Helène Aylon is an Activist Artist whose work has been shown in MoMA, the Whit­ney and the Warhol muse­ums. Her mem­oir, pub­lished by the Fem­i­nist Press, is called What­ev­er is Con­tained Must Be Released: My Jew­ish Ortho­dox Girl­hood, My Life as a Fem­i­nist Artist. She will be blog­ging here this week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

Remem­ber the bed­time sto­ry about the sly wolf propped up in Red Rid­ing Hood’s grandmother’s bed? Lit­tle boys must have cringed in fear then, but for some in ado­les­cent years, the big bad wolf became the per­sona of the big bad guy who is tick­led pink” scar­ing females and mak­ing them uneasy. In the fifties, it was a com­mon prac­tice for street guys to give their joc­u­lar wolf calls” at the sight of a pret­ty girl walk­ing by; the girl would pre­tend not to hear the obscene wolf call” has­ten­ing away, as the guys chuckled 

At how they were put at their dis-ease” — the late Mary Daly’s term for the dis­ease of machismo.)

Then there’s the bull, forced to pro­vide the cru­elest the­ater, the bull­fight. Picas­so’s self-por­traits as a bull are lust­ing – he’s the stud goad­ing the bull to fight; he is half bull charg­ing crazi­ly with­in the spotlight. 

The cock­fight is a spec­ta­tor sport that sets up two cocks to fight each oth­er vicious­ly. The cock is regard­ed by the macho mind­set as the aggres­sive fowl amid the flur­ry of moth­er hens and duck­lings. But in real­i­ty, the cock is mere­ly a roost­er that her­alds a new morn­ing much as the Robin Red Breast her­alds the spring. The poor cock — not only because of the cock­fights; it is the cock’s mis­for­tune to be bestowed with the per­verse hon­or of hav­ing male gen­i­tals linked to its name.

In jux­ta­po­si­tion to the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with ani­mals that the macho male per­ceives as sav­age beasts, his pro­jec­tions onto domes­tic ani­mals reveal his misog­y­ny. If a macho male does not like a wom­an’s face, he calls her a dog. If she can answer back, she’s a bitch. If he can’t han­dle her preg­nant body, she’s a cow. If she’s an elder, she’s an old crow. If she’s young, she’s a chick. And for his plea­sure, she may become a Play­boy Bun­ny or land in a cathouse.

Yes, the sick fan­tasies of machis­mo – the con­niv­ing, plun­der­ing, killing and rul­ing are pro­ject­ed onto the mys­ti­cal ani­mals and birds in the nat­ur­al world. After all, male enti­tle­ment is a giv­en, pre­scribed in the bible: Let man have domin­ion of his skies with its inhab­i­tants, the earth with its inhab­i­tants.” There is no oth­er recourse for human­i­ty except to leap over the decay­ing abyss of machis­mo to land on new ter­rain – a new­born fem­i­nized uni­verse like the first Par­adise – that is, until Cain killed Abel. And let’s bring back the 80s slo­gan when we called for a nuclear freeze, chant­i­ng, take the toys away from the boys.”

Read more about Helène Aylon here.

Helène Aylon was a visu­al, con­cep­tu­al, instal­la­tion per­for­mance artist and eco-fem­i­nist whose art has been exhib­it­ed at the Whit­ney Muse­um and the Jew­ish Muse­um both in New York among many oth­ers. She knew and worked with many major artists and writ­ers, includ­ing Ana Mendi­eta, Grace Paley, Ad Rein­hard, and Mark Rothko. She con­tin­ued to cre­ate new art and exhib­it through­out the Unit­ed States and else­where until her death in 2020.