On Monday evening, Guerrilla Girl Aphra Behn (a.k.a. artist-activist Donna Kaz), gave a lecture titled “Push. Push Back! 9 Steps to Make a Difference with Activism and Art” in Peplow Pavilion.
The event was co-sponsored by Bradley University Galleries, Department of Art, ICAC and Women’s and Gender Studies program.
“We try to bring a speaker at least once an academic year, sometimes once a semester and we wanted to have a speaker that was an activist this year,” director of women’s and gender studies and associate professor of history Amy Scott said.
The Women’s and Gender Studies program reached out to Kaz about speaking on topics covered in her new book “Push. Push Back! 9 Steps to Make a Difference with Activism and Art (because the world’s gone bananas)”.
The Guerrilla Girls was started in 1985 by a group of seven female visual artists who were upset that galleries and museums in New York city did not have women represented.
“Everyone knows the Guerrilla Girls, at least from my generation,” Scott said. “I had a feeling the students would not, but we wanted to bring someone who’s inspiring and we wanted to bring an activist who’s done work for many years, so we chose her.”
Kaz began her speech by announcing that the event was a party and tossed bananas to audience members. She also explained that each Guerrilla Girl takes on the name of a dead woman artist, as Aphra Behn was a 17th century playwright.
“We wear guerrilla masks to conceal our true identities to focus on the issues instead of on ourselves,” Kaz said. “In other words, so people can’t say you’re doing this just to promote your own career. It was really a great tactic because people wondered who we were, who’s behind that mask.”
Kaz joined the Guerrila Girls in 1997 as a theater artist and worked in a subcommittee with other theater girls.
“We decided to just work on exposing sexism discrimination in the theater world, which we did for a while,” Kaz said. “We stickered the toilet stalls of theater companies that were not producing any plays by women with a sticker that said ‘In this theater, the taking of photographs, the use of a recording device and the production of plays by women is strictly prohibited’. And then put, ‘During this season, the theater will not produce any plays by women.’”
Throughout her speech, Kaz outlined the nine steps mentioned in her book. In order, they are: huddle up, collect evidence, think like an expert, use humor, queer it up, have a sense of urgency, learn to play defense, celebrate the wins and we got this.
“She explains the steps but then she explicitly goes into depth on how each step incorporates or goes with each other,” junior social work major Kimberly Fraga said. “Like she said, there’s always going to be topics that people want to talk about or don’t want to talk about. But I think it’s always good to be open to those topics, even if you don’t have the same opinion as [others].”
“I just learned how to better be an activist,” junior graphic design major Harland Reid said. “I thought the talk was fantastic; I thought she was a very excellent speaker. I could tell she had a ton of depth and levity to her story.”
Kaz’s book also covers topics including intersectional feminism, addressing mistakes and sexual assault. Interested readers may purchase the ebook for two dollars in January by signing up on http:// ggontour.com.