I have often been exposed to guns. They were not necessarily genuine firearms or employed by girls. Nevertheless, I – a pacifist – have frequently been engaged, both as a frightened observer and an active participant, in bloody battles. Most of the time, combat took the form of unconventional warfare.
As a result, contemplating this project revealed a personal dilemma and many questions arose. What is my own interpretation of “girls with guns”? Do I think of myself as a woman with weapons? Should I research the history, methods and tools of others for this project? Should I explore my own saga? Alternately, I could review the present landscape or contemplate the future of armed females. Should I get involved in a deep analysis of the conceptual aspects of the subject or deliver a spiritual interpretation of the theme? Perhaps I could simply show a few pictures? Frankly, I have no answers to these questions. Consequently, I resolved to write a few words and present some collage images.
Where should I start my exploration? Browsing the Internet for “guns with girls,” Google offers for your pleasure: Uzi-toting naked chicks, fantasy-play heroines and an assorted variety of luscious female warriors. The “women with weapons” search yields plenty of sites on self-defense, as well as the Women Weapons of Power site, which features the prophetess Dr. Juanita Bynum. My favourite pick of the batch is Babes with Blades, an attempt "to revive and revitalize the archetype of the woman warrior" through stage combat.
Beyond a shadow of doubt, the icons of brave combatants in my iron-curtained childhood were somewhat different. The heroic female parade of the Socialist Labour party included fierce tractor drivers, spade-wielding workers and fully armed partisans. Many of the posters, banners and other forms of documentation from that period have been lost. Recently, however, in Albania I came upon a treasure throve of socialist illustrations featuring soldier girls in target practice, farm girls with scythes, chemist girls with their microscopes, girls working on construction sites and breast-feeding mothers gazing up in rupture at pontificating (male) leaders.
The iconography of the examples cited above, whether they conform to market-driven capitalism or politically correct socialist ideology, reflect figments of masculine imagination. Reality is presented on the babes with blades site: "women have been bearing arms, either for personal or patriotic aims, in every culture and every time period on record. In dueling societies, on pirate ships, in jousting competitions, in standing armies, and on every revolution's roster, women have an historic martial presence that is repeatedly denied and ignored."
The above quote refers to traditional methods of warfare, but in addition to standard practice, the tools and methods of frequently underground female dissent have often been highly unorthodox. They range from the subversive stitch of medieval embroideries to gunslinger tattoos in Stalinist camps. I have never excelled in embroidery, nor do I possess a body tattoo. Nevertheless, I have been fascinated by the spectacular arsenal of unconventional fighting implements utilized by women. This attraction has undeniably been motivated by the modest but varied stock of my private weaponry, which has included words, silence, images, food, humour, love, hate, clay and computers. The diverse utensils of the mythological Trickster, whose eccentric methods I have occasionally adopted, are also stored in my personal curiosity cabinet.
Trickster is the guardian spirit of artists and curators. He/she defies stereotypes and exists on the threshold of dreams and reality. Driven by insatiable curiosity, he/she facilitates change, diversity and novelty. Trickster's use of the sacred and the profane is closely intertwined with humour and irony. Irony linked to absurdity forms part of my East European heritage and at the time of this writing, steers my explorations into the controversial (on-line and on-site) jungle of glamour girls and guns. These trails are lined with paraphernalia (always appropriate for the occasion) and maneuvers are motivated by seductive strategies. It’s no wonder that intercourse between females and firearms has always had intriguing connotations.
My personal path zigzags through all these icons. Thus, for my photo collages, I chose classic Chinese stitching as timeless backdrops for a parade of socialist heroines, provocative tattoos and long-dead ladies. I am delighted that the pageant of gun molls embraces a wide variety of partisans online and affords the opportunity to include Tricksters.
These notes and observations pertain to the past and present of girls with guns. As for the future, will it bring us "smart" girls in "smart" garments with "smart" guns and "smart" glamour? It would be intriguing to know.
*Czegledy Nina, Google Girls, Partisans and Tricksters. Kiss Machine #6 2003 pp 32-36
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