In a world where women are going highly overboard with the concept of feminism – where sex toys are being bought as a mark of independence and men would almost curse writers like Virginia Woolf for being amongst the first to stimulate the idea, it becomes vital to revisit the concept. And if there is anyway one can make sense out of it, it is by getting to know one contemporary artist who forged an identity in her paintings- Frida Kahlo.
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is one of the most famous woman artists of all times. Born in Coyoacán, Mexico, Kahlo’s work is remembered best for being emblematic of national tradition and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female form.
Frida’s art depicts her struggle in a subtle yet blunt manner. Her art dealt with issues related to conception, abortion, gender roles and strength in a manner that back in those days, one would love her for being frank about issues she really felt for without making a hue and cry out of it. Her paintings and her life are a story of self-discovery and self-determination. She transcended everything: cultural norms, taboo subjects, her own physical limitations and feminine beauty ideals as she never got rid of that extra facial hair. And if you really notice, it wasn’t because she wanted to get out there and prove to the world how womanhood was awesome and how she had the power to compete with men. It was because she was herself. Her paintings seem to tell you – “well yeah, this is what I feel and this this is what I think – deal with it.” She painted for herself. Her paintings are her diary. Her personal experiences became serious subjects of art and because of the intense and honest content, her work knew no gender boundaries. She managed to address issues without having to let anybody else down or let her ego come in the way. Kahlo was fanatically religious, very calculative and even cruel and mean, which was not like the other women of her times. She was just what she was; unwilling to hide her true colors and her thoughts. She played by her own rules. She did not need a mirror or a society to show her who she was. She knew it, and she knew it well. Through her acts of love for her husband Riviera, she constantly advocated for both sexes. The fact that she needed him was not hidden. He wasn’t her weakness but her inspiration. She once wrote to him: “I love you more than my own skin and even though you don’t love me the same way; you love me anyway, don’t you? And even if you don’t, I’ll always have the hope that you do. Love me a little. I adore you.”
Even though she wouldn’t be considered as a feminist by today’s standards, which are desperate more than anything else, her acts have inspired countless other women to be themselves. And that should be feminism, if anything. It is to rise above yourself without having the ego to side-line the other gender in an attempt to prove being self-sufficient just for the heck of it.