"Exhibiting You" - Story

Neither Whores, nor Saints

By: Women in Black
Submitted: 06/16/2008

It was the first day of the summer and one of the hottest days of the year. People were wearing as little as possible, preparing for the sweltering heat of the incoming months. And all the while the Orthodox Church was publicly and vehemently calling on women to stop exposing their bodies and begin covering themselves for modesty's sake.

We were outraged by the Church’s audacity and anachronistic accusations and decided to organize this protest performance on June 21, 2006, in Republic Square, the Belgrade’s main square.

Along with the women from the theatre Dah (Breath) we Women in Black met on the square, wearing long black skirts, layers and layers of shirts, and scarves that covered our hair. We started the performance by walking rapidly and determinately one after another, keeping our eyes on the ground. We were modest, self-conscious, self-contained and timid. We were everything that the Orthodox Church wanted.

Then suddenly, and to the shock of the audience, we began taking off our clothes. We took them off, placed them on the ground and than drew in chalk figures on the pavement to show that women are victims of the patriarchal roles assigned to them.

The intention of the performance was to visually depict the enforced traditional and patriarchal codes that women of Serbia are forced to obey. Women are told how they should dress, move and walk, act and think. Women who accept these rules are considered honest, upright and pure, and might be apotheosized to sainthood by the men in our society.

We who oppose these codes are labeled as immoral, witches, whores and traitors.

But what the Serbian Orthodox Church demands and proposes is ridiculous because it is absolutely in opposition to the practice, daily life and desires of the women in our country. Women have the right to choose autonomy over their own bodies, their emotions, minds and money.

With this performance, and every day through our other events and activities, we are fighting against the blatant simplification of women to their roles as mothers, wives, mothers to the nation and angels in the home.

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