The Power of Leaky Women

Week five — ten to go

This week, the Trump administration expanded the pool of immigrants that can be deported to include those charged with any crime (including misdemeanors such as having a broken taillight). Trump also called the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN the enemy of the people. Lastly, the president took away federal protection of transgender students in public schools in allowing them use of bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity.

What is it about the rawness in our bodies that frightens, that awakens a will to police its strangeness? What is it about our points of view that do not allow us to understand that the ruler by which we measure our lives is often not an adequate instrument to measure the lives of others?

This week I checked in with artist Raegan Truax whose 28-day performance Sloughing is on its 18th day. Sloughing is a straightforward piece. In it, women on their periods wear a long button-up work shirt, stand over a plywood board, spread their legs, and for three hours, mark the board with blood. It’s a piece that lives on the simple fact that women bleed every month, and on its face, it shouldn’t be subversive—yet we live in a society afraid of women’s bodies, and so it is.

I saw this performance on its first day. I was mesmerized. For one, I had never seen women “free bleed.” Some boards were dotted in red—deep-wine red, femme-fatale-lipstick red, red going on pink—but one board went unmarked. “I think my period had stage fright,” the performer said later. In Sloughing, the aesthetics of blue-collared shirts and rough wood give the piece its political teeth. Sloughing is women bleeding in the context of labor.

“We were thinking about how you make the non-visible visible, how you aestheticize this right that we’re fighting for, which is the right to bleed, the right to not be regulated,” Raegan said. “It actually speaks to immigration issues, to what’s happening in South Dakota… It speaks to all these things because we’re saying our bodies are heavily regulated and we have to take back space for ourselves.”

Twenty-five women have so far participated in this guerrilla action conceived to disrupt public space and empower women by connecting them to the wonder of their bodies, and this 100 Days Action project has been showcased at Royal Nonesuch Gallery in Oakland and soon at Counterpulse in San Francisco. When I talked to Raegan, she was at Lake Merritt watching alongside Lexi, a close collaborator, as a woman performed. “There’s blood in my car, there’s blood on my fridge where boards have been drying, I’m watching a woman bleed right now—I’m constantly surrounded by this body material. It’s fascinating to me.” When I asked her about how she’s been enduring in the production of this piece, she said, “I have to endure society right now, the piece is actually the sanctuary.”

Raegan’s work takes an interest in time and how the body keeps time. “We’ve been socially conditioned to worry about if we leak, about if we bleed through. So we’re constantly trying to understand our own timing—how long can I leave in my tampon, when will I overflow?” In Sloughing women are instructed to stay silent, so that the only thing they are doing for the duration of the piece is free bleeding. For most participants, it returns them to a childlike wonder. It is quite something to respond to this administration’s desire of heavy regulation of bodies with the most raw energy in women’s bodies.

We at 100 Days Action believe that so long as we refuse to take the word of those whose experience is alien to us regarding their needs and crises, we’ll always respond with inadequate instruments to try to contain the queerness innate to each of us, and we’ll always be on the wrong side of history.

COMING UP

2/27: Eviction Notice by G. Lumumba Edwards, calling for eviction notices to be sent to the White House
2/28: Women’s March Vessels by Sienna Orlando-Lalaguna, asking you to send soil from places where women’s marches took place for the making of ceramic vessels
3/1: 100 Days Walk and Talk, by Astrid Kaemmerling, a one-on-one walk and talk with this artist offering to be your ear for all your political concerns 
3/2: Feet-in-the-ashes, a new poem by Josh Wilson, “Wurst in the train station where I / Bought postcards they were all of the / Fire of 1939 and of the Wall / The ruins of which I stood upon / Oh times change”
3/3: Union of Concerned Stringbandists on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists a square dance to shake your troubles away and raise money for the Union of Converned Scientists
3/4: Sanctuary and Resistance Bicycle Tour by Jessica Tully, a guided tour through Oakland’s historic and quotidian sites of resistance, sanctuary and movements
3/5: A Community Care-in, our official opening at Southern Exposure Gallery! Inviting you to a community potluck and a care-in

ONGOING

Raegan Truax will perform again from March 4–8 at Counterpulse in San Francisco. Find more about Sloughing and specific dates here.