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Portland Protester and the Power of the Female Nude

Updated: Jan 12


Portland protester, photographed by Dave Killen, Oregonlive.com and a 12th Century sheela na gig carving from the Church of St. Mary and St. David, Kilpeck, Herefordshire, England, courtesy wikipedia.com.


An as-yet unidentified nude female protester who held off a line of federal officers in Portland Oregon has been dubbed “Naked Athena” in Portland’s The Oregonian, but at least one of her poses places her in the sheela na gig tradition, proving the continuing apotropaic power of female genitalia in the 21st Century United States.


According to an article in The Oregonian, the protester, wearing only a hat and mask, presented herself in the street in front of a line of camouflaged and riot gear-bearing federal officers, doing ballet, and at one point sat on the concrete spreading her legs in a sheela na gig attitude. The internet has dubbed the woman “Naked Athena” but I think sheela na gig is more appropriate as I don’t know of any references to Athena baring herself.


The officers did shoot pepper ball bullets at the woman’s feet, but did not approach and “within ten minutes” they withdrew from the area.


A sheela na gig is a type of medieval grotesque to be found in architecture (even churches) throughout Europe. The carvings are of a woman with an exaggerated vulva baring her genitalia to the viewer. The exact purpose of the carvings are not known, but they are believed to have been meant to ward off evil. In this case in Portland, it seems to have at least warded off men intent on violence.


Link to original article:

https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2020/07/the-story-behind-the-surreal-photos-of-portland-protester-naked-athena.html

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