This is how to be a woman of the world
Saturday, November 24, 2018, 6pm
24 November 2018 to 19 January 2019
President Duterte has spewed some vitriolic words against his enemies—par for the course for him—but one instance in August 2016 was particularly vile and laughable. The object of his scorn was Sen. Leila de Lima, whom he slut-shamed, suggesting that she should hang herself. The senator would give herself up to the police—unlike a host of other charged or convicted politicians—and has been in detention since 2017 on trumped up drug charges. From behind bars, she was awarded a Prize for Freedom. This is how to be a woman of the world.
Judy M. Taguiwalo was arrested twice for protesting the Marcos dictatorship. The first time, she was stripped naked and forced to sit on a block of ice while under custody. The second time, in 1984, she was four months pregnant, and she gave birth to a daughter in Camp Crame. During a confirmation hearing in May 2017, Sen. Tito Sotto alluded to Taguiwalo’s single motherhood as “na-ano lang” (getting knocked up) to which she replied, “I teach women’s studies. We respect all kinds of families and that includes solo parents.” This is how to be a woman of the world.
Emma Sulkowicz lugged a 50 lb. mattress around the Columbia University campus for more than a year, both as an act of protest and as a performance project for their art thesis. They had been raped in their dorm room by another student, whom the university found to be “not responsible.” Emma chose to carry that burden in public until the assailant left the school. When graduation day came, Emma brought the mattress, and their friends helped lift it up for the very last time. This is how to be a gender non-conforming person of the world.
Nikki Luna casts these women’s clothes in resin, creating a wardrobe that tells the story of the violence done against them under regimes that traffic in abuse and misogyny. These vestments are a memorial to the way they have responded and resisted, a statement stripped of its fashion to lay bare the strength in vulnerability.
Not all victims prevail, however. Charlie Jean was just fourteen when she was seduced by a man twice her age. The seventh grader had moved in with her boyfriend when the cops stormed his home one night, shooting him, his brother and two of their friends. Charlie Jean also died, from bullets lodged in her arms, stomach, and buttocks. In a variation of “nanlaban,” the cops claimed she was holding grenades. She was 15, and four months pregnant.
Other casualties are even younger. Unspeakable acts have been done to very young children, and in empathy Luna casts her own daughter’s dress. Every mother feels the pain of another. This is how to be a woman of the world.
The other pieces in this exhibit point to a system that is continuing to fail women. Imelda Marcos’ crystal-encrusted strappy pump, which she wore to her husband’s inauguration in 1965, reminds us how to this day, justice for Martial Law victims has been eluded, and criminals are still dancing free.
The series of coat hangers, cast in ceramic, draw from the symbolism of wire hangers used by the women’s movement in fighting for reproductive rights, but it also brings to mind Man Ray’s installation piece “Obstruction,” a chandelier of hangers whose title also describe the progress reproductive rights are making here and in other parts of the world.
Another one of the President’s many unstatesmanlike provocations are minted in marble as a parfum that speaks of the way women’s bodies are objectified and reduced to signifiers like odors. A full-length mirror reminds you how rape culture is reflected and perpetuated when someone says beautiful women will be raped. This is not the first time that Luna has appropriated the President’s anti-women insults and pulled from them the power of protest, and it won’t be the last—as long as he is still in power, she will carry this load.
Words by Audrey Carpio
Curated by Angelyn P. Marquez