- Angry Women: “Let’s Get Real”1
Angry Women, volume 13 of the San Francisco-based publication RE/Search, was compiled in 1991 by the journal’s co-founders and editors Andrea Juno and V. Vale. Belying its ’zine-like youth-cultural presentation, the volume surveys established, mature artists, writers, and performers. The volume presents important historiographical and documentary evidence of incipient third-wave feminism, yet academic critics have paid little attention to it and rarely include its contents in anthologies or other publications offering representative samples of key texts, nor does it often appear on feminist studies course reading lists.
Herself a participant in the volume, Avital Ronell highlights this academic distaste for Angry Women in an interview in 2000: “Certainly publishing with Angry Women did do momentary damage; […] I think colleagues were a little shocked to see me involved with performance artists, recontextualized and reformatted in the space of very angry, very outrageous, shit-covered, dildo-wielding, multisexual women. I think there was a gender-genre crossing that probably seemed a little excessive.”2
Angry Women appeared in an era of US anti-sex conservatism, a decade after AIDS was first identified in 1981. It marks a continuing “inability to address AIDS,” which was located “outside ‘traditional family values.’”3 In 1991, George H. W. Bush’s presidency “brought to the White House a dedication to traditional American values.”4 Angry Women appeared in a period of crisis for the representation of sex, gender, and racial differences, framed by these new “values” on one side, and the effects of the AIDS epidemic on American avant-garde culture on the other. The countercultural and mainstream popular cultural American environment of the publication in and around 1991 includes the deaths of Keith Haring in 1990 and Robert Mapplethorpe in 1989, the various censorship scandals surrounding exhibitions of work by gay and lesbian artists and photographers during the period; the publication of key theoretical works such as Donna Haraway’s Simians, Cyborgs, and Women and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, both of which appeared in 1990; major popular music releases such as Madonna’s fourth album Like a Prayer—as well as her scandalous Blonde Ambition World Tour, chronicled in the 1991 film Truth or Dare (released as In Bed With Madonna outside North America)—and Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous, which dominated pop charts worldwide, addressing racism more explicitly than he previously dared, as in the song Black or White, for instance. In 1991, furthermore, Twin Peaks and Beverly Hills 90210 made TV history; Julia Roberts followed the success of 1990’s Pretty Woman with Sleeping With the Enemy; while other Hollywood films exploring gender and sexuality included Thelma & Louise, The Silence of The Lambs, Cape Fear, [End Page 207] Point Break, Fried Green Tomatoes, and My Girl (a list suggesting popular cinema’s interest in this nexus of concerns).
Angry Women’s gender-genre crossings combine popular culture, politics, philosophy, religion, and theory into a palimpsestic conversation in which, in Linda Montano’s words, “life is art,”5 and where art, as Diamanda Galás argued, is political: “Most pop music is descriptive; it’s about the thing, not the thing itself. Whereas my work is the thing itself […].”6
Most of the alphabetical entries below present citations from Angry Women pinpointing some of its influences, key themes, and histories. Reproducing the voices themselves and allowing them to speak, this format echoes Angry Women’s own formal and theoretical multi-voiced assemblage.
Acker, Kathy (1947–1997)
“All things are sexist! Pornography is sexist, books are sexist, magazines are sexist. For many historical reasons, there is this fear of sex—in women. It was a big step when women said, ‘We’ll start making pornography; we’ll take over those areas.’ It’s fantastic that women are doing this! And men just can’t deal with it – that’s what all this recent censorship is about: the men are freaking out!”7
“A lot of media wouldn’t publicize me because my show had to do with AIDS, which was then very unpopular—especially in England, the Denial Capital of the World. I was exposing...