Re: [-empyre-] geuzennamen

Hi Renee
Very briefly...Peaches did come out to Australia in 2004 at a big day out concert. Briefly my memeories of it was she was in usual form but there was little likely hood of gettng up close to the stage to see her performace as the first several rows consisted of fairly drunk guys, akin to a football pack. I do appreciate what she aims to achieve as an artist but I think it was lost on that particular day-it all seemed a tad sad when I overheard a comment from one guy to another 'she's ugly but it's a pair of tits'. They really did not seem interested in her performance. I'm not trying to say anything here just relaying a memory.


----- Original Message ----- From: "Renee Turner" <>
To: "soft_skinned_space" <>
Sent: Friday, October 20, 2006 9:16 PM
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] geuzennamen

Hi blakkbyrd and everyone on Empyre,

I appreciate your skepticism, and to address your questions, I'll have to do a little backtracking. Our name De Geuzen, is a historical one. It has its roots in the Spanish occupation in the Netherlands during the 16th century. The Geuzen were those who resisted the Spanish, and the Spanish "gave" them the derogatory title which was the equivalent of 'rogue' or 'beggar.' But over time, the resistance took that negative name and started to see it as a badge of pride. It went from being a name they were *given* to a name they *appropriated* and which was re-inscribed through their actions and context. Today, the word, geuzennaam is still used in the Dutch language whenever disparaging terms are re-appropriated as a badge of pride. (I saw you were writing from Amsterdam, so maybe you already know this, but it might be useful to others on the list :-)

Tracey used the term* queering the language*. And in fact, this kind of appropriation is key to *queer* studies and theory. Someone else brands you, but you reappropriate the title for your own devices while still carrying its histories and connotations. Also, it happens within pop-culture all the time and is closely related to drag. Think of someone like Peaches (in English, everyone knows this is not just referring to fruit) or Hole (which is not just a place Alice in Wonderland fell down) or Madonna who adorned a t-shirt with the words, snatch. These kinds of flips are something talked about extensively in Dick Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979) and brought into a more gender based context with Judith Butler's writing. Both of which, have directly and indirectly, informed our thinking.

Basically, the collection of geuzennaam (it is an older thread in our work) grew out of our own desire as women to explore our stereotypes. (it's connected to our uniforms and the paperdolls) And the project started out simple, as a circulating list of words being added to and translated across different languages amongst women. It was a catalyst for discussion. Some words known by older women had faded out of use. To be a bluestocking or crumpet, is not so common any more. So, the list is a kind of changing sociological portrait.

And the t-shirts were first done at a Do-it-yourself exhibition. We simply had the list of words on sticky back vinyl, shirts, an ironing board and a label with the Geuzennaam definition which could be sewn on. The women who were there immediately got it, and while pilfering through cloth and words, you would hear things like "oh this is mine"...or " no this one... this one is even better". They chose for themselves . And we were able to explore ideas of stereotypes, cliches and "hurtful names", in a way which we never could have, if we said: "Now, lets talk about how women have been disparaged through words." But at the same time, that is exactly what we were discussing while making our shirts and simultaneously bringing those words into our temporary possession.

And as the set of t-shirts went online, other things happened. We had an Amsterdam gay teen magazine contact us about featuring the t- shirts in their magazine. And again another trope, these words are not just about women but cross over into other marginalized territories.

*Ryan* maybe this is also connected to your notion of subrational And this idea of leaving questions....allowing for a slippage... at once implicating and being implicated, and most of all, an element of play. I guess this work raises the question, do we banish this terminology or open it up, hold it in plain view and continually re- define it? While I understand some people prefer the former (it is a perspective we are familiar with), we have opted for the latter.

Regarding the legal issue you raise, I don't know that much about Australian law. Someone Australian might be better suited to discuss the law there, than me. Does anyone know if Peaches, or Hole have been on tour there ;-)

all the best,


From: Renee Turner <>
Subject: [-empyre-] Tactics and Strategies

Or another example, we have been archiving the negative names for women over several years (ranging from the virgin to the whore) and have turned them into a set of T-shirts sold in our webshop. Our net stats show us that people often come to our site because they are searching for porn. (their keywords reveal them ;-) And oddly enough, they linger. We actually get teenagers that email us because they want to add to our list of words, or they want to buy a T-shirt. (sorry this project is in Dutch but hopefully you get the idea: ) In a way, through mis- recognition and the vernacular of the web, our work can move across unfamiliar territories or finds itself viewed in unconventional registers.

Dear Renee

I've looked at this project and would like some more information, please.

How is it empowering for women to have you collect insulting terms for women from teenage boys and then market the results on teeshirts? Please direct me to the appropriate feminist theory.

I'm also intrigued how you would propose getting such an 'artwork' past Australia's anti vilification and anti-discrimination laws?

This looks like a red light district tourist trap to me.

[from amsterdam]

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