"...bloody women!" the collection
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Garment: Women’s Slip/Petticoat Materials: Paper and thread Size: Life-sized
Garment: Women’s Dress Materials: Paper and thread Size: Life-sized
The "...bloody women!" Collection
"I was once accused of behaving just like all “...bloody women!” The statement came from a man who claimed to care about me. As an accusation it both appalled and appealed to me. Appealed, that is, only because of there being something seemingly ironic about it. The slight had been used unthinkingly; nevertheless it cut me as surely as would any literal, derogatory, accusation. It sought to include me in a collective whilst making many assumptions.
That women are designed to bleed regularly is, of course, common knowledge. Certainly, this aspect of being female has at times been linked with negative and/or emotional instability. In many patriarchal societies the prevailing yang attitude has been to adopt an expletive such as “bloody” in order to write women off, for various cultural/social reasons. Justification of such language has been founded, at least partially, in cross-cultural, historical precedents that liken menstruation to a sickness, a black/blank spot (a non-event) in women’s lives. It is seen as something they must simply endure and would be better off without; the ‘curse’. At its most dangerous, of course, this sort of attitude deems menstruation unclean and akin to danger or linked to witchcraft. Such reasoning has been used to persecute and demean women. Women themselves often have only a hazy knowledge of what is really going on inside their bodies in this regard and/or of what is “normal.” Bleeding predictably regularly isn't in fact a given and a myriad of physiological changes take place during the four phases of the cycle.
The three pieces in this collection seek to explore the biological implications of menstruation and male/female attitudes toward it, including the many myths and stories that have been associated with it. Whilst real experience of it is often pixilated with blackened mental and physical moments, the primary basic red-white polarity of the cycle is reflected in the colours of these pieces. The colours red, white and black are the symbolic colours of the stages of alchemical transmutation. They also link to folklore and medical symbolism ie. blood and bandages + death, and to emotional colour symbolism regarding anger and purity. Blood has, historically, been subscribed with as many and various guises as have women themselves. That is, it has been treated both with reverence and disgust, as if it were, at one and the same time, both precious and dirty.
I have incorporated words both onto the surfaces of these pieces and as text accompanying each piece, because facts are interesting to me and I believe important in this context. After all, it's with words that these works began, words that were ugly but from which I hope I have made something beautiful." - Stephanie Smart