Half-Century Before The Hashtag Front Lines

#MeToo has an overwhelmingly positive impact on front politics, organize religions, education institutions, Hollywood and sports, as well as the military.

It is possible that sexual assault and rape are not yet well-known culturally. However, efforts to raise awareness about the issue aren’t being made.

In the 1970s, a group American female artists began confronting rape and incest through performances, videos and quilts.

They tackled a taboo topic and were at the forefront in raising awareness about these issues. My new book, Against Our Will Sexual Trauma and American Art Since 1970, explains how their tireless efforts to end sexual violence against women have reverberate in today’s #MeToo movement.

The Renaissance’s Heroic Rapes Front

These feminist artists sought to challenge what art historians call the heroic rape traditions of Western art when they emerge.

This tradition began in the Renaissance. Artists rendered assault, rape, and murder against women with a patina that was beautiful and heroic, which obscured the brutality of the crime. Titian’s Rape of Europa, for example, depicts an ancient Greek myth where Zeus transform himself into a bull in order to kidnap Europa and take her to Crete. He revealed his identity and raped her, giving birth to three children.

Titian depicted Europa as a eroticized woman, who appears to dance on the back of the bull as they fly towards the sky. Zeus is poised to rape Europa, despite the painting’s dynamic composition, playful cupids and rich colors.

Correggio’s Jupiter & Io depicts Jupiter, the Roman king among the gods, as he disguises himself as an cloud and embraces the nymph. He has no idea that Jupiter is actually seducing her. Io appears to be enjoying the lecherous act.

These works have been praised by many male scholars and critics over the years for their striking compositions, appealing colours, and idealized characters. The violent sexual subject matter was not given much attention.

However, art historians mostly female expressed concern about the content of these venerated works sexually violent contents by the 1980s. They pointed out that representations rape, even in historical contexts, seemed to glorify it.

They wondered why no one was talking about the fact this violent subject matter was so common, accepted, and praised. Why didn’t anyone question it? Is it indicative of a bigger problem than the art world?

Two Artists Alter The Story

To raise awareness about sexual trauma, you needed a visual counternarrative. It wasn’t pleasant. It was not beautiful. Shouldn’t have been.

Suzanne Lacy, and Leslie Labowitz were two of the pioneers of this movement.

They performed at least seven complex, large-scale public performances in Los Angeles. This helped to redefine rape both as an act of subjugation and a crime of aggression.

One was a 1977 piece titled Three weeks in May. Lacy also marked up two bright yellow Los Angeles municipal maps located in City Mall Plaza. The first map was marked by Lacy in red four-inch letters. It showed every place where a woman had been raped within a three-week span. Daily updates were made to the map using data from Los Angeles Police Department.

She highlighted on the second map the locations of rape hotlines and emergency rooms as well as crisis and counseling centers.

Passers by, whether they were City Hall employees or tourists, were immediately expose to the shocking number of rapes in the city and the resources available for victims.

Lacy and Labowitz were successful in raising awareness, attracting media attention, and encouraging survivors to seek treatment.

A Drumbeat Against Rape Front

These themes have repeat over the years by Lacy, Labowitz, and other artists.

Sue Coe’s 1983 painting, Woman walks into Bar Is Rape by Four Men on The Pool Table While 20 Watch, condemn the brutality and publicity with which four men gang-raped 21-year old woman, while patrons at a New Bedford, Massachusetts tavern watched and did nothing.

The 2002 installation Rape Garage, by Stefanie Bruser and Josh Edwards, Katie Grone, and Lindsey Lee was part of the At home project at Western Kentucky University. It was led by feminist artist Judy Chicago, and her husband Donald Woodman. Participants created installations that explored themes of manhood and womanhood in various rooms in a Kentucky house. The installation Rape Garage

was located in the garage of the house. It displayed statistics and posted first-person accounts of sexual trauma. It implied that pornography encourages rape, and even mentioned the possibility that a woman could rape a man.

In 2012, Lacy & Labowitz created an updated version Three weeks in May, titled Three weeks in January.

Lacy again created a rape chart, and this time he placed it outside the Los Angeles Police Department’s Deaton Auditorium.

Showed That Rapes Front

The map showed that rapes have declined over the past 35 years. However, it also revealed that sexual violence continues to be a problem front in high schools and college campuses. The map was share by viewers who were encourage to tweet or blog about it.

Others followed their example. Emma Sulkowicz was a Columbia University visual arts major. She became a national figure with a piece titled Mattress Performance Carry That Weight. Some compared it to the 1970s anti rape performances.

Sulkowicz claim she was rape during her sophomore year. She decided to speak out after a university adjudicating panel found her alleged attacker not guilty.

She carry a mattress that was identical to the one she had been rape on her senior year for eight months. This included her graduation and classes. To protest further against college campus rape, other students joined her at Columbia University as well as other colleges.

The Rest Of The Country Comes Together

Although clarion sounds have been around for decades, they were often unheard or ignored. Things started to change in 2016 In 2016, more and more women and men began to speak up to demand justice and end the silence.

Judge Rosemary Aquilina sentenced Larry Nassar, an ex-USA Gymnastics doctor, to up to 175 year imprisonment for his sexual front abuse of young women.

Aquilina declared, It ends now. Speak up like these survivors and become part of our army.

The army now includes more than 150 female athletes whose voices heard on radio and television, and in newspapers. They were among the many victims of Hollywood celebrities, Hollywood bosses, journalists, politicians, and Catholic Church priests who had fallen victim to the #MeToo movement.

Let’s not forget about the feminist artists on the frontlines who courageously spoke out when others were silent about taboo subjects like domestic violence, rape, and incest.