The Bitches Are Back

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” Because sometimes f*ck you is synonymous with I am worthy.”

-Tany Markul, Thug Unicorn

I have been processing the rising of an anger and defiance within me that I haven’t felt in full force since I was a rebellious teenager. It has never healed because the patterns remain, but the time has come to channel that anger into a productive change of epic proportions. It’s a deep seeded feeling of absolute rejection of the popular response, “that’s just the way it is!’ Nothing sends my blood pressure to the moon like that apathetic and mindlessly compliant response to injustices and asinine outdated ideas about the world.  This rage that has been building inside of me begins with little girls being taught that they must be “sugar and spice and everything nice” as the nursery rhyme teaches us, and ends somewhere with a guttural animalistic scream unleashing from the depths of female oppression. It is a pendulum and it is swinging hard and fast like a wrecking ball into the patterns of old that have been keeping all the good women down.

Be sweet, be pretty, be gentle and polite. Don’t be loud, don’t attract attention. Don’t take up too much space, and remember to sit with your legs together. Don’t guffaw or snort when you laugh. Don’t do a cartwheel in a dress. Don’t swear, and don’t admit to any bodily functions, lest you reveal that you are indeed an animal. Don’t admit how old you are, and don’t revel in your sexuality if you want to be respected. BE A LADY! Sound familiar?

If you are assertive, they’ll call you aggressive. If your personality and style is big and colourful, they’ll say you are just trying to get attention. If you are ambitious and no nonsense, pursue things with grit and focus, and don’t let anyone stand in your way, they’ll say you’re cold, and bossy and not a team player. If you push back against the things you disagree with, speak out, stand up for yourself and say no to being treated in ways you find unacceptable, they will say you are difficult, selfish and unrealistic. You will be accused of being silly, naive and idealistic about the world because this is just the way it is! If that doesn’t work to shut you up and shut you down, then they’ll tell the world you are an unreasonable bitch. Well, so be it, if they are intent on labeling our defiance. The bitches are back, they’re pissed, and they’re louder than ever! They are taking up all the space they did in the 1980’s except they are armed with more education, more compassion, more resilience and a unity the likes of which the world has not ever seen before. The word of the current times is action! We are tired of asking nicely, being reasonable, defending ourselves and expressing our disagreement politely. We’ve been talked over and belittled one too many times, and it doesn’t matter how small the beast, if they are backed into a corner and feel threatened enough, at some point, peaceful negotiations are no longer called for and survival is all that matters. Even the sweetest creature will bite to save itself.

“Wild Woman teaches women when not to act “nice” about protecting their soulful lives. The wildish nature knows that being “sweet” in these instances only makes the predator smile. When the soulful life is being threatened, it is not only acceptable to draw the line and mean it, it is required. When a woman does this, her life cannot be interferred with for long, for she knows immediately what is wrong amd can push the predator back where it belongs. She is no longer naive. She is no longer a mark or a target. “

-Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves

We are up against a deeply engrained patriarchal paradigm that has seeped into the cracks and crevices of the collective psyche. I have experienced just as many women as men trying to curb the wild woman within all women. Why are they all trying so hard to make us behave within such a very narrow ideal? Well, it’s simple really, and an age old tactic. They are trying to control us, and people are deeply afraid of change. Just like any set of rules, they are there to maintain order and control, under the impetus of it being for our own collective good. You want to be liked don’t you? Well, in truth, if I have to stop wearing sequins or leopard print on a Tuesday because it’s too much for you; hide my nipples because you can’t stop sexualizing them; drink my beer in a glass because it’s more lady-like; or put up with sexist jokes and being cat-called in the streets, then no, I don’t give a hot damn about being liked! I like myself, and this funny thing happens when you begin to love yourself and stop requiring external validation. You stop caring what others might think of you for speaking your truth that challenges their accepted paradigm. You realize that their acceptance of you can’t even come close to comparing to the power and significance of your own self acceptance.

We women have been taught that we are too much from the very beginning and that we need to tone it the fuck down so we can be likeable (read; manageable). From the girlie little dresses my Grandmother told me that I refused to wear despite her efforts, to the attitude problem I had as a teen who angrily asked endless questions about why this messed up world is the way it is because I wasn’t buying it. To the modern day Wife and Mother I am today who deeply relates to women in movies set in the 1950’s and 60’s, because sometimes it feels as though nothing really has changed. Well, we can only be told to be quiet, demure, take a back seat, be grateful and settle for less than our potential for so long before the inadequacy of that life creates a deep collective female sorrow that burns and boils and grows into a visceral rage that will eventually blast the patriarchy to smitherines! And you can be damn sure, there will be casualties that are not paying attention and refuse to acknowledge that it’s already in motion. It’s not a matter of if, but when. 

“I’ve been baking pies at home, pies of rage!”

– Debbie Eagan (Liberty Belle), GLOW Season 2, Episode 10

We women, make up 50% of the population on the planet. Wake up beautiful warriors, pay attention to what’s happening! #WomensMarch #TimesUp #WomenSupportingWomen #GirlGang #GirlBoss #BodyPositivity #TheFutureIsFemale. These are global collective movements that are gaining ground every day, not just trendy hashtags. I’m an avid reader and a quick trip to a book store or search on-line will tell the story of what’s growing in the bellies of women, and I don’t mean little bundles of joy.

The She Book, by Tanya Markul

This is For the Women Who Don’t Give a Fuck, by Janne Robinson

Strong is The New Pretty, Kate T. Parker

Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

In The Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown

Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

The list goes on and on and on! These messages aren’t pretty, they aren’t designed to make you feel comfortable and content with the way it is. These messages are often angry, poingnant, raging, crying, pleading, cajolingly beautiful masterpieces that are imploring you, to turn some of that deep empathic compassion you reserve for the oppressed, the animals, the children and mother earth onto yourself! Women of the world, we must save ourselves and each other. The time is most definitely up, and the time of gentle, quiet nudges towards equality is over. You have a voice, you have power and you have a responsibility to yourself. There’s no need to riot, to retaliate, to be violent or hateful. In fact, these responses are not in line at all with what it is that makes us women. Our strength is in our willingness to love deeply, be compassionate, empathetic, embrace our emotions and live by our intuition. Embracing our womanliness, does not mean rolling over and exposing our bellies in submission, or putting up with bullshit. On the contrary. We must turn toward one another and see that our freedom from these old patterns depend on our unity. That burning in your belly is not yours alone. I feel your fear and your dissappointment and your rage you have been told you are not allowed to express if you want to be loved. I feel you because I am you. And as I get to know you more, I know myself more, and I remember what a beast lies below the surface and what she is capable of. I am called to defend and protect myself and all the women of the world like I would my own sons, because that compassion and fierceness can not just be reserved for them, for who will defend them if I don’t defend myself and the women of the world who will raise them and love them into their manhood? What are they being taught about their Mother, about the women they may partner with some day, about you?

You are not too much, you don’t take up too much space. You don’t have an attitude problem or a difficult personality. You are not a bitch for rolling your eyes at outdated patriarchal bullshit. No one has been tip-toeing around your feelings, when they under pay you, grope you and devalue your contributions to the world, so why are we expected to tiptoe around their feelings when we’ve clearly had enough. We are hurt and angry, and tired of the old patterns and we are allowed to feel that way. In fact, it is to be expected, and typically it’s the the biggest transformational changes that come out of those perceived negative emotions. Sometimes being nice and gentle and sweet doesn’t cut it. Sometimes the dysfunctional societal patterns are too deeply engrained in the human subconcious that you have to stamp and swear and scream that guteral scream, even if it’s only out into the abyss, like I am doing right now. People will hear you, like the unidentifiable wail from a creature in the woods and they will ask “what the heck was that?” and a shiver will climb up their spine and it will wake up their senses. And maybe it will make them afraid, or maybe there will be others who feel that scream to the core of their being and recognize it in themselves. They will not run away, but instead, seek you out in the darkness of the woods and say “I feel you sister”, when they find you. And before you know it, you are walking out of those cold, dark woods, hand in hand with an entourage of women who’ve got each other’s backs. A sisterhood in formation who are not afraid to back down because they are stronger together and determined to make change for the greater good of humanity. Women and Men alike.  These are the new idols, the warriors, the rock stars. These are the ones the next generation of women will look up to and they will know our story of struggle and fear and oppression and how we overcame. We won’t leave the ugly parts out because this is no fairytail of damsels in distress and knights in shining armour, this is the story of women saving themselves and reclaiming their power and potential. This is real life, and sometimes real life is messy and unpredictable. Sometimes before a new order of things can occur, a much bigger mess must be created, like when we undertake to organize a closet. Just like a sling-shot, there is a tension and a tightening and a strain that has to occur before the release that catapaults us into a new paradigm. There is no way to go around the discomfort of this shift, we must go through it, and I for one am ready and willing.

“Good is following the rules, fitting in, ticking things off the list, being liked, keeping it light, and great is making mistakes, going too far, getting messy, standing in your truths, fighting for what you believe in, and it’s finding out what you’re doing here and actioning it with all of your heart.”

-Tanya Markul, Thug Unicorn

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Michael Sanders, Electric Monk Media

MODELS: Leanne Sanders, Tara Cole-McCaffrey

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

THRIFTED FASHION: Faux fur coats, animal print jackets, sequin skirt, shoes, gold belts, black leggings.

NEW FASHION: Gold bodysuit and animal print bathing suit top from American Apparel. Sunglasses from Urban Waves

Who Decides the Culture of Our Time? Us or Future Generations?

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What is culture? Well, it’s complicated. We seem to have cultures within cultures, within cultures, and it only seems to be getting more complex and difficult to define. To my understanding, it’s the art, music, food, aesthetic, values and beliefs of a particular group of people, at a particular time in history. Culture is not static, it is ever changing along with the people who are immersed in it. It is people that decide culture. They decide what changes and what doesn’t. What parts to keep and what parts to discard, and what new ideas to include. Culture tends to shift from one generation to the next as each group of youth challenges the ideas and values of their Parent’s generation. Let’s also not ignore how our history has shown us our potential for self proclaimed superiority over another culture. An people of one culture may all but eradicate the culture of another in order to grow their own, in the name of righteousness, or progress. People have done horrific things in the name of expanding their beliefs and way of life. Culture continues to adapt over time, whether we cling to the past or not. To be cultured is to be enlightened, educated and knowledgable about the time in which we live. When we describe someone as cultured we often mean they are refined, well educated and have good taste, whatever that is, from one moment to the next?

It is interesting to me that something that is clearly so deeply valued by people, is made up of components such as art, books and music that never seem to get the recognition, validation or support they require to sustain themselves. People fight to preserve and maintain art, books and music with fierce protectiveness. We put it in museums and libraries, display it in our homes and public buildings. We spend immense amounts of money keeping it safe. We talk about it, write about it and make documentary films about it. Yet, most of the people I know who are making art, music and writing books are are struggling for recognition and to make a living wage. Centuries and centuries of people creating the art, music and books that are the essence of the culture of the time in which they were created with little to no real appreciation or support while they were actually alive and creating. Why is this? And why does it still continue to happen today?

Well, the simple answer to my mind, is that people can’t seem to see past the end of their own noses, and hind-sight is 20/20. The more complicated answer is that art captures the essence of culture in a moment in time and nobody is fully aware of what precisely the culture is while they are living it. They are quite literally caught up in the moment and continual upheaval and evolution of culture and not aware of what will be significant to their cultural time until they look back and see it clearly portrayed through the great artistic minds of the time. Nobody knew Woodstock, just a three day music festival in a farmer’s field would become the climax of what would be later known as a defining moment in our history and significant cultural marker of the 1960’s. Many of the performers that played Woodstock, like Joe Cocker (Have a Little Help From My Friends) and Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) (It was only their second time ever playing live), were barely known at the time and they were catapulted to stardom and cultural significance. What about all the creative minds who defined our cultural history? I would love to go back in time and ask Socrates, Mozart and Frida Kahlo about their life experience and whether or not they felt valued and supported by their community in their artistic endeavours? Books, documentaries and essays about their lives seem to suggest that no, they did not in fact get that support when they needed it. They struggled significantly and did not get the recognition they truly deserved until well after they were dead. They were not appreciated fully until they were gone. But yet, they still created because they were compelled to do so. Their work allowed them to process and understand the world around them and helped them make sense of living, even if they felt isolated and found it difficult to relate to the masses.

The truth is, that all art, music and writing is capturing the essence of culture as it is happening. It would be impossible not to. We are all living it and all trying to make sense of what is going on around us and within us, and the artistic community is often slightly removed from mainstream culture and being on the fringe tends to give one a better vantage point to see what is actually going on around them. We are a product of our time and the culture that exists at that time, and no matter when in history we are, culture is constantly in flux, so it can be very confusing and difficult to make sense of. Joan Didion, an American journalist and writer, famous for her writing in the 1960’s-70’s about cultural chaos and social fragmentation said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the music, art and writing of the 1960’s resonates so deeply with me as an artist and writer myself given all the cultural parallels to our current time. The cultural chaos that Joan Didion wrote about reflected a time of deep generational divide in values, major political upheaval, the threat of war, and ramped up racial discrimination and civil rights activism. Today we are facing all of the same issues in different packaging. In the 60’s women were burning their bras, today we attend the Women’s March and hashtag #timesup on social media in support of equal pay for women. The Black Panther Party was created in 1966 to protect African American citizens from police brutality, today we have the Black Lives Matter activist movement. In the 60’s, an entire generation challenged the status quo, railing against the rigid family structure and cultural values of the 1950s’, conservative, religious, hard-working middle class. They rejected old cultural structures, preferring freedom, less lifestyle restrictions, less materialism, and embraced eastern philosophy, spirituality and the recreational use of marijuana. Today, we have the millennial generation rejecting old political and social structures and values, fighting for a better quality of life with less emphasis on material gain, the ability to love who they want and define themselves as they wish. Again, eastern philosophy and spiritual practices are being embraced in an even bigger way and marijuana is back in popular culture with the use of CBD Oil (Cannabis Based Drug) on the rise in the medical industry and the legalization of Cannabis for medical use in the U.S. in 29 States already and Canada slated to legalize this year. The parallel’s between the 1960’s and today are uncanny. There are song lyrics and magazine articles written from that time in history that could easily have been written today.

Culture is continually changing and reflecting the social issues and values of the time, but I would argue that people have changed very little. While our world looks very different now in terms of infrastructure and population growth, and technology changing the world dramatically, the human condition is ticking along slowly like it somehow has not learned from itself at all. We are still walking around blind and reactionary to the shifting cultural values as they happen before our eyes and not valuing and supporting the artistic community that is capturing it as it happens until we look back years later and it’s often too late to support them. Joan Didion also wrote “In theory momentos serve to bring back the moment. In fact they serve only to make clear how inadequately I appreciated the moment when it was here.” If you have ever read any of my previous writing, you’ll know that I am a big believer in self examination, personal evolution and intentional living. A big part of this is evaluating how much we have learned from our past and what we choose to do differently as a result. What if we didn’t wait for hind-sight to show us what is culturally relevant and what artists, musicians and writers we should have supported while they were giving all of themselves to their generation? What if we decided for ourselves what is relevant right now? What if we took the reins and intentionally voted with our dollars and our attention what we want to go down in history? What if we didn’t wait for our children and grandchildren to decide what was culturally relevant from our generation, but instead, we stood back, saw the bigger picture and realized the pattern that has shown us again and again that it’s the people challenging the status quo who define the culture of the time? Those fringe artists are right on the pulse of the cultural shift and the cusp of change is right there captured within their art for all to see. If they bother to look. What if we got on board early and supported that change instead of sitting back and watching where the pieces fall?

So, how do we do that? Well, we can start by acknowledging how important art, music and writing is to society! Show me a home that you would like to live in that has no books, music or art displayed? A home void of those things is a sad place indeed. You have an opinion and taste of your own. Don’t wait for the masses to decide for you what is good and culturally significant. Go watch local bands play and buy their music. Find them on Spotify, listen to them in your home and tell your friends about them. Check out a local market or festival and purchase art from artists and makers in your own city. Ask them about their work when you are face to face with them. Buy books directly from Author’s websites or their booth at conventions where they receive all of the money, not just a tiny percentage that they get when they sell at big book stores like Chapters. The people who are quite literally capturing and defining our current culture should be able to make a living wage and support themselves at the very least. They are doing good, important work for their community and I think it’s time we recognized it. Why do we need to continue to wait for future generations to decide for us what was culturally relevant during our generation? We have a role in history and we have the opportunity to spend our money on the things we want more of in our world and support the things we think are important. The painting you bought that’s a sanitized knock off of a knock off from Winners will have no cultural relevance or significance in history, but that little book you buy off of an Author’s table at a market could turn out to be the next great philosophical work of our time. That writer could be the Socrates of the the Twenty-first century, and you would have been part of that greatness for supporting it and making it possible for her to continue her work. That kid you watched play his guitar and sing at a little folk festival in a small town, could be the next Bob Dylan and his songs might go down in history as some of the most influetial words of the 2010’s. You never know, but at any given moment, you could be supporting an incredible mind and creative genius, and have a part to play in changing the world as we know it. At the very least, you will be woven into the cultural fabric of an important moment in human history, and I think that is more than worth your attention.

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Hustle & Bustle/Downriver House, 2016 by Bruno Canadien

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The Vessel by David Altmejd

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The Vessel by David Altmejd

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SHIELD, 2017 by Caroline Monnet

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Joey Senft

STYLING, HAIR & MAKEUP BY: Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams

NEW FASHION: Black wool tam from The Haberdashery. Nude bodysuit by American Apparel. Fringe earrings made with salvaged materials by The Salvage Heart.

THRIFTED FASHION: Gold snake belt and wide leg checkered pants.

VINTAGE FASHION: Pink satin coat from Shop Take Care. Red embroidered shoes from Wildwoodrose and PJ Vintage.

LOCATION: Winnipeg Art Gallery, *INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE

*INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE brings together 29 emerging-to-established Indigenous artists who are pushing boundaries with their work. The collection considers political insurgency and cultural resurgence to radically shift our understanding of Canada, now and in the future. Working in a variety of media, the artists focus on Indigenous intergenerational cultural knowledge within land based practices, gender, traditional aesthetics, language revitalization, interconnected kinships, identity, and material culture. INSURGENCE/RESURGENCE is the WAG’s largest-ever exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art and includes 12 new commissions from artists across Canadian territories and nations. –Winnipeg Art Gallery Website