The Survival Series: Men don't protect...
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jtucker's picture


I'm pretty sure Jenny Holzer loathes the notion that women should be waiting for their Prince Charming to come save them.

Plus no self-respecting feminist would boast such antiquated ideas, and there is no doubt that Jenny Holzer is one of the leading feminist artists of our time.

Believe it or not, Holzer has been happily in the same relationship since she met her current husband at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program; aka the launching pad for her career. Anyways, this is where she “acquired him” as she recalls about meeting the man she would spend her life with; yeah, no love at first sight here. Needless to say, this leads me to believe that Holzer is very far from the romantic type, which in turn may inform this pessimistic phrase that can be found on work all over her oeuvre.

“Men Don’t Protect You Anymore” can be found on more objects than this bench at SFMOMA. Rather she has repeatedly used this phrase throughout her career, slapping it on everything from posters to condoms. This phrase first came around as a part of her Survival Series. Holzer launched this series in 1983 as a response to life feeling a bit blasé. In addition to wanting to spice things up, she aimed with this new series “to support things that are helpful to people and maybe bash what I think is dangerous.” Thus park benches, billboards, and even pencils became canvases through which to project ideals such as ''YOU ARE TRAPPED ON THE EARTH SO YOU WILL EXPLODE'' and ''IF YOU HAD BEHAVED NICELY THE COMMUNISTS WOULDN'T EXIST." Are these the crazy ramblings of an off-hinged conspiracy theorist or the eloquent ideas of a visionary artist? You decide, for surely her doomsday beliefs can be interpreted either way.

While Holzer generally prefers to remain as anonymous as possible when it comes to her work, she created her Survival Series in an attempt to apply a more personal and urgent tone to her work. With this being the case, it leads me to believe that either her love life has been filed with major letdowns or she really is just one strong independent woman.




  1. Glueck, Grace. “And Now, a Few Words from Jenny Holzer”. The New York Times. December 3, 1989. Accessed September 20, 2017.
  2. Lewine, Edward. “Art House.” The New York Times. December 16, 2009. Accessed September 28, 2017.
  3. “Jenny Holzer”. Art History Archive - Biography and Art. Accessed September 20, 2017.
  4. “Jenny Holzer”. The Art Story. Accessed September 20, 2017.
  5. “Jenny Holzer.” The Tate. Accessed September 28, 2017.
  6. “Untitled (Men Don't Protect You Anymore).” Kemper Art Museum. Accessed September 28, 2017.