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How the Guerrilla Girls Used Ape Outfits to Expose the Art-World Patriarchy

Guerrilla Girl Aphra Behn faces off with a cop (Photo courtesy of Donna Kaz)

Guerrilla Girl Aphra Behn faces off with a cop (Photo courtesy of Donna Kaz)

“You know, after a while, wearing that rubber gorilla mask is really hard,” said Donna Kaz. She was describing one of the stranger realities of her double life. For the last 20 years, Kaz has worked as an artist/playwright deftly navigating the New York City theater world– this was the serious, successful woman I met at a coffee shop in Midtown last week. But for the rest of it, she’s donned a gorilla mask, deterred neither by sweat nor fear of suffocation. (Hell, even furries, the most diehard animal-suit lovers, agree that wearing such restrictive headgear can be punishing.)

The disguise has helped hide her identity, but it’s also served as a way for Kaz and an influential group of women artists known as the Guerrilla Girls, a “secret society” of activists, to assume new ones.

In Un/Masked, Kaz’s new memoir due out November 1, Kaz details her parallel existence as Aphra Behn, a Guerrilla Girl devoted to realizing gender equality in theater and in the art world.

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