By Krizia Puig
In 1989, Barbara Kruger produced Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground). In this piece, Kruger plays with the ideas of “positive versus negative, white versus black, good versus bad” to voice her position regarding reproductive rights.
The split face of a woman is the main image of this piece. One side of the face is a regular black and white picture and the other one is the negative of the same black and white photo. The white font over the red background screams: “Your body is a battleground.” This piece was produced in support of the march in Washington in 1989, organized by the feminist movement focusing on birth control and abortion.
Last Saturday, Kruger’s image came back to my mind when I arrived at the parking lot of a shopping center where Family Planning Associates, a women’s health clinic, is located on 7340 Miramar Road. I went to be a patient escort.
Instantly, Kruger’s metaphorical battleground became a very concrete image. Every Saturday, a group of mixed people gathers there to protect the women who go to the clinic. The Catholic protesters who harass the women use red shirts that say “Life Guard,” while the other group uses yellow shirts that identify us as patient escorts. Each group is strategically waiting in specific spots of the parking lot and when a car arrives, the actual battle begins.
Imagine you are a woman arriving to a clinic (no matter the reason of your appointment) and immediately ten people surround your car. Some of them, the “Life Guards,” repeat to you that you have options, that you cannot kill your baby and that the clinic is insecure. While this happens, the job of the patient escort is to guarantee your safety and to let you know that, if you say you do not want to hear them, the harassers are legally obligated to stop talking to you.
Putting my body literally in the front of the battle for women’s rights re-dimensioned my understanding of activism.
“Since the late 1970s women’s demands for freedom from male domination, as well as the assertiveness of gay men and lesbians in public life, have been checked by the growth of a right -wing political reaction. The attackers have framed their arguments in terms of conservative Christian theology, protesting the breakdown of patriarchal family life and values” (Peis & Simmons 11).
The fact that people feel entitled to harass women in the name of God because these women are exercising their right upon their bodies shows that women’s bodies are still a battleground. We are still fighting against the dominant patriarchal narratives that try to constrain women by controlling their bodies and reproductive abilities.
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Krizia Puig is currently a Graduate Student of Women’s Studies with a certificate in LGBT studies at San Diego State University. She is also the Graduate Coordinator of SafeZones@SDSU. She is originally from Venezuela.
Kruger, Barbara. Love for Sale. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990.
Peis, Katy & Simmons, Christina. “Introduction.” Passion & Power: Sexuality in History. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989.