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Be Afraid of Your Wife: Feminism and the History of Everyday Rage

April 21, 2008, 1:04 pm

(Crossposted at Cliopatra)

A Vietnam-era suburban housewife is standing in front of a kitchen counter. She stares calmly and without expression into the camera, as if she is the star of her own cooking show. “Knife,” she intones, displaying a knife in her right hand. With short, violent strokes she stabs the cutting board in front of her. She puts the knife aside. “Measuring cup,” she intones, and begins to flip an invisible liquid into the face of an invisible person. “Nutcracker,” she says, holding up the new implement and snapping it together sharply three or four times before setting it down.

Ouch. “Semiotics of the Kitchen” (1975), one of five short performance pieces produced and filmed by Lynda Begler, shows how ordinary kitchen implements express a woman’s rage, or what Betty Friedan famously called “the problem that has no name.” But Friedan – and other feminist writers – are considerably better known than the many female visual artists who worked for women’s liberation from 1965 on. If you are interested in an understudied, and dramatic, cultural history of second wave feminism, run – do not walk – to see “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” an

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