There’s nothing funny about feminism, or, at least, there’s nothing funny about the issues that feminism addresses. The very real dangers of existing in this world and being a woman are no joke. However, does that mean we should all go home and cry about it? Sure, sometimes it’s just what we need after a long day of dealing with sexist nonsense, but we can’t always go home and cry. Sometimes, we need to do something to challenge the concepts and norms we don’t agree with, and what better way to challenge something than making fun of it?
Snow White The Scientist
This is what Sarah Maple does through her art. Her work as a visual artist explores issues of gender, identity, and religion, always with a touch of humor and a lot of attitude. When asked about the role humor plays in her art, she writes: “Comedy is so important, if you can master the right tone. I think it allows people to open up the conversation and connect with people, and for me art is all about that connection.” In other words, she uses humor and comedy as tools to get people to think about serious issues and to present her own way of thinking. Her sense of humor, of course, is extremely bold and in-your-face, so it might not make everyone laugh, but it’ll certainly make everyone pay attention.
Fighting Fire With Fire No. 2
I Love Orgasms
Born and raised in England to a family of Muslim heritage, she also addresses issues that affect Muslim women in particular, always from a feminist perspective. For instance, one of her paintings features a woman wearing a niqab with a small pin that reads “I love orgasms.” The message is a critique against the sexist ideal that women should only have sex in order to have children or to give pleasure to men; their own pleasure is, at best, secondary. But she goes even further by choosing to have the subject of her painting wear a veil, a statement that challenges both Western and Islamic societies, which don’t see Muslim women as sexual beings.
An Artist and a Female Artist
Another of her images that makes us rethink the way we see women is her photograph titled An Artist and a Female Artist. The photograph shows an average man wearing jeans and a shirt standing next to a woman (Maple herself) who’s wearing high heels and a cream-colored leotard that gives the illusion of nudity. A pair of fake breasts covers her real breasts, emphasizing rather than hiding them, while a black piece of something that looks like hair covers her pubic area. The image’s title is key to understanding the message behind the picture: while the man on the left is simply described as an artist, and none of his physical characteristics have anything to do with him being considered an artist; however, the “female artist” is seen as a woman first and an artist second. Maple writes: “I was always referred to as a ‘female artist.’ It’s so funny, imagine if men were referred to in the same way. It just doesn’t happen. Our gender is so linked to our work in a way that isn’t for men.”
Menstruate with Pride
Her painting Menstruate with Pride also manages to make us laugh while dealing with an issue that affects the lives of women around the world: the stigma surrounding our periods. The painting is centered on the artist, who’s wearing a simple white dress stained red with her blood, and raising her fist in the air. The people around her look at her with faces that express shock, disgust, anger, and everything in between. The only person who is just looking at her calmly is a little girl, showing that this stigma is something we learn from society, not something we’re born with.
Anti Rape Cloak
Maple’s irreverence and bold attitude make her images not only beautiful and cool, but also political and inspiring. Maybe now, after looking at her work, you will agree that comedy is a great artistic tool to grab people’s attention and make them think about the world we live in.
Cover image: Lollypop Lollypop