Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party (1979) was an effort by the artist to metaphorically bring women to the table of history. In order to do this, she crafted porcelain place-setting portraits of famous female historical figure's vaginas, and organized them on a triangular table with 13 such settings on each side (a reference to covens).
My problem is the fact that responding to essentialism with essentialism/ to objectification with objectification/ to oppression with reactionary efforts at counter-oppression, while a valid expression of frustration at the time, did little to disrupt the fundamental polarization of "men" versus "women". Much of the feminist art of the 70s actually underscores and affirms gender division in service of a kind of "getting even" notion of empowerment/ equality. Celebrating uniquely female experiences was and is important and I understand the appeal of a notion of womanhood/femininity defined by women, but the fact remains that any definition of femininity versus masculinity reduces and limits every single human being to an identity rooted in expectations related to their biological sex. As long as this kind of thinking is perpetuated, no one will escape the sort of oppression that the core of feminist ideology seeks to deconstruct/ overcome.
We live in a socially constructed world, populated by insecure, wayward people who just want to be accepted and understood. It's easy to allow a label to do the work of determining our social standing/ capacities for us--the day we are born, the world begins defining us, indoctrinating us into our presumed roles (penis gets a blue blanket, vagina gets pink; penis gets toys rooted in action and violence, vagina gets toys rooted in passivity and domesticity). But it's up to us to decide which expectations we are willing to accept, and it's important to pay attention to how complacency or rebellion have the capacity to shape society at large. Second wave feminism, all faults considered, got people talking about gender roles, and vastly expanded the narrow definition of what a woman could be/do/think/feel. The fact that we still correlate behavioral expectations with someone's genitals (or skin color, or any other characteristic we use to other one another) proves, however, that there is still vast room for improvement.
War Is Over! If You Want It (1969). It resonates for me because of the implication of the power we have to shape our own society/ of the fact that our society is inherently shaped by us. Things are the way they are because we agree to it. The "rules" we follow come from us, from other human beings just as flawed and imperfect and misguided in their attempts to understand and be understood. No one ultimately knows what the fuck they're doing or talking about, so why do we tell ourselves lies like "this is just the way things are" or "it's out of my hands"? Why are we so content to fall back on fate or god or faceless authority figures and ideologues everywhere to determine our lives? Deciding not to take it anymore is the only way for things to change. Our power lies in our capacity to refuse what we're given. Binary thinking is over if we want it! It only continues to exist because we allow it.