> WOMEN IN REVOLT! Celebrating the struggle of women’s liberation throughout the latter half of the 20th century (Exhibition Review) - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

WOMEN IN REVOLT! Celebrating the struggle of women’s liberation throughout the latter half of the 20th century (Exhibition Review)

Having already spent four months in London’s Tate Britain, Women in Revolt! has travelled north, bringing with it a plethora of protest works. Spanning the early 1970s to the mid 1990s, Women in Revolt! features works from the height of second-wave feminism in the UK, through to the social conservatism and repression of the Thatcher administration, ending on the early sparks of the third-wave feminist movement. Women in Revolt! is as much a historical journey as it is an artistic one, celebrating the struggle of women’s liberation throughout the latter half of the 20th century.

Upon entering the exhibition’s first room, the viewer is immediately struck by Maureen Scott’s Mother and Child at Breaking Point, with the subject making direct eye contact as you pass the threshold. The painting’s bleak depiction of involuntary motherhood on top of a background of haphazardly stacked household objects set the scene for the state of women’s emancipation, or lack thereof, in the early 1970s – need I remind you that women couldn’t even open a bank account in the UK until 1975?

What follows is an explosive response to repression through protest art like Monica Sjöö’s Wages for Housework, a rejection of the unpaid domestic labour expected of women, and Margaret Harrison’s Little Woman at Home, a satirisation of the sexualisation of women’s bodies in commercial marketing.


Monica Sjöö’s Wages for Housework

Other rooms explore the role women played in wider protest movements like the anti-nuclear protests of the 1980s. Featuring an excellent archival collection of photographs from female-led photographic agency Format Photographers, the section documents the female-only Greenham military base encampment.

Significant attention has been paid to intersectional inclusion, since histories of second-wave feminism often fail to spotlight queer and POC voices. Sutapa Biswas’ Housewives with Steak-Knives depicts a variation on Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, destruction, creation, and change, holding a bloodied machete and the decapitated head of a white man. Having been brought up in Southall during the height of the National Front’s anti-South Asian violence, Biswas expresses female rage in response to the misogynistic and racist British fascist movements.


Sutapa Biswas’ Housewives with Steak-Knives

Alongside all the pieces mentioned are countless pamphlets, posters, newsletters, photographs, and videos depicting the organisations, meetings, collectives, and protests of the womens’ liberation movement, in a kaleidoscopic display of phenomenal archival work. This exhibition is an easy recommendation for anyone interested in protest movements, print culture, feminism, or subversive design.


Women in Revolt! is at Modern Two, Edinburgh until 25 January. Tickets are available from the National Galleries of Scotland website here

Main Photo Credit: Julie Howden

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