Forget_Hier est aujourd'hui
Nadège Grebmeier Forget — Hier est aujourd’hui., screenshot, extract from the Instagram photographic logbook on 19-02-2016.
Photo: courtesy of the artist

Feminisms and Uncertainty: A Body of One’s Own and Beyond Oneself

Thérèse St-Gelais
In a preface titled “De la beauté des (mauvaises) filles” (On the beauty of (bad) girls), distinguished feminist historian Michelle Perrot notes how throughout history “fear of the female sex and body”1 1 - Michelle Perrot, preface, in Véronique Blanchard and David Niget, Mauvaises filles. Incorrigibles et rebelles (Paris: éditions Textuel, 2016), 8 (our translation). is recurrent in representations of women and — for various reasons, I would add — feminisms, which are also sometimes cause for concern.

Based on the premise that no form of feminism exists with a written, visual, or audio support or manifesto that can translate the full range of its meaning, any more than does a school of feminism that dictates the rules of adherence, it is nevertheless understood that all feminists, regardless of their approach or leanings, are concerned with identity issues centred on the body. But it is because the body has both a private and a public aspect and may, despite itself, be the focus of demands, or even of agency, that it is of interest here. In the words of Judith Butler, “The body implies mortality, vulnerability, agency…. The body has its invariably public dimension; constituted as a social phenomenon in the public sphere, my body is and is not mine. Given over from the start to the world of others, bearing their imprint, formed within the crucible of social life, the body is only later, and with some uncertainty, that to which I claim as my own.”2 2 - Judith Butler, Undoing Gender (New York: Routledge, 2004), 2. Critically speaking, this “uncertainty” seems significant in relation to the artists and works that I examine in this essay.

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This article also appears in the issue 90 - Feminisms

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