"Since the days of Roe v. Wade, the pro-choice movement has presented images of feminists, coat hangers and dead women to represent reproductive rights," said local artist Heather Ault. "Now is the time for a broader and more dynamic visual campaign."
Ault, a graphic artist, caught the attention of activists and artists alike in 2010 with her poster exhibition "4000 Years Of Choice." And now, for the first time it's coming to San Francisco.
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In "4000 Years Of Choice," a collection of bright, colorful posters that look more like vintage Tropicana ads than a reproductive rights campaign, Ault shatters the concept that birth control and abortion need be something shameful, pointing to its fascinating history instead.
"We will not win the war on women if we don't end the shame and stigma surrounding abortion that is perpetuated by the anti-choice movement," she told The Huffington Post. "Rather than always talking about women's rights in war-like terms such as 'struggling, fighting, and defending,' we need to embody a historical perspective that celebrates our collective victories."
Ault began the project when she learned about the history of birth control and abortion.
"Most people believe that reproductive control is a recent 'invention' or 'idea' that developed as a result of the feminist movement,"she said. But in her studies, she discovered evidence of birth control methods reaching back 4,000 years. "Reproductive control is inherent to all human societies and a fundamental human desire."
Thus, her posters show pictures of Casanova, Emma Goldman, Augustine of Hippo and ancient North African tribal rituals alongside fun facts about their approaches to reproductive control.
Methods include contraceptive herbs, vaginal "fumigation" using steam, lemon halves as cervical caps and the world's first condoms -- 18th century sheaths made from animal membranes.
"These techniques did not always work," explained Ault. "But the evidence of them does show that people have been desiring to control reproduction for a very long time."
Since introducing her collection, her posters have been displayed at colleges, social justice conferences, the Choices Women's Medical Centerin New York, and now, Alley Cat Books in San Francisco.
"Pro-life activists argue that abortion can somehow be prayed away in an attempt to return to traditional values. Rather, abortion has existed and always will," said Ault. "Women from every culture around the world have maintained a tradition of preventing pregnancies and childbirth with the wisdom passed down to them by their foremothers. As a traditional human practice, abortion is at the root of women's empowerment, dignity, and self-determination."
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