Executed in 2004, Women in Bubbles is a multi-layered work both in terms of its appearance and its content. Under a veil of colour and decoration beats a powerful and political heart. In this large embroidery, most of the surface is a mesh of multicoloured threads and strands, like some drip painting from the Abstract Expressionists. Yet the fact that this is embroidered, a medium traditionally associated with women and decoration, allows Amer to disrupt the machismo traditionally associated with Ab Ex painting.
As becomes clearer especially towards the top of the embroidery, the surface is littered with the Women in Bubbles of the title. The gradual appearance of these shimmering, half-hidden women through the multicoloured surface reveals that they are all sprawled in erotic and explicit positions. Amer's subject matter blends with her medium to generate a shocking tension: she has depicted a 'pornographic' subject in a traditionally female medium. This cuts to the heart of her investigation into the nature of subjugation, not only as a Muslim woman, but as a woman full stop. Women in Bubbles shows to what extent Amer rejects 'the 'old' feminist attitude toward the female body: women should behave like men and despise make-up, mini-skirts and seduction' (Amer, quoted in L. Auricchio, 'Works in translation: Ghada Amer's hybrid pleasures - needlework art pieces', Art Journal, Winter 2001). For her, masturbation is explicitly linked to pleasure, hence its recurrence as a subject matter in her embroideries. She reclaims women's bodies, and invites them to use and enjoy them. While this highly personal manifesto stems from Amer's own experiences growing up in Egypt, where burgeoning Muslim conservatism saw more and more women concealing themselves under burqas, it also extends to the far wider implications of gender relations throughout the world.