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The Rachel Report

Chicago’s bawdy night in Brooklyn

Feminists take that stage for the Sackler Center First Award at the Brooklyn Museum

Feminist fun: Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak (left) with Judy Chicago Photo: Jerry Speier for the Brooklyn Museum

As the authors of the classic feminist health book Our Bodies, Ourselves took the stage at an award ceremony to receive a Sackler Center First Award at the Brooklyn Museum last month, a woman in the audience shouted, “You taught me how to masturbate!” The outburst capped a night that was outspokenly ribald from start to finish. Judy Chicago, the evening’s guest of honour, kicked things off when she recounted the story of putting on her play Cock and Cunt at Womanhouse, the feminist art space she co-founded with Miriam Schapiro in 1972. In the play, a husband and wife fight about who’s going to do the dishes. “This was a time when issues around housework were really hot,” Chicago explained. “So the wife asks her husband: ‘Will you help me do the dishes?’” Chicago said in a shrill voice. “Then the husband shrieked back: ‘Why should I help you do the dishes, because your cunt is shaped like a dish?!’ Then the wife screamed back even louder: ‘Will you help me do the dishes!’” As this went on back and forth, it occurred to us in the audience that such a dialogue could be the aesthetic origins of Chicago’s most famous work The Dinner Party, which is permanently installed at the museum.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 296 December 2017