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Against Our Will

As part of the feminist movement of the 1970s, female artists began consciously using their works to challenge social conceptions and the legal definitions of rape and incest and to shift the dominant narrative of violence against women. In this dynamic book, Vivien Green Fryd charts this decades-long radical intervention through an art-historical lens. Fryd shows how American artists such as Suzanne Lacy, Leslie Labowitz, Faith Ringgold, Judy Chicago, and Kara Walker insisted on ending the silence surrounding sexual violence and helped construct an anti-rape, anti-incest counternarrative that remains vibrant today.

She looks at how second-wave feminist artists established and reiterated the importance of addressing sexual violence against women and how their successors in the third wave then framed their works within that visual and rhetorical tradition. Throughout, Fryd highlights specific themes-rape and incest against white and black female bodies, rape against white and black male bodies, rape and pornography-that intersect with other challenges to and critiques of the sociocultural and political patriarchy from the 1970s through the present day. Featuring dozens of illustrative works and written by an art historian who is a scholar of PTSD and herself a survivor, this groundbreaking and timely project explores sexual violence as a discrete subject of American art with open eyes and unflinching analysis.

Against Our Will challenges the reader to serve as witness to the trauma in much the same way as the works Fryd studies.