will appear at Harry W. Schwartz, 2559 N. Downer Ave., on Wednesday at 7 p.m. for a reading and book signing.

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