Taking Up Arms
Mixed Media on Canvas: Acrylic, Aluminum, Cardboard, Unryu, Twine, Jack Chain, Plastic Chopsticks & Various Metal and Plastic Clothing Pieces (acquired from SCRAP)
Size: 36″ x 48″
A quick survey of 2012 runway shows, ready-to-wear campaigns, fashion editorials and blogs will reveal that armor-inspired fashion trends are pervading the fashion world. Spiked heals and helmets, studded shoulder pads and bodysuits, metal eye-patches, industrial accessories, chainmail body jewelry and leather military harnesses are saturating the market. Designers are capitalizing on this fierce, “bad-ass,” urban-warrior motif, as they embellish every possible accessory with spikes and sharp geometric shapes. The season’s muse seems to be a fusion of medieval warrior (reminiscent of Joan of Arc), futuristic space voyager (think Prometheus) and post-apocalyptic combatant (Katniss Everdeen, heroine of The Hunger Games).
A woman, clad in this highly angular, metal-plated gear, delivers an assertive message that discourages contact and fortifies a barrier between herself and her onlooker. Is her objective one of defense by intimidation, or one of offense by preparation, as she is fully equipped to battle? I wager it is both. The overwhelming effect of this style is one of female empowerment.
Why do designers feel compelled to armor women? As I analyze this fashion trend, I ask: what is the threat? What do women need protection from? Inversely, what are women fighting against? In the context of social policy in the United States, I deduce that women are fighting for themselves. They are fighting to claim what is justly theirs: the controversial right to control their own bodies.
In the wake of the 2012 U.S. election, there has been a continuous onslaught, by the extreme conservative camp, to deprive women of their personal autonomy, specifically their reproductive rights. Even abortion, in the case of sexual assault, is under attack, as Republican Senate hopeful, Richard Mourdock, makes abundantly clear: “And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Though I’d like to dismiss this mindset as an anomaly, I fear that it isn’t. The degree of insanity escalates when we recall Todd Akin’s theory on the female reproductive system. According to this U.S. Representative, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” In other words, a woman’s body can miraculously produce hormones that prevent a rapist’s semen from implanting in an egg. In plain English, if a woman is raped, she won’t get pregnant.
In “No Exception,” an article published in Slate, on October 25, 2012, William Saletan writes.
Of the 28 nonincumbent nominees, 12 to 15 share the view of Akin, Mourdock, and the party platform. They believe a rape victim should be forbidden to terminate her pregnancy. This is no longer a fringe position. It isn’t a couple of gaffes by renegade crackpots. It’s the predominant view among Republican nominees for the nation’s highest legislative body.
For as long as men continue to wield religion and use God to justify their positions on women’s rights, battles remain to be fought. November 6, 2012 (Election Day) will be one such battle. Will Steve King, Joe Walsh, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock be elected to represent the U.S. people. I hope not. In Who Cooked the Last Supper?, Rosalind Miles writes: “The history of abortion in itself forms a microcosm of the way that social and legal controls over women’s bodies have…always reflected patriarchal imperatives and paranoias, never women’s needs” (pg. 271).