Volume 79, Number 38 | February 24 - March 2, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Villager photo by Lincoln Anderson

Ray Geming, in burkha, and Alice Woodward were part of the protest outside American Apparel on Saturday.

Rear-guard action as red fems protest at Noho store

By Lincoln Anderson

Shouting that “women’s bodies are a battleground,” a group of communist feminists took their fight to the American Apparel store in Noho last Saturday. 

They blasted the chain clothing store’s Search for the Best Bottom in the World contest, calling it humiliating and objectifying to women.

“We need total revolution!” they chanted in front of the store, at Broadway near Washington Place. “Women as breeders — no more!” they shouted. “Women as sex toys — no more! Women degraded — no more!”

They had entered the store first, only to be quickly kicked out.

Wearing a yellow thong over black jeans, Alice Woodward, 28, from Brooklyn, said, “We delivered a message [inside the store] that treating women as disembodied butts and boobs is not acceptable, and women treated as less than human beings is intolerable.”

Two male American Apparel employees acted pretty aggressively to keep the group from protesting in front of the location. They stood in front of the demonstrators, trying to block passersby from seeing them or reading their banner. One of the men asked to see the protesters’ fliers, then flung them on the ground; later on, he snatched away Woodward’s sign while she was acting out a skit, but one of the feisty feminists indignantly grabbed it back and returned it to Woodward.

The sign snatcher had called police, who arrived from the Ninth Precinct and told the protesters they faced disorderly conduct charges, since they couldn’t block entry to the store or impede people from walking on the sidewalk. So the activists started marching back and forth on the pavement.

Ray Geming, 25, wore a black burkha, concealing his face. Facing off with Woodward, they acted out a scene showing that women’s oppression is universal, from Western democracies, like America, to countries with Islamic fundamentalism, like Afghanistan.

“Where you come from, women cut themselves up to look better,” Geming accused through his burkha.

“Yes, but I have a power to entice men with my sexuality — I have a choice,” Woodward responded.

Together they declared, “Anywhere you are in the world, women’s bodies are a battlefield. But it doesn’t have to be this way.”

The protest was actually the kickoff for “From the Burkha to the Thong: Everything Must, and Can Change — We Need Total Revolution,” a nationwide campus speaking tour by Sunsara Taylor. Described by a flier as a “controversial young communist,” Taylor started her tour at New York University’s Cantor Film Center on E. Eighth St. on Tuesday.

Asked if the American Apparel best bottom contest also had a men’s category, the protesters acknowledged it did. But they said they are against disembodied butts, in general, and that the female bottom category symbolized the “subjugation of women.”

Mary Lou Greenberg, a writer/editor and volunteer at Revolution Books on W. 26th St., said she was outraged by the “soft-core porn” images of women on billboards around the city.

 “If a revolutionary movement doesn’t have as a key part the liberation of women, it’s not a revolutionary movement,” she said.

Afterward, the American Apparel employee who had most actively disrupted the demonstrators pretended he hadn’t been involved.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

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