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Some months ago a guy told me that my feminist discourse was cheap. I shut my face and at that same moment I knew that that comment would leave me wounded. I promised myself to never speak again about feminism in public.
Babe came to me on the very same day that I learned about 15-year-old Lily-Ross Depp‘s social debut and discovered Willow Smith‘s Twitter account. What I find fascinating about Lily is the mystery and lack of information surrounding her: nobody knows whether the dogs appearing on her Instagram feed are hers or her neighbours’. We don’t know either whether she’s got anything to say or not. By chance, though, I came across one of 14-year-old Willow’s famous quotes: “The earth experience is a social oculus”.
I’m getting old and I don’t care. I look at my new white hairs with the same fascination as I observe the new generations growing. Honest and unashamed voices have come to save us. Or at least that’s what Petra Collins says on the preface to her new book, a compilation of the best of the The Ardarous‘ five years.
“This book contains the work of many bright, talented, and endlessly inspiring women who I believe have the power to change the world”
(Petra Collins – Babe, Introduction)
The Ardarous is a group, a sisterhood, and a free expression platform for fresh feminine talent. The Girls Club we all would have wanted at recess.
I open Babe and the first photograph that calls my attention is a beautiful picture of a breast with some loose hairs on the nipple. “I’m not alone”, I think.
Hannah Antonsson. Nipple + eye, 2013. Photographs. Page 10 & 11 in Babe
“My goal is to question the current ideology of femininity and recast women in positive/dominant roles”
(Petra Collins – The Ardarous Manifesto, published on Dazed Digital)
The collective group lead by Petra and made up of 40 international artists from a great variety of disciplines and ages puts into practice and develops the taboos and blocks created by society in order to look for equality in the role of women today. What they’ve wanted with Babe is to give the word a new meaning and through it build a new feminine identity in the Internet age. But, what is a Babe? Are we Babes?
“I find that western culture idealizes pre-pubescence and views the feminine identity as something that can only exist in the realm of adolescence. Women are expected to be sexually submissive. I think our society isn’t ready to accept the grown woman (a girl after puberty) and this can’t deal with the thought of a women having a dominant control over her sexuality.”
(Petra Collins – Interview on Urban Outfitters Blog)
We All Have Nipples, 2013. GIF
The book’s collaborators explain, on an article published by Dazed Digital, what the word Babe means for them:
“Something undiscovered and alluring; like the cool, mysterious new girl who shows up at your high school halfway through the semester”
“’Babe’ is a confident and powerful (not a girl, not yet a) woman”
“A ‘babe’ is someone who is in control and thus simultaneously free. A babe is no baby!”
“To me a ‘babe’ is someone who is mysterious, magnetic, and attractive in unconventional ways. The moon is a good example of a ‘babe’”
Britte Geijer. Untitled (Vanity), 2012. Photograph. Page 61 in Babe
I asked Thea, my flat mate and feminist activist, what she understood by “babe”, and, while flicking the book’s pages, she answered: “They are babes”.
We agree. We do not identify ourselves with these young girls, full of strength, confidence and with complete control over their bodies and minds. We’re dominated, and the Girls-on-top rarely works for us.
We’re a failure to feminine pride, whereas them, they are warriors. I should sue Súper pop magazine for having imposed on me a feminine canon devised from a masculine perspective and gaze that has had as a result a sexual block on the verge of 28.
I might not be qualified to speak of feminism in public, but in private I sympathise with them and question my actions and reactions before a stimulus. That’s what they are: a stimulus, an impulse towards free-from-gender thinking.
I could talk about the public’s reaction when Instagram decided to delete a photo of Petra Collins showing her unshaved bikini line, or analyse the comments on a picture of @rupikaur_ lying on her bed, seen from her back, showing her pyjamas pants with a blood stain. I could also talk about the foreword Tavi Gevinson wrote, or about Arvida Bystrom’s Depression Calls. Or about the friends of Elena Chernyak‘s mum, or about Grace Miceli‘s childish drawings.
But I’ve neither the time nor the energy. This has been a failed assignment. The Ardarous and Babe deserve a proper essay written by a professor. I am simply shocked and can only but laugh at the fact that they got away with what they wanted.
I’m eager to see the evolution in their work and their bodies and mine, as the passive feminist I am.