Kathe Kollwitz, one of the founding members of the activist feminist organization Guerrilla Girls, gave a presentation on the blatant discrimination of women in the world of art at the International House Friday.
“We are really angry about the ethics in museums,” she said.
Kollwitz, who uses a pseudonym in honor of deceased German artist Kathe Kollwitz, is one of 50 members of an exclusive feminist organization started in 1985 to retaliate against various art museums in New York City that displayed far more works by male artists.
The Guerilla Girls create satirical propaganda ranging from posters and pamphlets to full-size billboards in Hollywood, and a Barbie doll series satirizing demeaning stereotypes imposed on women. By using a jarring and provocative grass root method, the Guerilla Girls hope to use humor to expose sexism.
According to Kollwitz, having members of the Guerilla Girls wear gorilla masks is a way for the personality of each individual member to be separated from the issues, ensuring that the cause is the main focus of attention and not the participants. “We could be anyone and we are everywhere,” Kollwitz said.
In 1995, a “weenie count” done by the Guerrilla Girls at the Metropolitan Museum showed that 85 percent of the pieces that depicted nudes depicted naked women while only five percent of the displayed artworks were created by women. This statistic prompted one of the Guerrilla Girls’ critiques, a poster asking, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”
Despite the feminist nature of their protests, the group is hesitant to adopt such labels to describe what it does. “Even in 2009, we are afraid to call ourselves feminist,” Kollwitz said.
The Guerrilla Girls’ efforts have reached international prominence and their work has prompted several museums to display more works by women artists.
Kollwitz said that despite progress, they are a “century of discrimination and one day of feminism” away from the equality they hope their movement can achieve for all women and minorities.