I'm not sure when I first noticed the word "problematic." Probably in think pieces about Dove's ad campaign gone wrong or articles about the representation of people of color, trans women, latinex, disabled, or otherwise marginalized people in my favorite TV shows. I do know that the word "problematic" solidified in my brain when I heard Aminatou Sow on Call Your Girlfriend say, "All your faves are problematic." Now I hear it so much it should be the official buzzword of women in the post-Trump world.

Kim Kardashian is Problematic. Mixed media on paper, 10" x 8". 2018

The trouble with "problematic" is that it's become a gendered catch-all for anything and everything that we consume whether that's in pop culture or in activism. "Problematic" is a qualifying word, like the way women are trained to say "just", "I think", and "maybe". It's a way to try to soften the blow, to make what we're saying smaller (It's just that what you've said maybe came from a good place, but I think, maybe, there might be a problem with it). We use "problematic" to call things out when we're trying to not sound bitchy, or, you know, like angry feminists.

A problematic work in progress.

American feminism is problematic. Everything we do and everything we bring into our lives or create is problematic. There are two big reasons for this. One is because we're human. Unfortunately, we don't often make room for complicated and muddled good parts and bad parts or for mistakes. Another is that the cause feminists champion--equality--doesn't work well with capitalism; everything we consume in America, everything we need to survive, is privatized, marketed, and capitalized. That's become more of a priority than human lives.

Jessica Jones is Problematic. Mixed media, 12" x 9". 2018

For the last two years I've been thinking about and making work about the problematic aspects of feminism. If you think about it enough, everything has something off about it; sometimes it's really bad, sometimes not, but it's always problematic. I see a lot of good things about movements on behalf of justice, health, safety, and equality, but I also see that our way of calling things problematic can be a snake eating itself. In my most recent pieces, I want people to look at the gendered nature of what's "problematic" and to think more about the problematic issues within our cause for equality and the sanctity of human life.

Brainstorming about "problematic."


Popular Posts