It was primarily the advent of the medical profession in the United States and the establishment of the AMA in 1847 that pushed doctors to be strong lobbyists against anyone who they considered “irregular” (Baehr, 1990). (*2) Doctors wanted more control over abortions, therefor having more control over the medical profession on a larger level. It was the focus of male doctors to convince male politicians and middle-class public that controlling women’s bodies and reproductive choices was important to maintain social order (Baehr, 1990, p.2). (*2)
The connection between the anti-abortion movement and the church has a relatively short history. It was not until 1869 that Pope Pius IX said abortion was wrong. Prior to this point, the relationship between the Catholic Church and abortion was a bit different. During the 1960s and 1970s, churches often became activists for the abortion rights movement. Among other examples, New York City clergy founded the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (CCS), an international group that assisted women in obtaining abortions—whether legal or illegal.*6 *(6)
Prior to the 1970s, The Rape Narrative as told in the United States was one of a young woman, alone at night, without a man to protect her. Attacked by an unknown assailant, she fails to protect herself. Usually, the woman is middle or upper class and white, while the attacker is black, making the narrative racially problematic and adding to longstanding cultural racism (Anderson, 2005). Poor women, women of color, and sex workers are often non-existent in the narrative. Yet, during the women’s movement of the 1970s, the rape narrative began to change. Women started to share their personal stories and experiences, addressing sexual violence at home and in the workplace and Susan Brownmiller’s ground-breaking Against our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (1975) (*6)became the first comprehensive book on rape, changing the traditional narrative.
It wasn’t until 1994 that the United States passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAMA), and established the Rape Prevention Education Program (RPE). The creation of laws and programs designed to assist survivors of sexual assault as well as fund programs designed to educate and prevent rape and sexual violence made the discussion of rape culture more prominent throughout the United States. Through education at schools and throughout the workplace, RPE funds intervention programs and creates direct prevention efforts (Basile et al., 2007). (*4) Federally funded campaigns such as “No Means No” also worked to bring more public awareness of women’s rights and society’s value of women’s decisions around sex and sexual choices (Lonsway, et al., 1998). (*12) All of these laws and policies passed in the 1990s were influenced by the activism of young punk feminists who were making art through zines and defining themselves as riot grrrls.
Paralleling these movements and the rise of feminism throughout the United States came the women’s self-defense movement. Even in the early 1900s, women learned that police were not always willing or ready to protect them from harassment. Women started to discuss that they were more likely to experience violence in the home than from a stranger on the street. Along with the suffrage movement, women practiced self-defense as a way to defend themselves and build self-confidence. Once the first wave of feminism declined in the 1920s, women’s self-defense too was not as prevalent. In the 1960s and 1970s, with the rise of second wave feminism women’s self-defense practices re-emerged. Women started to teach each other self-defense as well as discuss broader issues around sexual assault and sexual violence (Rouse, 2017). (*16) Self-defense in all its forms was a tool of activism and subversion by women and a way to protect against normalization of sexual violence.
As women addressed sexual violence, body politics, and reproductive rights, they took on different forms of feminist activism. Women have a rich history in activism through feminist art, especially as it is used to address social issues, especially those around women’s bodies and women’s rights. bell hooks (2012) (*10) argues that “the function of art is to do more than tell it like it is—it’s to imagine what is possible” (p. 281) and with this feminist art becomes a space to open up discussion around topics and call for social change. Zines are one space in which women have been doing this in subversive ways for decades. In particular, riot grrrl zines, which are both personal and feminist in nature, are important platforms for feminist art as activism.
Rebekah Buchanan ( 2019): Zines, Art Activism and the Female Body: What We Learn from Riot Grrrls. In: p/art/icipate – Kultur aktiv gestalten # 10 , https://www.p-art-icipate.net/zines-art-activism-and-the-female-body-what-we-learn-from-riot-grrrls/