Plenty of pebbles and seashells…

 Lacking in originality, two ordinary blokes important men took it upon themselves to research the contents of women’s handbags and call it art. Pierre Klein, a photographer and videomaker, asked women to empty their bags and proceeded to photograph the contents. Jean-Claude Kaufman, a research sociologist, carried out research on the “secrets”.

Reading the article by Martine Laronche, you get the feeling that this is yet another male fetish dressed up as Very Important Research/Art. Especially when you see that their motivation was a

“Powerful curiosity”, in both cases, compounded by the fact that, as men, “we are brought up with the idea that you don’t look in women’s handbags”

Banal. Boring. Mundane.

IN another classic reversal, men cast women as the sex class. But it is they who are obsessed with sex, the opposite sex and the ins and outs of women’s lives, fetishizing everything about them. Men’s fetishisms, their obsession with sex, means that men see us as nothing more than the personification of “sex” in order to project themselves onto us; but it is they who are the carnal half of the species, not us; men’s lives are sex, not women’s (and yet most of them still don’t know how to do it)

When you read the list of contents, you almost get the feeling they made it up.

“In the one belonging to Chrystel, 33, there is a notebook, a pair of panties, a packet of contraceptive pills, some snaps, a pen, an American dollar, a good luck candle, lipstick, a camera, a toothbrush…”

Cliches abound: “Each object was linked to some anxiety or fear, with a story of its own.” asserts Klein, and he scoffs that women (and I quote) “…hadn’t realised the importance of what was in their bags”.

In a nutshell, women are painted as being trivial and neurotic.

But hidden in the full page article was a gem of a  line, seven words to be exact, which struck me as truly authentic:

“Some items recall happy or particularly intense moments. There are plenty of pebbles and seashells, perhaps a love letter, often photos of loved ones, little notebooks to record fleeting emotions, a phrase found in a magazine, the address of a restaurant, shopping lists, resolutions, the names of books…”

Which stories lie behind those pebbles and seashells? My guess is that the women were alone that precise moment when they decided each shell was worth stooping down for. Or when a beautiful white pebble glinted at them among the grey. Just a guess. Were these women saving the shells for later, to give to a child? To make a necklace? Or were they just hoping to capture a moment? And we must never forget how in tune women are to nature in spite of the marketing messages pounding on our skulls, urging us to do just that…

Do women want to be given sterile diamonds by a lover demanding PIV, or do they want to discover a perfectly formed fan-shaped shell all for themselves on the beach?

Women’s lives are in the background, Mary Daly wrote, and this is where we must weave our revolution.

The razzle-dazzzle of man-found man-cut diamonds represent the foreground; the rough, imperfect beauty of a shell is the background.

In my next post I will try to formulate new words to describe a day in the Background.

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