Art is in the eye of the beholder but one thing that is not is whether the artist is taking a risk to make a unique and/or bold statement. Take Egyptian feminist Aliaa Magda Elmahdy; she is a radical feminist standing up to the aggressive and authoritarian rules of some segments of Islam. She took her biggest stand to date when she was photographed menstruating and defecating on the Islamic Flag of ISIS.
For the record, this is not an endorsement of what she did or the manner she is protesting. In fact, I find it really disgusting and appalling. Plus, at this point in history, fecal art is not really new phenomenon. In fact, I hear that it’s the preferred medium of many a screaming toddler. I myself prefer a fiery email campaign or blog post when I’m outraged by something. If I do defecate on the object of my outrage, it is in the privacy of my own bathroom with wet wipes at the ready.
What I do endorse is her boldness in taking a stand against a force that many of the American Left have been too timid to confront. Let’s face it, there is something bold about taking on an extremist sect of religion that rewards differing points of view with beheadings versus shouting down former Vice President Dick Cheney during a speech. Finally, the the tired and misused phrase, “Speaking truth to power” can be given new life. While Aliaa’s “truth” is subjective, I think we can all cede to her point that some Islamic societies tend to be, at the very least, stringent and oppressive. I personally hold the “progressive” belief that it’s a woman choice whether she wants to wear a veil over her face or not but, then again; I’m not from around there.
Unfortunately, In America, what passes for “edgy” and “brave” expressions of art are the submerging a set of Rosary Beads in a beaker of urine and naming it Piss Christ. Or, painting the Virgin Mary and placing pornographic cut outs of vaginas around her. OR! If you are more into performance-based art, then you won’t forget the stunt that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence pulled when they walked into a Catholic church and took communion.
And I tell you what, nothing screams bravery like insulting a religious people who’s Savior tells them to turn the other cheek because people will hate them because of Me. Art mocking Christians or Christianity in general is takes the same amount of bravery as Eminem when he used to lyrically rip apart pop stars like Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, ‘NSync and Christina Aguilera back in the day.
What repercussions do these “brave” artists in this part of the civilized world face when they produce such unoriginal works of art? What do they sacrifice upon the altar of free speech? The answer is absolutely nothing! Their idea of speaking truth to power is attacking people who respond in kind with such tyrannical methods as emails, protests, boycotts and rigorous finger wagging.
And what of the feministic message behind this photo? In this current time that we live in, Aliaa Magda Elmahdy is what actual feminism looks like. While Aliaa will probably be threatened with violence and possibly raped and/or death for her protest art, what scars do feminists like Sandra Fluke, Gloria Steinem and Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler have to show in their battles against the entrenched patriarchal WASP’s?
Now does one have to face persecution in order to stand up for one’s beliefs? No. However, the one thing any “activist” needs to have at the core of their message is a sense of perspective and proportionality. Testifying before a bunch of male politicians that you need your birth control paid for is, I guess, a feministic idea. Seeing that my first house was a uterus I think I am actually qualified to point out the irony of an “independent woman” begging a group of old men for free birth control. To me, I’d say a woman who’s been shot by the Taliban for the crime of becoming educated and then fights for women’s rights is the caliber of feminist that Fluke can only aspire to. Show me an artist like Aliaa Magda Elmahdy; who truly stands up to oppression, and I’ll be able to say that “artist” is brave feminist.
Regardless of how gross I think the picture is…
Which leaves me with the following philosophical questions: