Looking for period power? American Apparel gives it to you in a tee. 100% cotton, 100% controversy (Check out the uncensored shirt image here).
The argument is that the portrayal of menstruation is a call for people to respect and redefine a “perfect” female body. I’ll cut to the chase and say that I think Petra Collins’ own drawing is great- but the medium she chose to deliver it through? Not so much.
Let me start by saying that Collins definitely hit a chord with me in delivering a message loud and clear, creating both a piece that is attention-grabbing while still maintaining a certain level of depth. You’d be surprised to know that I believe Collins actually made a very specific choice when she focused her line drawing around depicting menstruation.
The attempt to use menstruation to push feminine rights is not a new idea; in fact there are plenty of female artists who actually use menstrual blood as a medium- a new type of art called “Menstrala.” So Warhol urinated on his paintings in the ‘70s, but Collins can’t put out a menstrual-themed, colored line drawing without it being called vulgar and inappropriate? Please. In the news, there’s way too much limelight on the labia without looking for the deeper message it stands for – the call for an appreciation of the natural female body, including the natural process of menstruation that everyone tries so hard to avert their eyes from. It is this message of empowerment that makes me disagree with critics who say the labia tee is solely a plea for attention and controversy.
Let me clarify that I don’t consider myself a strong feminist. I’m personally not an enthusiast of any type of art made with bodily fluids. But looking at Collins’ drawing I can’t help but admire the balance she found walking the line between displaying the female body to make a statement without having it become objectified in the process – a source of irony we can see in the tactics used by the “topless feminists” in Ukraine where females are going topless to get media attention – in order to protest the prevalence of topless women in the media. Collins’ choice to depict menstruation as a focus with the female body prevents her work from becoming just another tabloid ad on a tee.
So one thumb is up for the art, but the other thumb is way down for the tee.
Displaying the art on an American Apparel t-shirt ruined it for me. Now the piece falls prey to American Apparel’s corporate motives that made me agree with the critical majority and label this art as just a ploy to arouse controversy. I feel that now, the Period Power tee only serves to put a marketable brand on feminism and profit from it, taking advantage of the noticeable recent hipster wave towards universal equal rights. On the extreme end, we can see this reflected in the video for the current hit single “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, allegedly now a recently christened feminist. I mean, in the end, it’s all just a loud cry for controversy. Period.