Disobedient Women Come to Light

The Ragging Grannies

Who said women had to be obedient? An exhibit curated by Darlene E. Clover showcases the untold stories of women in retaliation. As a response to Canada’s 150th celebration of diversity, the collection, Disobedient Women, features stories, practices, artwork, and photographs.

The exhibit focuses on women from Victoria, BC, and beyond from the late 1980s to today. But what classifies a disobedient woman? No defiance, big or small, will go unnoticed.

There are excerpts from Kate Braid of her experiences working in construction, a male-dominated industry. A photo titled, “Qwetminak (Mary Williams) on her Knees” shows the defiance of a traditional Lil’wat woman convicted for blocking the road to her people’s unceded land.

The West Coast League of Lady Wrestlers are an art movement which explores the connection between performance and the male gaze. One member, the Furmaid, known for embracing the masculine and feminine, had their costume on display.  

There are archived news articles and magazines, where one shows ‘Lady Godiva’ riding a horse through Vancouver protesting logging. She was quoted as saying, “I’ve got a PhD and no one listens. I take my clothes off, and here you all are. So thank you.”

Victoria’s own Raging Grannies movement, founded in 1987, spread across the country where older women challenge elderly stereotypes and advocate for a healthier planet. Through songs such as the Mammogram Song, to crazy costumes, the Raging Grannies aren’t shy about what they have to say. 

Some artwork was made specifically for the exhibit. Ann-Bernice Thomas, a student at Uvic, put out a call for anyone who identified as a disobedient woman to be showcased in her video. Her video can be found in the exhibit or online. She asked for their stories and compiled them into a spoken word poem.

The poem speaks “I do not conform to gender stereotypes. I am a legs wide open, guns smoking kind of fierce,” and asks, “have I become who I am in spite of my womanhood, or because of it?”

The pieces together bring a powerful message. From the words of the curator, “Collectively, they counter official power narratives from above and place women squarely in the making of history.”

Disobedient Women runs now until December 10 at the Mearns Centre, McPherson Library. A workshop, Interactions Between Art and Activism, takes place November 18.