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ausgabe #78. prosa. shira richter

feminist symbol readjusted

This is how Rosy the Riviter feels AFTER several years of MOTHERwork

Why Artist Barbara Philipp's (Austria/The Netherlands) self portrait of momentary defeat is one of my favourite and victorious works of art – explains feminist Artist and visual speaker Shira Richter (Israel).


Sometimes an art work of another artist manages to communicate exactly what you feel at the exact time you need it. Matching an image to a feeling is a magical healing procedure for me. The right picture is like the right diagnoses of a dis-ease or condition. A picture can be a bridge be-tween cultures, but even more important, between your soul and yourself, synchronizing and harmonizing heart and mind. This is what happened to me when I saw Barbara's Boxer self por-trait. I live in Israel, Barbara lives in Holland, we have different styles of art – but the language of art and the work of motherhood are our shared culture country and language. Sometimes I create an image which captures the essence of what she feels, sometimes she creates an image which
communicates my state of emotions. This image evokes what I felt this year- as a mother of twin teenage boys, feminist minority and artist.

Artist –Mother Exhaustion- is ongoing and also something you are not supposed to talk about, un-less it's in a therapy room. "Give us an uplifting (inspirational) im-age/word/action" people say. We are not supposed to admit or flaunt weakness, defeat, failure, or despair, unless we have already defeated it and are now standing, like a hunter next to his trophy- triumphant with one foot on top of the monster's carcass. "Don't agonize, organize…" say the slogans. Complaining, which I view as a necessary practice of letting off steam- (which every pressure cooker does) - is frowned upon. The real prices we women artist mothers are paying are not sexy. We are supposed to fold up our shirt sleeves, flex our bicep, show our strong muscle, be positive and overcome like the "We can do it" feminist poster. Weaknesses are feminine, and feminine is "ew". Feminine is "weak". Feminine is – female.


Before I continue I just want to say, that different times need different symbols. In the 20th centu-ry Middle class women were perceived unable to do "masculine" jobs so proving "we can do it" was naturally the call of the times. But now we know that even though more and more women have entered the work force, more are also quite -exhausted. Why? Not only because they are do-ing multiple jobs, but also because the work force was fashioned for men by men, and - it aint so great. (1)
The truth is – many feminist mothers are exhausted. Exhausted of the effort and struggles of per-forming unpaid and unappreciated mothering care in a competitive, hierarchical, driven, patriar-chal, capitalistic, soul murdering world. Exhausted of the every day uphill struggle to navigate a better world for our children. Exhausted of the "tiptoeing-on-eggs olympics" needed for building bridges between ignorant brain washed teachers in the formal educational system and their kids. Exhausted of sons brothers and fathers who don't understand the depths of the struggles of a women and rarely consider putting the toilet seat down for our delicate asses. Women mother artists are exhausted of being pushed aside first by the formal art world, and then by their capital-istic brainwashed sisters.

The look expressed in Self portrait of a feminist Boxer expressed the fatigue in my soul. It shows a woman boxer, Barbara Phillip, on the floor ("floored" as they say), and it's as if she sees me in the audience. Like two women in a room of men understanding a private woman issue, she allows herself for one moment to abandon the persona and be real. She still has her boxing gloves on, so it's obvious she is going to get up. But her look says "this fight is exhausting". The interesting thing is that even though the image denotes the feeling of being defeated- which few of us want to ad-mit in this success driven "we can do it" culture, I was filled by a feeling of joy- the one you get when someone finally understands what you are going through. I, a 50 year old feminist Mother Artist, am tired of seeing the fist of feminism as the symbol of feminism. At my age, this feminist boxer, who has sobered to the truth, is more realistic to how I feel.

The positive aspect of a precise artistic diagnose is that once you know where you are on the map, you are not lost anymore. You know how to proceed. Thank you Barbara for putting my feelings into one clear image. Now I know where I am, and what to do next. Another title for the work could be:

"I am leaving I am leaving but the fighter still remains"


Shira Richter in front of her work Mount Novalak

match - objekte

Barbara Philipps Match - objects

Shira Richter

Both feminist artists, Barbara Philipp (Austria/ Netherlands ) and Shira Richter (Israel), first met at The Mothernists conference 2015.

For further information:

For further information about The Mothernists:
The Mothernists is the brain child of Deirdre M Donoghue (m/other Voices) and Lise Haller Baggesen (Mothernism) and it combines their two long running projects concerning artistic and ac-ademic research into maternal (aest)ethics in an international symposium on care work and inter-generational feminist knowledge-sharing.
The next Mothernism Conference will be held in Copenhagen, October 2017.

(1) The paradox of declining female happiness- by Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers 2009

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