Sexism in the art world as bad as ever

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Alessandra Kelley

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http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20131112-the-art-worlds-glass-ceiling

In this article about a retrospective of the work of sculptor Isa Genzken at the MOMA in New York (which itself has gone as long as sixteen years between solo exhibits of women artists), BBC arts reporter Jason Farago discusses the dismal state of the arts world as regards women artists.

... the massive Genzken show (which tours in 2014 to Chicago and Dallas) carries even more weight than usual, because when it opens it will be one of the only full-scale exhibitions by a female artist at any of New York’s most important museums. Thanks to a combination of scheduling accidents and garden-variety sexism, male artists are occupying pretty much every major exhibition space in town, from Christopher Wool at the Guggenheim to Chris Burden at the New Museum and Balthus at the Met.

...

Women’s representation in the art world remains so bad that, on the rare occasions that a show of contemporary art hits gender parity, it actually counts as a news story. The Whitney Biennial of 2010, organized by the Italian curator Francesco Bonami, included 55 artists, of whom just over half were women. It was instantly proclaimed ‘the women’s biennial,’ complete with awkward discussions of allegedly feminine characteristics of painting and sculpture, not to mention a glossy photo shoot in The New York Times’ fashion magazine. But as Bonami correctly insisted, a ‘women’s biennial’ would be one that was 100% women. To include men and women in approximately equal numbers is simply doing one’s job.
 

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Sigh. That's actually one major reason I abandoned a MFA two decades ago. I didn't see that I'd get anywhere near the higher levels of 'fine' art, with both my gender and my craftwork choices stacked against me.

Interestingly enough, in the last 25 years the fine-craft fields have probably reached parity or are at least close. I know of a lot of mid-to-high level female craft artists (in ceramics, mixed-media, fiber, wood, glass, sculpture, bookbinding, etc.) who are award-winners in their field, and major sellers through galleries and trade shows.
 

Alessandra Kelley

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I was going to say it's better in the illustration world, but I just pulled out my copy of "Spectrum 19" and men illustrators in there outnumber women about 5:1.

The weird thing is women generally outnumber men in art schools and art degrees.
 

Polenth

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The article isn't available in the UK (oddly enough). On the general issue, I'm seeing this with my A-level, as it can be hard to find information about women in arts (and people in other respects, such as outside of Europe and America, non-white/PoC, etc.) It's not that they're not out there or that there isn't information, but it's downplayed and they're often not the examples used.

One I came across was researching Orphism / Orphic Cubism. You'd think with a woman (Sonia Delaunay) as a co-founder that more people would talk about her. But they usually talk about her husband, and some sites credited her paintings as being by her husband.

The Tate Modern has had some good exhibits recently though. They do seem to be making an effort to mix it up a bit.
 

Laer Carroll

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The weird thing is women generally outnumber men in art schools and art degrees.

Not weird, actually. The same situation exists in many diverse fields, including science, technology, business, and film.

There are large forces working here, in almost every field.
 

Amadan

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Not weird, actually. The same situation exists in many diverse fields, including science, technology, business, and film.

Women outnumber men in science and technology degree programs? The numbers are less uneven than they used to be, but to my knowledge, those programs are still pretty heavily male-dominated.
 

Laer Carroll

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Women outnumber men in science and technology degree programs? The numbers are less uneven than they used to be, but to my knowledge, those programs are still pretty heavily male-dominated.

The situation is complex and changing.

2008 report

See the following report: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Relevant quotes include these.

The representation of US women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has risen dramatically in recent decades (NSF 2006c). Yet women are still concentrated in certain disciplines, and most professions continue to be sex-segregated (CPST 2004).

At higher levels of STEM education, the percentage of women continues to decline; this is the so-called “leaky pipeline.” For example, though women earn nearly half of mathematics bachelors’ degrees, they earn only 27% of doctoral degrees.

Women are well represented among life science PhDs,approaching equity in agriculture, chemistry and geoscience, and more strongly underrepresented in physics, computer science, and engineering (NSF 2007a).

2012 report

Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2012 for 4th straight year, and outnumber men in grad school 141 to 100.

Women outnumber men in the “soft” sciences. Men outnumber women in the “hard” sciences. See the data tables for specifics.
 

OJCade

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Women outnumber men in science and technology degree programs? The numbers are less uneven than they used to be, but to my knowledge, those programs are still pretty heavily male-dominated.

In New Zealand, according to a 2011 report by the Association for Women in Science, women made up 64% of BSc students. They outnumbered men in everything bar IT and engineering. In health/biological, natural/physical and agricultural sciences they there were more women than men.

Numbers get less good when it comes to postgrad degrees, jobs and salaries, but I'm hoping trickle-up will come eventually.
 

robjvargas

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I have a feeling it's a kind of glass-ceiling side effect. Woman aren't being given as many chances to work to their full potential. I've seen the *effects,* but can't pinpoint the causes. So I apologize, because stating only the effects looks like blaming women. I don't believe that at all.

According to many people women don't feel comfortable asserting themselves in the workplace. My link is a Google search about women asking for raises. But I've seen the same with asking for promotions, for taking on more challenges/projects, and so on.

I want to reiterate that I believe these are symptoms of the problem. Not the problem itself. I don't think it's a "female trait" or anything like that. But where does that come from?

I don't know.
 

Amadan

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I have a feeling it's a kind of glass-ceiling side effect. Woman aren't being given as many chances to work to their full potential. I've seen the *effects,* but can't pinpoint the causes. So I apologize, because stating only the effects looks like blaming women. I don't believe that at all.


I'm very much unconvinced that it's a result of women not being able to assert themselves.

There's probably some glass ceiling effect. Also, the advantage of social connections at the higher levels - what's often called "the good old boys network" but really amounts to the natural tendency to do favors for people you know. With less of an institutional history of women in the workforce and particularly in the upper echelons, there are fewer women at that level able to access it and help others access it. This may be a problem that solves itself over time.

That said, I don't think you can overlook the significant number of women who do drop out of the workforce, or do not pursue the high-powered demand-60-to-80-hour-weeks jobs, for reasons of childrearing. Would a more perfectly balanced society distribute childcare evenly between men and women? Maybe, but I think that's a target, if viable at all, very far in the future.
 

mccardey

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Women’s representation in the art world remains so bad that, on the rare occasions that a show of contemporary art hits gender parity, it actually counts as a news story.

Apparently it's a bit of a thing in the film world, as well...

From the New York Film Academy:
- Of the top 500 films from 2007-2013, only 30.8% of speaking characters were women, and roughly a third of them are shown in sexually revealing attire. Women accounted for exactly 50% of ticket sales.

- There is a 5:1 ratio of men working on films to women

- In the top 250 films of 2012, only 9% of directors were women; women made up 15% of writers, 17% of executive producers, and 2% of cinematographers.
 

Polenth

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Not weird, actually. The same situation exists in many diverse fields, including science, technology, business, and film.

There are large forces working here, in almost every field.

Though the sexism underlying it is the same, the situations are different. You can't solve them in exactly the same way (unless you can wave a wand and remove sexism from society in a general way).

In science, areas with skewed statistics are because they're skewed all the way down. Girls are discouraged from interest in those areas. Women are discouraged from signing up to study them. So by the time you reach the job market, there are few women with the skills to do the job. The barrier is the belief that some subjects are for men and women should avoid them. Even in areas where women are taking over, there's hostility about them taking places away from men, which discourages continuing to the high levels.

In art, girls are encouraged to practise arts right from the start. Many of them sign up to take art education further and this doesn't come with the view that they're taking spaces away from men. There are many women with the professional skills needed to follow an art career. The barrier isn't a belief that women should avoid arts. It's expected for women to get an arts education. The problem is thinking women only practise art as a hobby and are mainly being educated to make them into better housewives.


According to many people women don't feel comfortable asserting themselves in the workplace. My link is a Google search about women asking for raises. But I've seen the same with asking for promotions, for taking on more challenges/projects, and so on.

I want to reiterate that I believe these are symptoms of the problem. Not the problem itself. I don't think it's a "female trait" or anything like that. But where does that come from?

I don't know.

A woman who is assertive is a bitch. A man who is assertive is taking control. There's less drive to be assertive if it'll be used against you. In other words, if a woman asks for a raise, she's more likely to be seen as unreasonable and not get it. She's more likely to get other negative behaviours aimed at her, to put her in her place for daring to ask.

The idea that if only women asked, it'd all work out... that's not how it goes down.

It's interesting listening to Yayoi Kusama's story, because she was known for being very aggressive about getting where she wanted to be. To the point where gallery directors would cross the street to avoid having to talk to her. She had to be assertive to an extent that male artists don't (and was judged harshly for doing so).
 

robjvargas

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I'm very much unconvinced that it's a result of women not being able to assert themselves.

It's very much not. I'm pretty much convinced of that. That's why I called it an effect. As in cause versus effect. I don't know the cause. I think you may be right.

But I don't know.
 

robjvargas

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The idea that if only women asked, it'd all work out... that's not how it goes down.

You understand that I'm not saying that, right?

It's interesting listening to Yayoi Kusama's story, because she was known for being very aggressive about getting where she wanted to be. To the point where gallery directors would cross the street to avoid having to talk to her. She had to be assertive to an extent that male artists don't (and was judged harshly for doing so).

This belief that that minority "has to be" more something to succeed. I'm confused by that. But, as I said, I don't really know the source of the problem, so I'm in no position to criticize it.
 

Polenth

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This belief that that minority "has to be" more something to succeed. I'm confused by that. But, as I said, I don't really know the source of the problem, so I'm in no position to criticize it.

The setting of much higher bars for marginalised people is not rare. But if you want studies rather than anecdotes, one area with a fair few studies is racial bias in hiring practises. The short conclusion of those studies is that non-white/PoC are less likely to get a job than a white candidate with the same qualifications and experience. That means they have to do more than the white candidates to get a job.

There's also the famous orchestra situation, where women miraculously started to be hired more for orchestras once their sex was hidden from the people judging their playing.

I'm sure a Google search will bring up some of those.
 

robjvargas

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It's tough for me to ask the right question about an issue that confuses me like this one. My confusion isn't a doubt about the existence of it.

I'm trying to wrap my head around how it happens. Not succeeding.
 

Mara

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http://www.today.com/money/women-asking-raise-damned-if-you-do-if-you-dont-2D11658374

The gist of the article is that women who don't ask for raises or promotions get paid less. Women who do ask tend to damage their careers because they're perceived differently from men who ask.

I seriously doubt this is a remotely conscious thing, either. It's not some old misogynist chewing on a cigar and grumbling about how women should have never been allowed into the workplace. It's normal people, often including women, who have been subtly indoctrinated with biases against women who act in certain ways. These same people have often been subtly indoctrinated with different biases against people who _fail_ to act that way. And most people aren't very aware of their biases.
 

Laer Carroll

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I seriously doubt this [double-bind for women showing initiative] is a remotely conscious thing, either. It's not some old misogynist .... It's normal people, often including women, who have been subtly indoctrinated with biases against women who act in certain ways.

I hear a lot about how awful men are for criticizing women for being little-boobed/big-boobed, having a big/little bottom, are sluts/stuck-up, etc.

But that pales next to the critical remarks women make about the looks of other women. They wear too much/too little makeup, their clothing is not age-appropriate (40-something Jennifer Aniston/whoever should not dress like a 20-year old), they've had/should have plastic surgery, they're too fat/too thin, their fashions are too radical/too last-year, and on and on.
 

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I seriously doubt this is a remotely conscious thing, either. It's not some old misogynist chewing on a cigar and grumbling about how women should have never been allowed into the workplace. It's normal people, often including women, who have been subtly indoctrinated with biases against women who act in certain ways.

My bold.

I hear a lot about how awful men are for criticizing women for being little-boobed/big-boobed, having a big/little bottom, are sluts/stuck-up, etc.

But that pales next to the critical remarks women make about the looks of other women. They wear too much/too little makeup, their clothing is not age-appropriate (40-something Jennifer Aniston/whoever should not dress like a 20-year old), they've had/should have plastic surgery, they're too fat/too thin, their fashions are too radical/too last-year, and on and on.

Do you see any irony at all in the juxtaposition of your comment and Mara's, Laer?
 

Gale Haut

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But that pales next to the critical remarks women make about the looks of other women. They wear too much/too little makeup, their clothing is not age-appropriate (40-something Jennifer Aniston/whoever should not dress like a 20-year old), they've had/should have plastic surgery, they're too fat/too thin, their fashions are too radical/too last-year, and on and on.

Men also do this. An anecdote: I have heard a few personal stories where a friend was on a date and was told point blank she was wearing too much makeup or trying too hard with her clothes.

It's best to not try too hard to please everyone, but it's damn hard to do when there is constant social pressure ringing in your ears. This kind of thing is impossible for a person to ignore whether she's aware of it or not.
 

StormChord

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How is it ironic? Observing that both sexes respond to social pressure?

I think the irony lay in the fact that Carroll's point had already been addressed by Mara's comment on the social pressures that turn women against one another.
 

Polenth

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I think the irony lay in the fact that Carroll's point had already been addressed by Mara's comment on the social pressures that turn women against one another.

Also Mara was talking about women being judged more harshly for doing something, based on those preconceptions. There's a stereotype of women being catty, so women are judged more harshly when they make judgemental comments about someone's appearance. Men are often overlooked or ignored when they make such comments, as it's taken as being honest rather than catty. Leading to comments that women are the worst of the worst at making comments on the appearance of others, and that men don't really do that.

Except men do make those comments, and they are responsible for media that reinforces that (fashion mags may be aimed at women for the most part, but the fashion industry is largely not run by women). It's just that they're judged differently when they do so.
 

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Except men do make those comments, and they are responsible for media that reinforces that (fashion mags may be aimed at women for the most part, but the fashion industry is largely not run by women). It's just that they're judged differently when they do so.


See, this is the part I don't think should be uncritically accepted. I am familiar with the concept of internalized misogyny, but the idea that all sexism is completely the responsibility of men implies that even when women are doing the policing, they are not free agents (and thus responsible for nothing, and thus capable of nothing). I have read Twisty Faster and I think she's brilliant, but not always meant to be taken literally, and arguments that women are hapless tools of the patriarchy with no agency whatsoever may be appealing constructs, from a certain point of view, but extremely problematic to adopt as a response to actual real-world phenomena.
 

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Also Mara was talking about women being judged more harshly for doing something, based on those preconceptions. There's a stereotype of women being catty, so women are judged more harshly when they make judgemental comments about someone's appearance. Men are often overlooked or ignored when they make such comments, as it's taken as being honest rather than catty. Leading to comments that women are the worst of the worst at making comments on the appearance of others, and that men don't really do that.

Hmm, I have to disagree with the bold. :) As far as I know, whenever a man makes an unkind remark about a woman's looks, the typical response I've seen is a gasp followed by "What an asshole." They're definitely not seen as "catty", but they are seen as assholes.
 
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