This is proving to be an interesting, and somewhat difficult, Summer for me. I somehow managed to pass the most difficult algebra course I've ever taken (and, hopefully, the LAST ONE I'll ever have to take) in my entire life... with a B. Don't mistake my amazement for ingratitude, because I'm glad I passed the course & met the University curriculum requirement, but holy shit I suck at math so I'm honestly wondering how the fuck that happened.
But in non-academia related news, I'm having minor surgery at the end of this month: I'm finally getting my tubes tied, and since I'm getting it done through the V.A Hospital, I shouldn't have to pay a dime for it. They say it's a 15 minute out-patient procedure & that I'll be back on my feet within a matter of days. The only downside is that earlier in the month they had to remove my I.U.D, which was followed by a regiment of heavy antibiotics that seemed to do little more than make me sick and fuck me up. I'm fine now, but the odds are good they're going to put me back on them not long after the procedure.
But enough about my lady-bits, I wanted to take some time to show you fine people a bit of what I've been up to in what little free time I've had. Last year, I started work on a series of paintings using donated & discarded military uniforms. Mostly due to school, I've had to put off working on the project until a later date. I'm nowhere near done with this project, but lately I think I've made some pretty significant progress: And today, I'd like to share what I've made with the good people of the Internet.
Keep in mind, this series was made with an underlying theme of sexism, misogyny, and religious fundamentalism that I've experienced in the American military.
Also, at present, none of these have been framed and they are not up for sale (yet.) I want to make enough that I can display them in a gallery setting before I decide how much I want to charge for them. I'm running out of some crucial supplies faster than the idea-machine that is my mind can keep up with, so if you happen to know where I can get more intact ACUs for cheap, please do let me know. More photos of my work can be seen on my Instagram.
I haven't quite decided yet what title I want to give this one, but the message should be clear: They show you EXACTLY what they want you to see while trying to hide the things they DON'T.
What we see here are three figures: Two dead women, one of whom is being "displayed" in from of an old television set by a male wearing the uniform, who is trying to hide the body of the other woman from view of the audience (the TV.) During my time in the military, especially while deployed, I heard no end of condemnation of Iraqis treating their own women like shit, even stoning them to death for having beed raped. All the while barely acknowledging the creeping plague of violence and discrimination against women wearing our own uniform, ESPECIALLY rape.
The male figure is pointing out the "tragedy" that is the dead woman in the niqab for all the public to see, while deliberately hiding both the dead female soldier (the nude figure in the Belleville boots & pro-mask, this will be a recurring theme in this series) AND the bloody knife behind his own back. It's the worst kind of bold-faced hypocrisy that I can think of: Condemning an entire group of people for comitting the exact same kind of violence and discrimination that you are, the only substantial difference is the clothing.
I'm thinking of calling this one "S.H.A.R.P Training." I realize there's a bit of a shine coming from the right-hand side of the image, that was unavoidable.
S.H.A.R.P is an acronym for Sexual Harassment and Assault Reporting and Prevention: Indeed, the American military loves it's acronyms, they make what should be crucually important ideas and turn them into easily digestible little chunks to be processed quickly & efficiently. In my experience, though, the Army treats S.H.A.R.P training like a "politically correct" inconvenience. Many of my squamates, from my previous unit as well as others, report a similar reaction to the training overall; it's a fucking joke to these people.
Of the several figures in this painting, we see a male N.C.O (Non-Comissioned Officer, any enlisted soldier with a rank of Sergeant or higher) taking the dominant position in our feild of view, he's holding two female figures forcibly by their hair in front of a group of other soldiers. S.H.A.R.P training is typically the responsibility of an N.C.O, though in my experience I've seen lower-level comissioned officers administer it as well, and it's supposed to be conducted either on some sort of regular rotation OR after an incident is reported.
In my experience and observation, as well as those of my squadmates, the general idea is your typical "No means no, Restricted vs Unrestricted Reports, 'Don't be THAT guy' blah blah blah" kind of speeches, sometimes accompanied by a Power-Point slideshow & sign-in roster. Only what will also happen, rather often actually, is a follow up with "Don't be that GIRL" tropes, full of nods at 'her reputation,' 'what you were wearing,' or 'drawing attention to yourself' etc... otherwise known as victim-blaming or slut-shaming: People think they're being fair, but this ACTUALLY creates an impression that if something DOES happen to someone, that the recipient is somehow to blame for their attackers' actions. In the context of assault & harassment in the military, I've always found the "what were you wearing" question especially ridiculous. I was assaulted & harassed by a male squadmate when I was depolyed to Iraq in 2011, I was wearing the uniform I was fucking issued when he forced his way into my room!
I don't know what to call this one yet, either. The painting itself isn't very large, either: It's actual dimensions are 8 by 10 inches.
I wish I were joking or exaggerating about this, but ever since Basic Training in 2009 up until my last days in the Army (and occasionally, I still get this drivel forwarded to me via Facebook) I must have heard every single imaginable half-baked 'argument' about why people think women shouldn't be in the military, and I've repeatedly refuted EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. I get it, you don't want me here: Well I'm already here so either find a way to deal with it or kindly fuck right off.
The Army knows they need us, even if they don't actually WANT us. Type the term "Army FET Team" into Google and see for yourself where we are headed. Wether or not you like the idea, you CHOSE to join the military and the institution permits you to stay as long as you abide certain rules & standards. The military did not "choose" YOU, never forget that.
Moving on (and this next one's going to be a bit, how shall I put this... Georgia O'Keeffe)
Yes, that is EXACTLY what it looks like: A bold & brazen digi-cammo vulva, and I'm thinking of calling this one "Hooah" ;-)
Hey, you saw the Not Safe For Work tag in the title, otherwise you wouldn't have opened the link! We're all adults here, we should be able to discuss things like vagina paintings calmly and rationally, right? It would seem as if other 'grown adults' within the military don't seem to think so, for some strange reason. I promise you that I didn't paint this image for pure shock value, I have a reason (and a story) behind this.
Of the many subjects we occasionally have to sit through briefings about, there are officially sanctioned health & safety presentations regarding sexually transmitted diseases: The Army has to do this because of parents who refuse to do their damn jobs and educate their own kids properly on the subject, then when they reach enlistment age they often catch S.T.D's like they were goddamn Pokemon. I'll never forget the very LAST briefing about sex & diseases that I ever had to sit through, it actually made me incredibly angry...
The woman they tasked to give this particular briefing couldn't have been that much older than ME, and I was 32 at the time: Supposedly, she worked with the Raymond W Bliss Hospital on post (Fort Huachuca, Arizona) but I must have been there thousands of times & I'd never seen her before. She has poofy house-wifey hair, a mauve sweater and wore "mom-jeans" that looked way too starched. She seemed relatively polite and sincere, especially when considering having to stand in a room full of strangers talking about infected genitalia, but she had this incredibly aggrivating habit that made me want to slap the shit out of her: She could name every single individual piece of MALE anatomy by their proper medical terms, but whenever she was presented with anything involving FEMALE anatomy, she'd give this stupid little shrug-and-giggle and only call it "Hoo-haa."
Both sets of Labia were the "Hoo-haa"
The clitoris was also a "Hoo-haa"
Pubis mons, vulva, urethra, etc = "Hoo-haa"
EVERYTHING biologically female (regarding this particular presentation, as the military STILL won't allow transgender soldiers regardless of wether or not they transition) was reduced to the level of jr high school snickering followed by the obligatory "Hoo-haa" as if this bitch wasn't grown enough to know what her own organs are, as if she was ashamed of being a fucking woman and had to let everyone else know it, too! And the REALLY irritating part of this, is that every time she did it, others in the audience would laugh.
Seriously, bitch? What are you, goddamn 9 years old!? Did you only just recently pick up a copy of Grey's Anatomy and skim through it while glancing over your shoulder like a fucking CHILD?!?!?! Fuck you, you willfully ignorant Stepford escapee!
*deep breath, bong rip*
Yep, apparently not only is being a woman something to be embarassed about overall, but in the Army it is something to avoid openly asserting at any cost. Lest one becomes reduced to the subject of juvenile sneers or giggles it would behoove you to completely forget who you are.
And lastly, I'd like to bring you back to the beginning of this series...
THIS painting is actually twice as tall as it is wide, part of the reason why it didn't photograph terribly well. It's about a year old and I STILL have no idea what to title it.
What you (unfortunately) can't see in this photograph is her stepping nervously in poorly fitted Belleville boots, the idea was to create a feeling of fear and nervousness like she's being unwittingly exposed to a situation she might not have any control over. As I said earlier, there's a recurring theme of female figures in Bellevilles & pro-masks to signify that this figure is supposed to be a soldier, but not quite. I did this on purpose, here's why: In order for a figure to have an identity, they need to have a face. Having a face shows that you are a person, and a person has feelings and rights. Have you ever worn a pro-mask? It's awful, they smell weird and aren't easy to breathe through; I chose the pro-mask on these figures to demonstrate the "dehumanizing" element of sexism, especially sexual violence, against women in the military.
Once you step forward and make a report, or someone so much as notices you in the wrong context, the ensuing harassment and retaliation serves to strip you of your status as a human being and turn you into a 'thing' to be acted upon. You become an inconvenience, a walking meat-sack occupying otherwise an otherwise useful uniform. You identity ceases to be YOU and becomes what is dictated TO YOU or even UPON YOU, at least as far as THEY are concerned.
I hope you've enjoyed what I've shown you so far, there will be more work to come in the future.