Icons have served causes and campaigns down through the ages, must notably those of a religious nature. Mother Mary statuettes and pictures, crucifixes dangling around necks on chains, saints with haloes and angels with wings have all graced the shelves and personal possessions of adherents. Hindus and Buddhists have had their own rich pantheon of spiritual representations vividly depicted in rich and bright colours. The computer age has seen collections of cute pictograms take iconography to a whole other level in service of the digital realm. Do feminists have icons of their own and have they promoted the matriarchal cause?
Marketing the Matriarchal
The burning bra, although powerfully symbolic in deed and text, was never pictorially well represented during the 1970s. Women depicted with clenched fists and biceps have been seen over the decades. Certain individuals like the Mexican artist Frida Khalo, have more recently become feminist icons. Previously the suffragettes like Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, who led women out of the dark ages of inequality around the turn of the twentieth century, were grainy black and white pictorial symbols of early feminism. Madonna, the pop star, could even be considered a feminist icon of her time.
The original matriarchal icons are the earthy figurines of the goddess, like the Venus of Willendorf statue c. 25 000 BCE, which emphasised the life giving breasts and belly of the female form. Could we see a modern interpretation of this figure becoming a modern day cult icon? Perhaps, Pokémon could invest something into this ancient earth goddess symbol to refresh it in the digital age. The problem with this is that feminism has in many ways been heading in the opposite direction, away from the power of procreation. The birth control pill is more of a modern icon to women of the last few decades.
The idealised female body, is today, more akin to an asexual rendition of a slim young male. Breasts are best kept small and hips not too shapely or curved. The whole child bearing body is a thing of the past when considering female beauty in popular culture. Feminist promotional products could be the can of Mace or pepper spray to ward off potential attacks and domestic violence perpetuated by men. Or, it could be the dildo or vibrator, symbolic of the ability to self-pleasure without the help of the male member. Sex and gender still remain front and centre, even, in these LGBTIQ days and nights.