Loose AssociationsNew Writing

How do you visualise a woman in the 21st century? Linda Stupart

Image: Linda Stupart

Alongside our current exhibition Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s: Works From the Verbund Collection, the new issue of Loose Associations takes feminism as its subject. In this short essay – which is available along with other writing and images in the publication via our shop – Linda Stupart responds to the question: How do you visualise a woman in the 21st century?


Two things sit at the intersection of a response to this question:

1) Two days ago I posted a request on my Facebook ‘wall’. It reads:

“ Hi friends could people please use they/them pronouns for me and ask other people to do the same also I really don’t want to talk about it tbh thx”.

The image is accompanied by a low res. 3D modeled blob GIF – one of my own. It spins slowly in space.

In Testo Junkie Paul Preciado writes:  

“ How can I explain what is happening to me? What can I do about my desire for transformation? What can I do about all the years I defined myself as a feminist?

What kind of feminist am I today: a feminist hooked on testosterone, or a transgender body hooked on feminism? I have no other alternative but to revise my classics, to subject those theories to the shock that was provoked in me by the practice of taking testosterone. To accept the fact that the change happening in me is the metamorphosis of an era.” [1]

2) An hour ago, I posted a request on my Facebook ‘wall’. It reads:

“ Please can we make a better word for being triggered in bodies of PTSD; one that is harder to speak, that shudders off of mute tongues; a word filled with blood and bile and vomit and shuddering and a word that is petrified in resin.

The word would be something like death, except that it happens over and over again.

A word that says ‘only your rage can save you.”

As a foreword to Motherlines, Suzee McKee Charnas’ wonderful 1978 sci-fi novel imagining a separatist lesbian utopia where women have sex with horses to procreate, Elizabeth Cady Stanton is cited:

“ When I think of all the wrongs that have been heaped on womankind, I am ashamed that I am not forever in a condition of chronic wrath, stark mad, skin and bone, my eyes a fountain of tears, my lips overflowing with curses, and my hand against every man and brother!”

I have always loved this quotation and had never bothered to discover who Elizabeth Cady Stanton was. Today I find she was a suffragette. I scan her Wikipedia page for racism – I know it must be there – and find she is perhaps the worst of the racist suffragettes, blocking the black man’s vote, and citing women’s ‘education’ and ‘culture’ as reasons they (we) should get to vote ahead of former slaves. This is the history of white feminism – of visualising woman as whiteness (virgin) and blackness as threat (whore). This is the violence of images.

In conclusion: I visualise a woman with objects and with words, which are a type of object. I visualise a woman with a dick or with a cunt or with breasts or without breasts and always bleeding. I visualise a woman as a body that has nothing to do with ‘the female body’, which does not exist, and I visualise a woman in the 21stcentury as breaking out of her brown and powerful skin and sliding through membranes, and pixels, and weeds under the earth, and out of ‘woman’, maybe, altogether.

—Linda Stupart

Linda Stupart is an artist, writer and educator from Cape Town, South Africa. They live and work in London and have recently completed a PhD in the Art Department at Goldsmiths College with a project engaged in new considerations of objectification.

With thanks to Club des Femmes for providing the question, ‘How do you visualise a 21st Century Woman?’ from an ongoing project, which also formed the basis of a studio activity during the exhibition, Feminist Avant-Garde of the 70s.

1. Paul (Beatriz) Preciado, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era , Bruce Benderson (trans), New York: The Feminist Press, 2013 (2008), p. 23.

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