JANUARY 2017 BITCH MEDIA
CHAOS ISSUE Winter 17 | issue no. 73
UN/MASKED: MEMOIRS OF A GUERRILLA GIRL ON TOUR by Donna Kaz
As a freshman in college, I saw a performance of the Guerrilla Girls on campus. I remember the charge in the air among women’s studies undergrads sitting toe-to-toe in the amphitheater as we listened to the impassioned language of these women—in an effort to preserve anonymity, they all wore furry gorilla masks and used pseudonyms drawn from female artists such as Eva Hesse, Frida Kahlo, and Hannah Höch — speaking on discrimination in the art world and their efforts to combat the lack of representation through direct action.
UN/MASKED: Memoirs of a Guerrilla Girl On Tour brought me back to the excitement and sense of possibility created that night, all through writer Donna Kaz’s vivid, unsparing recollections of her years (1995–2012) with the feminist activist and artist collective. Kaz applies in 1995 and learns the Guerrilla Girls are seeking “new and energetic members… who can bounce the Girls into a future where when people talk about art they also talk about gender parity for playwrights.” As a playwright in New York City, Kaz had learned about the group when a friend shared a copy of the book Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls. After several enthusiastic re-readings, Kaz imagines a new direction for the group that has taken the art world by storm with their statistics on the absurdly low representation of women and people of color in the Museum of Modern Art: “I envision an attack on sexism in the theatre world….What a coup it would be to name the theatres that do not produce women playwrights or plays by writers of color. How cool to prove bus companies are more inclusive in their hiring practices than theatres are.”But not all elements of Kaz’s personal life intersected with her passionate feminist politics. During the early 1980s, she’d endured an abusive relationship with Bill, a charismatic actor who promised trips to Paris and instead delivered verbal blows. Her reflections on the dynamics of their emotionally volatile relationship are painful, but Kaz’s writing always brings her experiences back to the realm of feminist theory with probing subtext on issues of sexual consent and the warning signs of abuse. If you’ve ever been curious about group organizing, Kaz provides plenty of details on the structure of meetings and how activists can discuss differences of identity and perspective while still striving to meet collective goals. Un/Masked exposes in thoughtful nuance what it’s like to be an artist, a feminist, and a person recovering from abuse—and where artists today can expand on the work of the activists who came before. —Allison McCarthy