As If: 40 years and beyond – Celebrating the Women’s Art Register
Feminism is trending. Feminism hasn’t achieved equality for women, but it is gaining popularity. Again. People just love to talk. And whine and moan and gossip. Well, that’s women. That’s what women like doing, once we’ve finished the housework and bringing up the kids.
As a political movement, feminism has been incredibly unsuccessful. If feminism had planned on doing a worse job of gaining equal rights for women, it probably couldn’t have managed it. This sounds harsh, but I’m bored and frustrated. I don’t mean to belittle people’s previous efforts, but let’s take an audit of what’s really been achieved for women; remove emotion and intention and be real. With ourselves and each other. We must first admit that feminism hasn’t achieved what it should have for women. Our own optimism is being used against us. The reason why we haven’t gained a better position for ourselves is men. Not all men, just the majority of them.
In the chapter, Facts and Myths, of her book The Second Sex, Simone De Beauvoir writes: ‘Women’s actions have never been more than symbolic agitation; they have won only what men have been willing to concede to them; they have taken nothing; they have received.’ (page 8). In shock, I put the book down for fear that Simone is still right.
The advantages that men enjoy by chance of their gender are still pipe dreams for most women:
Equal pay: ‘no sorry, we can’t do that, it’s complex and you probably wouldn’t understand the math’.
Violence against women and children: ‘sure we’ll work together to try to deal with men’s problems with expressing their emotions in non-violent ways. ‘Your safety is important to us!’ says the male Politician, standing next to the male Chief of Police and the surviving female victim.
Educational opportunities for girls: ‘yes, that looks good, on paper…. Then you read on, and see that women have already, for some time now, outnumbered men at University. This though is not translating into jobs and opportunities in the workplace. ‘It all takes time, be patient’.
Oh, that would be because women take time off from work to have babies. The cost of childcare, well that isn’t really another feminist issue newly invented to curb your enthusiasm for the career you’ve always dreamed of, is it? Men can’t commodify every stage of the entire life cycle can they? No wait, they’ve already done it, and they’re still not happy!
I don’t want to have to advocate for the rights of women. I want men to do it. The assholes.
I don’t want to have to advocate for the inclusion of women in culture. I want society to value female artists.
Men are the ones holding us back and pretending they’re not. Sometimes they employ women helpers to make their meetings and fluff their egos. Men pit women in competition against each other, undermining solidarity. Men, with their delusions of grandeur, telling their funny little stories and being charming. Momentarily getting us to forget our reality. Women’s reality is, that with scant exception since the history of time, we’ve been discriminated against. We’re the world’s biggest ever minority group.
Sometimes I like to waste my time going to talks about art, because I like to pretend I’m an artist. This speaker (I forget his name but he was from New York), he said art is presently based in either Education or in Entertainment. I love to learn, so I thought to begin thinking about art and education. Universities today though, have big problems. Their main problem is with money, now that Government is winding back our investment in learning. Universities have been sold out; they are as compromised as any other business that prioritizes profits over ethics. Unis take money from anywhere, which doesn’t help (hello Rio Tinto).
Universities have problems with letting women run them and sometimes (still) there’s gender equity issues amongst staff. Particularly at the top end, with the big pay packets.
Art schools are a hard thing to regulate. There’s the possibility that an art student is a better artist than their supervisor. Just as well art students are insecure enough to listen almost anything they’re told. That’s why art schools lay the info on thick. It’s a smoke and mirrors scenario, it’ll take them 10 years to work out who was speaking shit.
Artists are so busy being art students and being submissive to their artist art lecturers, they’ve all forgotten nobody outside these Institutions gives a crap about their art. It’s a big problem. And the Museums? Well, apart from programming rich white men (David Lynch, Jean Paul Gaultier, David Bowie, Gilbert and George, Grayson Perry) in extravagant exhibitions, they’re just trying to put on shows that all the mums and dads and the kiddies are going to pay to get into. And not feel robbed. Unfortunately, the art coming out of Uni here is mostly another piece of crap about the lost utopian dreams of modernism. Yawn. And a lot of photos of modernist architecture with no people, no signs of life, left in them. Life can be messy and stuff up a buildings flow.
Art as Entertainment: that’s the future (cue drum roll)! We’ll start with Forbes magazine’s annual Rich Celebrity List. Of the World’s 100 highest paid entertainers, only 16 are women. The combined women on the list make $809m, compared with $4.35bn for the men. It’s not that women aren’t as entertaining as men, it’s that men negotiate business better with each other than with women. Or maybe it’s supply and demand, there’s more demand for entertaining men? Ah, here’s the answer, the female audience don’t have the same budget to blow on entertainment as their male counterparts. The list of entertainment earnings ‘reflects the gender pay gap among both celebrities and the wider society, according to Forbes. The magazine cited national statistics that white women make only 78 cents to every dollar a white man makes while Hispanic women earn 56 cents, black women earn 64 cents, and Native women make only 59 cents. Those numbers mirror those put forth recently by the White House.’
Art and Entertainment, hang on I thought, that’s celebrity, let’s go back to the art world where there’s far more integrity. My best Katie Perry spinning candy cane tittie disk days are probably behind me anyway. Here’s Artnet’s list of the top 10 most expensive living American Artists. And a spoiler, there’s 9 men and 1 woman on the list. Society does not value the work of women artists, not even in America.
1.Jeff Koons 2.Jasper Johns 3.Christopher Wool 4. Brice Marden 5. Bruce Nauman 6. Robert Ryman7. Richard Prince 8. David Hammons 9. Ed Ruscha and finally 10. Cady Noland.
Can’t once, just once, in the history of art, somewhere on this earth, the highest earning living artist be a woman? We’re worth it. This is a reasonable expectation, (unless the art world is as sexist as the rest of society). Damn your sexist tastes in art.
‘Why are women poor?’ asked Virginia Woolf a long time ago, when she wrote A Room of One’s Own (1928):
‘Every Page in my note-book was scribbled over with notes. To show the state of mind I was in. I will read you a few of them, explaining that the page was headed quite simply, Women and Poverty, in block letters; but what followed was something like this:
Conditions in Middle Ages of,
Habits in the Fiji Islands of,
Worshipped as goddesses by,
Weaker in moral sense than,
Greater conscientiousness of,
South Sea Islanders, age of puberty among,
Offered as sacrifice to,
Small size of brain of,
Profounder sub-consciousness of,
Less hair on the body of,
Mental, moral, and physical inferiority of,
Love of children of,
Greater length of life of,
Weaker muscles of,
Strength of affections of,
Higher education of,
Shakespeare’s opinion of,
Lord Birkenhead’s opinion of,
Dean Inge’s opinion of,
La Bruyere’s opinion of,
Dr Johnson’s opinion of,
Mr Oscar Browning’s opinion of…
f generation: feminism, art, progressions, curated by Veronica Caven Aldous, Dr. Juliette Peers and Caroline Phillips
As If: Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon, Saturday 31 October, from 11am, State Library Victoria
Facilitated by Caroline Phillips and Juliette Peers, this is a campaign workshop to improve coverage of women in the arts on Wikipedia, and to encourage female editorship.