Female wallpaper


Years ago, during my angry period (circa 8BR, Before Responsibility), I worked on a project with two other women and a group of men. I used to call us the “female wallpaper” to my two colleagues and they would get uncomfortable and look the other way.

We were marginalised and trivialised, and endured regular sexual intimidation enforced by threats, both covert and overt. What I didn’t see at the time was that I had a choice. It might have looked like I didn’t – “oh, if I complain or resist, I’ll be let go” – but it wasn’t actually the case. I could have left at any time and gotten another job. The truth, which, in my angry righteousness, was obscured from me, was that I preferred the harassment to the inconvenience and cost of having to get another job.

Earlier this year, I met one of the women from the project for the first time in many years. I think I was a disappointment to her. “What happened to you?” she said. “You used to be the gutsiest woman I’d ever met”. I told her “What you call gutsy I call rage”. “Oh sure, you’re not angry anymore”. She remained unconvinced, however, about the merits of this, and I let her be with her opinion. Like the lines from Holderlin’s poem I posted a few days ago, not everyone is pleased when one discovers responsibility:

Why did you like me more
when I was prouder and wilder, more full
of words, yet emptier?


The following short film called Il Corpe delle donne (Women’s bodies) by Italian filmmaker, Lorella Zanardo, has been watched in horror by millions of women around the world. I just learnt of it today. If you are a woman and haven’t yet seen it, watch it and weep. Then take hold of your life with both hands and don’t let go.

Warning: The film is confronting and disturbing. It is also not for men. It is neither for men, nor about men. It is about women and the radical disavowal of responsibility, the profound unwillingness to be at the source of our lives.




15 thoughts on “Female wallpaper

  1. Why do some husbands like it better when their way is the only way? This has been the case for thousands of years. If women continue to be so agreeable all the time, we will never get the respect we are due. You are right—gutsy and rage are two different sides of the coin. But it’s hard to relent sometimes. Good blog.


    • Here’s how I see it. The person doing the dominating is deeply frightened by the experience of their human vulnerability. He or she dominates to fleetingly avoid experiencing it.

      The person who allows the dominating is also deeply frightened by the experience of their human vulnerability. When it’s a woman allowing her husband to dominate her, she does it so she can avoid having to be responsible for her life. She fears she could not handle it, would not be able to fulfil on it, if she were responsible for her life.


  2. I can’t put into words how much that video has stayed with me over the almost 24 hours since I watched it. I want every woman everywhere to see it. Thank you for sharing it.


  3. Powerful stuff. I was struck by the “surfboard”, by the way the women tried to preserve their modesty in spite of the way they were dressed, which made it impossible to preserve their modesty.

    I lived through the late sixties, when my peers and I, women at university at that time, took off our makeup and stopped sleeping with rollers in our hair. Then, I lived through the late seventies, when oil prices zoomed and people began buying smaller cars, or taking public transportation, or walking. How disappointing, these many years later, to see women all dolled up, driving around in their SUVs. I am no prude: I have drawn the human body in life drawing classes. Curiously, I have found that to be sacred space: there is no titillation, no embarrassment; there is just admiration for the truth that is before us and the hard work of trying to capture it on paper.

    As the video makes clear, the reason for my disappointment is clear: you only have to follow the money. The oil industry, the automotive industry, the cosmetics industry: these are the interests that are being served.


    • I’m glad you used the word sacred. This is what this video represents to me. Women desecrating, desacrilising their being, their humanity. The filmmaker says somewhere in it about “it must leave a scar on the woman’s soul”. Much more than a scar, in my view.

      About the interests that are being served .. there’s always going to be someone benefiting from womens’ unwillingness to be responsible for their lives. You could wipe out the oil industry, the car industry, the cosmetic industry and others would spring up in their place. The condition of possibility for women being used is the unwillingness to be responsible. Transform that and everything changes.


      • Yes, I agree with you about the unwillingness to be responsible; however, this is a stance that only arrives with maturity (and I don’t mean age). For young women (and young men, as well), the stuff that comes at them every day on the television is forming their attitudes. It operates on an unconscious level. It is telling them what is right and what is wrong. It hands them a moral compass that has gone awry. I can remember my husband telling our children over and over: “don’t believe what you see on TV. People cannot be hit over the head again and again and then get up and walk away.” We all need to do what you’re doing. We need to say, “the Emperor has no clothes”.


  4. Sadly, the Italian women represents all of us. Unfortunately, we observe ourselves thru the eyes of other women, as well. We are brainwashed into thinking we need to cut, plump, pump, diet, suck in, and have GIGANTIC boobs ….. rather than use our brains.

    Just look at the video of Miley Cyrus this week. What a damn damn damn shame. xx


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