From the Hammer to the Fist: The Pleasures and Dangers of March, Progress and Protest in Creating Social Justice from the First Wave to the Present
Author(s)Denney, Colleen J.
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AbstractThe visual history of the British suffrage campaign for social justice began with elegant, organized pageants of pictorial unity; but the beautiful spectacles were not enough to convince the British government of women’s desire for equality under the law. Militant activists of the Women’s Social and Political Union (hereafter WSPU) eventually employed aggressive tactics, letting go of the restrained politics of respectability. This study examines the link between the visual protests of first-wave activists and those of second- and third-wave advocates, in order to establish a dialogue about the presumed transgressions of women’s bodily presence and feminists’ use of body language. Starting with the toffee hammers that the WSPU suffragettes used in 1912 to smash windows, traditional cultural assumptions about women’s bodily possibilities, like the windows themselves, were shattered. I seek to answer a question that has never been posed in feminist art historical debate: What is the bond between the hammer and the raised fist within feminist protest in its quest for social justice?