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Text:  Love Letters and Hate Mail

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1996-1999

From: S
Date: 12/22/99
Subject: Counter propaganda

Dear Guerrilla Girls: I am student at Bennington College in Vermont. I just wanted to say that I am thrilled that you exist! There needs to be more subversion out there, especially in the feminist realm. In fact I'm convinced that this is more or less the only realm that is important, in that it seems to overlap with so many forms of discrimination. The fact that women are treated as a minority, when in fact we are a majority. The continued separation and segregation of the sexes confounds me. The measures we go through in our society to keep gender identity separate is really overwhelming. It results in so many excesses: from architectural (separate bathrooms) to almost every aspect of our material society. I would wager that one of the main reasons capitalism and materialism stays alive, is because it feeds off gender myths. Think of all the diet products, self-help books, toys, clothes, deodorants....all designed to support the male ego and to degrade the female psyche. The general populace's denial and suppression that any such problems exist only serves to keep it alive. Clearly it is through such acts which the guerrilla girls commit, using a medium (advertising) through which we are all brainwashed into submission, that the use of subtle humor, irony, and also of blatant, in-your-face factual evidence can be used as subversive counter-propaganda.

From: jldbtr
Date: 12/06/99
Subject: Hallelujah!

I joined the military a little over four years ago to help me pay for college. Most everyone in my family has been in the military before, and I was actually kind of proud to join and continue the family tradition, although I was the first female to do so. As part of the training program I was in (ROTC), I had to go to a summer boot camp. I was put in a very visible leadership position at camp, although at the time I didn't realize it was meant as a joke. (Picture a girl giving orders to a 90% male-dominated group of camouflaged teenagers in training to kill others. ) Throughout camp I was harassed in every way possible: trainers would video-tape me while I showered, I was being kept awake at night, I was literally being shoved and bullied while I walked from building to building, my private letters from home were read by the training staff, my dirty underwear was stolen from my room a few times, and on the very last day of camp, the highest ranking officer at the camp physically assaulted (and yes, penetrated) me while five other officers watched and made no effort to help me. Two years later (as a somewhat stunned but slowly recovering civilian), I was sitting in a rape support group and I remembered the name "Guerrilla Girls" from a book I had seen in a store years ago (during my pre military life.) I had flipped through the book and had found it both curious and mildly entertaining. I recently thought the book might be of interest to the other girls in my support group, and I promised them I would try to find it. Tonight I remembered to do an Internet search on GG and I have found you! Thank you, wonderful ladies of the mask. My friends will be very pleased to learn more about you, and you can bet I will spend plenty from my next paycheck on your merchandise. Very best regards.

Date: 12/6/99
From: Miss. Mouse
Subject: Elmer's glue?

I, a female, an currently taking an art class and we were asked to look at your work and describe it to our instructor- a male. As a professional woman I find your work absolutely disgusting. How could you ask society to vandalize our buildings by putting up stickers in theatre bathrooms? Even worse, Elmer's glue to make it harder to remove? We are not living in the twenties any more. As an aspiring doctor, I have a better opportunity of getting into medical school than my male counterparts. According to statistics, in the near future my husband will have a harder time getting a job than I will because of ridiculous movements like yours. Why such a hatred toward males? They have just as much of a right to live as we do. Radical examples and protests are not the answer to our problems. Do you think the people in government, mainly males, are going to listen to you? Not when you are telling people to vandalize public property. Your group makes me look bad as a female, and if this is what feminism stands for I do not even want to be female. My life is hard enough fighting a male dominated medical society, I do not need people like you making it worse. You are hurting the unity of men and women into an equal society. It is very discouraging to know that you are able to stoop so low as women. I thought we were better than that..

Date: 9/30/99
From: Melissa
Subject: Hollywood

We desperately need you in Hollywood, and I'm not just talking about the actual end product of filmmaking--I'm talking about the whole kit 'n' kaboodle. I am a lighting technician. I started doing this work right out of college in Boston, MA. After a year, I found myself in NYC working on independent films. After a brief stint there, I moved to Los Angeles on the promise of "better pay than anywhere else," of course they failed to mention that the better pay was and is primarily for male lighting technicians. I know there are female lighting technicians in the union, but I have heard that the only reason for this is to fill a quota. Regardless, there's no protection for us non-union gals. Since my arrival 1 year ago here in LA with my husband, I have worked about a total of one month's worth of work, whereas my husband has worked about 10 times that amount. Granted he has a little bit more experience than I do, but not 10 times more! On the rare occasions where I have been able to find work I have even been confronted by men of various crew positions who have demanded to see the size of my biceps, as if size and strength are the only two attributes necessary or lighting. What about brains? I have also had men demand they help me move a light or lift a sand bag. I wouldn't do the job if I couldn't handle all the aspects of that job. It's as if these men think of female lighting technicians as merely a novelty and way to be PC instead of considering them as talented, intelligent, strong human beings capable of doing the job just as good, if not better, than any male lighting technician. This sexism must stop! We need your help! Unfortunately, I am not in a position where I can pay for a demonstration, nor do I really know many people to organize one, hence my plea to you for help. Thank you for hearing me.

Date: 10/29/97
From: Denene
Subject: My Point of View

I just wanted to say thanks (I think) I am a female member of the armed forces who has been stationed in Asia and the South Pacifc for the last 4 years. I use the Net to keep up on what's happening in the good 'ole USA. I certainly don't have any illusions of grandeur, in relation to our country...baseball and apple pie (yeah right) Unfortunately I have experienced discrimination, and harrassment because of my gender. Once or twice I've even questioned devoting myself to a career that doesn't pay very well, keeps me away from my family, and sometimes just isn't a whole lot of fun. And then I remember. I do "the job" in the hope that one day *I*, the soldier, the airman, the sailor, the marine, will become obsolete; and that people all around the world will be free to express their ideas in an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual appreciation.

Date: 10/6/97
From: SE
Subject: Hipocrisy

Dear Guerrilla Girls

I'm an editor for an employee's newspaper of a Europe-based multinational enterprise. Last year I published an article on the front page, stating that in corporate headquarters women felt like not having equal chances, and I titled the article "It's a men's world". From our market organisation in Oklahoma I got the message, that by that article I risked to have the company pursued by US law, because it might admit there that it does not offer equal rights. Hell, I stated facts and I talked about headquarters, which is in central Europe!!! How in the world do you cope with all these problems obviously also in existence in the U.S. if you are not allowed to publish them? By wearing a gorilla mask? Come on..... Elisabeth

Date: 3/29/97
From: sparkl
Subject: Discovered You Today!

Alleluia Discovered GG through an editorial by Claudia Smith Brinson in The State, Columbia, South Carolina's daily newspaper. In the same issue, an article on why the Greenville, SC, library system is being pushed to stop subscribing to Playboy.... a mother was quoted as saying she did not think people should be able to find pictures of nude women in a library. Guess she's never perused books on anatomy or art, eh?

Anyway, I admire your audacious prophetic display of truth! I read the love/hate letters and felt, in reading the hate mail, as I feel when told I can't be the lesbian my Creator imaged me into being. Some people will always act out their fears through hatred. SOBEIT! That's no reason to let them deny, invalidate, or oppress us.

Hope to hear more about GG and will share your website with my daughter. Also linking it to our page of The Women's Secretariat (a program celebrating women in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches)..... not radical enough for some of us but quite challenging for others. And that's the wonderful part of being a woman! One in Spirit! Reverend P.V. Metropolitan Community Church Columbia, South Carolina

Date: 2/4/97
From: UW Student
Subject: wow

the guerrilla girls have changed my whole view on art, and art critics. i'm disgusted by some of the letters i have read here. i don't know how some of these people can face themselves in the mirror everyday. i'm a girl and black, and i love to paint. i can't believe having women or minorities work on display would even be an issue. under the masks, you are all beautiful. Alanya.

Date: 12/29/96
From: S.B.
Subject: Robert Hughes

I have just sat through the final episode of Robert Hughes' American Visions series on BBC2 (British TV) and have spent twenty minutes raving at my partner in anger and frustration at yet again half a story being given as the whole.

As ever women were barely mentioned, as ever the artist as hero myth was put forward ( all hail the great god Minimalism), as ever women's art was 'pretty' while men's is profound even when both are stylistically similiar.

Women artists are not looking for preferential treatment despite what the media might claim. Women artists don't want to be seen as special we just want to be seen. I don't necessarily want Robert Hughes to write a women's history of American Art, as the two shouldn't be dislocated, but I do want him to state his partiality. I want these critics to just mention their lack of knowledge of the other side of the coin; somehow just their recognition that something is missing would make such a difference to me. Then I could live with yet another respected TV series cutting out my history, just!

I guess I am so mad as TV series like 'American Visions' is how most people get their information, and for the most part it will be digested as truth without interrogation. The glaring holes that I see will be made to disappear the way women's history is so often made to disappear.

I didn't mean this to turn into an essay but it is hard to bite my tongue and keep the anger in, and anway, I don't see why I should keep the anger in. Sometimes I just get so tired of the fight, and so tired of being told that I am imagining the fight itself. So Thank you GG's for listening and helping me to keep going against the grain when the most of the outside culture tells me I am being paranoid, shrill or looking for battles that no longer exist.

Sent with love and thanks from a tired and bewildered postgrad student who promises not to give up the struggle. I don't need this to be published on your page, it is good enough for me to know you are out there...somewhere! 

Date: 10/2/96
From: D.M.
Subject: Stop the Injustice!

Good shit. I have an additional idea which doesn't seem to get much attention in the art world and one the gets to me. Have you ever tried to find decent synthetic bristles, film and photographic paper that is not coated with lives of dead animals + many other animal byproducts that are sold off as commodities? Either it's very tough or they just don't exist. I gave up photography because I didn't want to use gelatin coated paper. It's ridiculous that in a day of high technology they still need the flesh and body of a dead being to make art supplies. Stop the exploitation of millions of inocent being. Go Vegan. Thank You for Your Time, D.A.T.M. [another pissed off middle-class, white, male fighting to stop the exploitation of all animals, human or non-human. may the white man suffer for the injustices he has done]

Date: 10/16/96
From: M.D.
Subject: teenage men

You people are out of your minds. We are a group of young males who are sick and tired of your femminist whinning. We are trying to make it in this world too you know. We would like to share the world with you, but acts such as yours can only lead to war. To quote Rocky IV, "You will lose!"

Date: 9/23/96
From: Y.C.
Subject: GG gig

I recently caught a GG presentation that stopped in Vancouver and wanted to express how amazing an experience it was. Where else can one educate themselves on some serious subjects, share disgust with a whole audience, and find time to laugh their ass off in one night? Ok, maybe with Noam Chomsky but he doesn't wear a guerrilla mask and toss bananas into the audience. Enough said. I also wanted to express my appreciation for what they are working towards as a human, an artist, and a person of colour.

Date: Tue, 24 Sep 1996
From: J.R, Montreal
Subject: Abolish the art world!

Dear Guerrilla Girls, I caught your interview on the CBC. I'm upset about a lot of the same things you are -- the commodification of art, the blocking-out or ghettoization of artists with differing points of view. As a white guy I don't feel that I should be speaking for artists who haven't had the same experiences as me, but I don't see a lot of other people speaking out either. So it seems that nothing gets said, at least in communities such as this. Perhaps I'm not listening hard enough, or privy to the right groups, but I'm looking for connections, because all people no matter what their background have to join together to be strong. I've asked individuals who have served on grant juries why more artists of colour, for example, don't get grants. They replied that they did'nt see any "worthy" applications, ie. ones that conformed to the preconceived notion of what art should be, which at the moment fits into some very narrow art-critical frameworks. Certainly a lot of the art I've seen could be developed (which means getting support -- education and money, among other things), but this situation is a vicious circle ensuring that nothing will change. I used to write for art mags, but found they only wanted a certain sort of writing, or for me to write about things that had already been approved of, ie. work found in other art mags. It gets incestuous, and makes for terribly dull reading! I'm not perfect myself. Some of my early articles have been condescending to artists from different backgrounds, trying to be positive but in a weak-ass way. Others have been called racist, mainly when I'm trying to be critical in an honest way, though thanks to my background I do make some slips and stereotyped assumptions once in a while. I'm working on it, as they say. I also don't think art necessarily should try to edify or improve the viewer the way a lot of political or "othered" art does, especially in Canada, it should just _be_. But a lot of voices are not being heard from. I think the situation in Canada is a little better for women artists than what you described in New York during the interview. Many, maybe most of our top sculptors, painters and photographers are women (Betty Goodwin, Mary Pratt, and Genevieve Cadieux, respectively -- to name just a few). But there are still a lot of barriers and stupidities. When I was writing on art, two big galleries refused to let me talk to their artists, because they thought the publications I worked for were too "frivolous." Keep up the fight!

Date: 7/23/96
From: LM in the Adirondack mountains
Subject: musings of a descendant of an oppressor

Please bear with me. I do have a point, but often take a while getting there. As a relatively young white, middle-classed male, who really *would* like to see a better world for all, I must say that I do find your site intriguing. Despite the very pale color of my skin (when I say white, I *mean* white) and the testosterone running through my veins, I do truly wish others with similar features would hope for the same. I believe I am honestly trying not to be racist or sexist. When I ask myself if I am not trusting a Latino mechanic because he is Latino or because he is a mechanic, I begin to wonder, though. As someone who grew up in a relatively small town, consisting mostly of others of similar complexion, I have to wonder. Am I the racist, sexist type that I wish I was not? While there was never any strong racial or sexist messages in my upbringing, at least as far as I can see, it occurs to me that perhaps these feelings of guilt that I have are proof that those messages somehow got across to me. It is beginning to occur to me that "there is no try, only do"; and that while I have tried to be a humanist, I have failed at being one. I ask myself where this attitude, this racist, sexist attitude comes from, and what occurs to me is the background of my upbringing; watching television shows, or barbarian movies, reading Hardy Boy mysteries, learning the world history as scribed in textbooks (even the word history is sexist; his-story), where white males are constantly portrayed as the good guys, the saviors, the conquerors, etc., etc., etc., I realize that I could hardly expect anything else. This is why I am writing and why I believe yours to be a worthy cause. For years, I have looked at statistics and passed them off as "not my problem". I figured that if "they" wanted something done about the situation, then "they" would do something, instead of whining about it. I realize now that giving statistics, telling people of your experiences of being on the receiving end of sexism, is something- probably the best thing you could be doing- educating people. Your message has reached at least one more person. Thank you.

Date: 23 March 03
From: K.V.
Subject: Some of your previous fe-mail

Hey, I shouldn't be surprised by some of your emails from men but I am. I really am. Why do people assume that feminists want bad things to happen to men? Aren't men frequently our lovers, fathers, sons, friends, brothers, and fellow feminists? Do they really believe that equality is impossible and one of us, male or female, must be oppressed? The reason I shouldn't be surprised is because as a science fiction fan, I was dismayed by changes to "improve" Deep Space Nine and it's ratings. The "improvements" seemed to be limited to gutting the female characters' roles, making the female characters wear more makeup, taking a character some fans thought might be gay and giving him no further scenes with his traditional friends (who I guess might also be gay) and instead showing him chasing a teenaged girl, and finally changing the genderless shape-shifting character into a human male whose first "emotion" was ogling a woman's breasts. In light of how fresh and radical the original Star Trek was in the 60s (what with the producers nixing the idea of a female first officer and of Uhura being left in command of the enterprise, it could have been a lot more radical), this was personally upsetting to me. As I watched the changes, I took my observations to UseNet and to rec.arts.startrek reviews and received a great deal of mail about how "feminism means the right to behave in a natural, feminine way" and how "I think you are using feminism as a crutch to overcome your own failures in life." I was told that men and women are now equal and there is no further need for feminism. Surely in a world where "improving" a show means to deliberately alienate its female viewers in order to attract male ones there is still a need for feminism! :) If I decide to punish myself with the next season (it is my understanding that a great deal of stuff will blow up! bitchen!) I will likely include in my sig along with my traditional "Katherine the Art Chick, Star Trek Women's Terrorist Task Force" a pointer to y'all, my heroines. :) In the meantime, the X-Files now has my heart. As the Terrorist Manifesto signs off, "Cheerfully waiting for the patriarchy to implode," Love and Kisses, Katherine the Art Chick Star Trek Women's Terrorist Task Force Date: Tue, 16 Jul 1996 16:05:13 -0400 Subject: The Walkers Continued Sexism Just returned from the Walker Art Gallery in Minneapolis. Saw their exhibit on the Beats. I left the show wondering if women were anywhere to be seen from 1950-1964 except as the occasional dancing nude figure. I'm sure the Beats were sexist but I'm equally sure the Walker could have made a greater effort to present women beat artists, poets and musicians. Hate mail to the insufferable Walker seems to be in order. Date: Tue, 14 May 1996 From: SL Subject: The power of the mask... Dear Guerrilla Girls, I have been a Guerrilla Girl at heart since high school although I didn't know about you yet. Our school had this terrible lunch policy. They would refuse to serve anyone who didn't have a student ID. Of course being teenagers we were constantly losing them or leaving them at home. Every student in the school had gone hungry at least once because they didn't have their ID and we just couldn't understand why we needed the program when we lived in such a small town that the lunch room cashiers knew all our names on sight. Finally after going un-fed once too often, we got fed up and organized a lunch boycott. A friend and I borrowed the office copier by pretending that we were copying something for our favorite teacher and we printed up slips of paper that informed everyone of the date of the boycott. During study hall we snuck out and slipped the papers into the top vents of all the lockers. No one saw us do any of this and we didn't ever tell anyone that we were behind it, but I will always have that feeling of pride and success when I remember walking down the locker hall watching those little slips of paper float around and listening to the excited conversation of the students as they read them and passed the word on to their friends. The idea took on a life of its own and soon students were planning to make it a feast and celebration out in the parking lot. The local newspaper showed up and at least a dozen boys lined up to take credit for the event. They were promptly suspended from school and had to repeat their senior year. My friend and I watched from the background enjoying the most sastifying snicker while these boys literally pushed and shoved to get their pictures in the paper. We knew they would be suspended because the principal was outraged. I was sweating it because all of the notes were in my handwriting but that only added to the thrill of it. I'm sure that my favorite teacher had noticed it was my handwriting but she never turned me in. She just gave me a knowing look and I could tell she was proud of my initiative. The boycott was a success and was even extended to last a whole week. The school quickly abolished the ID policy. But, I was too feminized not to feel guilty for thinking I was "hot shit" even though I had never tried to claim credit and I had every right to feel proud. I'm now commited to seeing to it that every girl is allowed to feel the sense of accomplishment I felt at least once in her life and this time without having to watch the boys flock like vultures to steal her credit or being made to feel guilty over her own pride. This time all she has to do is buy a gorilla mask and proudly sign her work with a name that honors her female ancestors who never got proper credit for their work. So to all those future Guerilla Girls out there... Though your problems may be bigger than an annoying school ID policy, Never underestimate what one person can do with pen, paper and a mask. Or with video... audio... multimedia... internet... live protests... posters ...pamphlets...television... radio... etc...etc...

Date: Thu, 25 Apr 1996
From: Appalachian State U
Subject: Jesse Helms

Dearest beloved banana bearers, We,, along with some other groups, have been successful in persuading Senator Helms NOT to come to our campus to speak. He faxed a letter to our chancellor stating that he did not wish to be the subject of "orchestrated unpleasantness" and would have to cancel his appearance! We are all relieved, and we wanted to thank you for your response.