Guerilla Action

Los Angeles, CA., 1977


Early in the morning we drove to several street corners listed as close to rape sites listed on the maps. We outlined a woman’s body on the sidewalk with red chalk, wrote, “A woman was raped near here…” and gave the date. We left a flower in the woman’s outline. Several months later, we began receiving reports of other women’s groups doing the same thing.

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Public Art Performances

Los Angeles City Hall Mall: Vicinity of the Rape Maps,
Photos taken by Suzanne Lacy, 1977


Four public performances in the City Mall at lunchtime in the vicinity of the Rape Maps. Performed sequentially over four days, each performance took the audience through stages of educating the public on how “rape culture” is ingrained in false beliefs and our social institutions.  The last performance at the closing of Three Weeks In May offered a break-through to empowerment and social action.


View our collection of rape related myths:
Myth vs. Fact

In 1977, I had just returned to LA from living in Germany. While living there I had been creating feminist street performances on issues such as abortion rights. I worked with activist feminist groups. This ultimately defined my practice. Upon my return to the US, I met Suzanne and she invited me to take part in Three Weeks In May. The performances produced were consciously very raw, using symbols of protest, signs, banners and low cost materials for costumes and props so as to be easily re-created. They were staged ‘demonstrations’ as political theatre.
— Leslie Labowitz

Myths of Rape


The first of four public street performances “Myths of Rape” performed by members of the Feminist Art Program atThe Women’s Building. Six women in black and white wearing see-through white gauze blindfolds carried hand painted signs, emulating protest signs with the myths and realities of rape on them. Blindfolds had a dual function of representing society’s  false beliefs about rape while  acting  as a “shield of anonymity” for the performers. The performers marched single file march through the mall while Labowitz handed out a flyer of the myths.  At the end of the march the performers took up positions at sites in the mall. Each performer held positions of self-defense or defenselessness in front of their sign, silent and unmoving.


The Rape


The second performance was performed by Women Against Rape, Men Against Rape.. It represented the “bind” that women who have been raped experience, finding themselves a victim in both the assault and the social institutions established to treat them.  A woman was encircled by performers wearing paper costumes, each representing a social institution painted on it. The cone hats represent the patriarchy. Taken from the Klu Klux Klan and Catholic imagery (Santa Semana pageantry), vigilante behavior permeates this performance as a woman is being sacrificed and silenced.


All Men Are Potential Rapists


Performed by the Los Angeles Men’s Collective, this piece was purposely titled to cause discourse. Since it is primarily men who rape, it is critical to look at the early childhood education of young boys and the effect on their attitudes towards women, It is virtually impossible to isolate children from the the media and advertising that perpetuates the message that violence towards women is acceptable behavior. Male aggression is valued over more “feminine” traits and early childhood toys reinforce this message.


Fight Back


The last performance coincided with the closing rally for the entire project. Hiding under the large cones that have sayings from self defense classes like “gouge eyes” and “turn fear into anger” painted on them, women break free while the women wrapped up is unbound and no longer silenced.



She Who Would Fly

Garage Gallery, Studio Watts Workshop, 1977


A three part performance installation for art and feminist audiences, in the words of the artist Suzanne Lacy:


I sat for several hours on two afternoons listening to women who came to the gallery share their experiences of sexual violation. They wrote their stories on paper and attached them to maps of the US which covered the room.


I was a ritual between myself and four performers, Nancy Angelo, Laurel Klick, Melissa Hoffman and Cheryl Williams, all of whom had direct experience with sexual violence. We prepared the space, shared food and our stories and anointed each other’s bodies with red grease paint.


I was opening the gallery one evening for 3-4 people at a time, who entered and was confronted with a large lamb carcass with wings, suspended between floor and ceiling as if in flight. Moving around the lamb they could read the stories pinned to the map-covered walls. On one wall, a description of her own rape was written by poet and novelist, Deena Metzger. After being in the space, the viewers became aware they were being watched from a perch above the door by four women, nude, bodies stained bright red. Avenging angels, metaphors for a women’s consciousness split from her body as it is raped. The bird-women were intended to remind visitors they were voyeurs to the pain of very real experiences.

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A ten step private ritual performed by the artists to exorcise a sexual assault she experienced shortly before May. She circled her old apartment (the “rape” dwelling) three times for three days, thinking about rape. She did something to make her new home secure for each of five days, dripped menstrual blood on the floor of her kitchen, buried sacred objects around her house, shaved all body hair except head, ate raw fish, drank herb tea, and finished by doing something for her health for five days.

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Performance & Banquet


This banquet evolved as a strategy for bringing together women working in the same area with very different perspectives and politics. Created by Smith and Gaulke, the elegantly served dinner was interspersed with a performance. Liebestod featured images of Chinese footbinding and other restrictions on women’s freedom. For dessert the artists served Cherries Jubilee amidst stimulated flames and the triumphant Wagnerian Liebestod. 



Breaking Silence

Private Studio in Pasadena, CA.


A ritual performance for revealing and transcending the rape experiences of both artists. A selected audience of women were invited to share the ritual. The two women dressed in black, one with a gun, one wrapping herself in white gauze. They moved from violent images into a directed self-healing ritual. The transformation was smooth and effortless, the ritual powerfully exorcising for all.




Closing Ceremony

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We did not move from theory, we moved quite simply… to the secret wounds, and in this sense, we were no longer ‘thinking’ in the way that Western man thinks, in the realm where thought is divided from feeling, and objectively is imagined to exist. We were discovering a different sense of clarity, one achieved through feeling, in which thought followed a direction determined by pain, and trauma, and compassion and outrage.

Yet these small changes in the doing of things were in themselves a feat. And they do herald more to come. Because the making of these small changes changed us. And these changes inside us were not small; we were profoundly different now than we had been before.
— Susan Griffen, Rape: The Power of Consciousness, 1979