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Sexism in the art world as bad as ever

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StormChord

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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.

I doubt that what she said was a blanket statement, and there are a lot of absolutes in your interpretation that weren't there in the original comment.
 

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Nope. Both statements are true.

Let's look at them again:

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.

Here, Mara points out that people have been "subtly indoctrinated with biases against women".

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.

Here, you say that women are far more critical of other women than men are, or that women are nastier in the ways they criticise each other.

It seemed to me, when I read your post, that you were making a sexist claim of your own.

It might be true of the women you hang out with but it's not true where I spend my time, nor do I think it's the case at AW, for example.

It's a claim I've often seen made, but I don't think it's true. I've never seen any evidence to support it and it's often used to support sexism, or to evade accusations of sexism ("you think that's sexist? have you heard what women say about each other?"), so it does ring alarm bells for me.

Bearing in mind that this is a thread about sexism, which started with a quote about how poorly represented women are in certain areas, it seemed odd to me that anyone would make such a statement; it seemed odder to me that no one else had questioned it. And when I compared your statement to Mara's I started thinking about the sort of conditioning which would lead to it. Does that help clarify what I meant?

As for your assertion that "Both statements are true", I strongly disagree. I think Mara's right that many people have been "subtly indoctrinated with biases against women"; and I think that your suggestion that women are more critical of other women than men are, or are more spiteful in their criticisms, is an example of that subtle indoctrination.

Apologies if I'm rambling: a lack of sleep and strong medication are combining to give me brain-fog this morning. Let me know if you'd like any clarification and I'll do my best to provide it.
 

Amadan

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As for your assertion that "Both statements are true", I strongly disagree. I think Mara's right that many people have been "subtly indoctrinated with biases against women"; and I think that your suggestion that women are more critical of other women than men are, or are more spiteful in their criticisms, is an example of that subtle indoctrination.


That A may be the cause of B does not mean B is untrue.

If you look in popular media (or listen to everyday conversations), it's pretty evident that women police the appearance of other women more zealously than men do. I am not saying this isn't sexism in action: I can think of many other misogynistic practices that are largely enforced by women. Is the root cause men who set it up that way? Maybe. I am not entirely convinced on that point, but in any case, it doesn't negate the fact of women being critical of other women.
 

JamesBaldwin

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There's definitely problems with sexism in the industries that hire artists: videogames, movies, comics, etc. Just the sexism that you hear and see in Cons these days - there's this perception that 'real' artists and geeks are always men. It's ridiculous.

I think generally that women are raised to be creative as a hobby. When men take to the arts, its seen as commitment to a profession. I've experienced both sides of the fence (long story, there), and have noticed the difference.
 

StephanieZie

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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 is so true, and it permeates through all different sorts of careers. Women consistently have to speak louder to be heard, and when they finally are, everyone wonders what they're yelling for.
 

kuwisdelu

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I think generally that women are raised to be creative as a hobby. When men take to the arts, its seen as commitment to a profession.

I wish I'd been raised like that. Maybe then I'd have been brave enough to commit to the arts and I'd be published by now.

I absolutely agree that the industry is biased toward men. But I do tend to see into far more girls than guys in creative writing classes.

And then I think to myself, "why wasn't I as brave as those girls?"
 

Alessandra Kelley

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I wish I'd been raised like that. Maybe then I'd have been brave enough to commit to the arts and I'd be published by now.

I absolutely agree that the industry is biased toward men. But I do tend to see into far more girls than guys in creative writing classes.

And then I think to myself, "why wasn't I as brave as those girls?"

But I think that's true overall in the arts, that there are far more women than men taking classes.

It was certainly true at my art school, and at every art school I've seen.

Men still get most of the actual jobs after graduation.
 

Friendly Frog

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I absolutely agree that the industry is biased toward men. But I do tend to see into far more girls than guys in creative writing classes.
Reminds me of the archaeology courses in the local university. Three quarters of the students in class and on the dig-sites are girls. But when you look at any of the paid or tenured positions in the archaeology department? Almost exclusively men.
 

StormChord

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Reminds me of the archaeology courses in the local university. Three quarters of the students in class and on the dig-sites are girls. But when you look at any of the paid or tenured positions in the archaeology department? Almost exclusively men.

I suspect that's because it's a lot harder for women to be allowed to advance to higher positions. It gets more and more skewed the higher you go in the power structure.

Hopefully, soon enough there'll be enough of us that the folks up top have no choice but to let us in… :D
 

Alessandra Kelley

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I suspect that's because it's a lot harder for women to be allowed to advance to higher positions. It gets more and more skewed the higher you go in the power structure.

Hopefully, soon enough there'll be enough of us that the folks up top have no choice but to let us in… :D

That's what I thought at your age, dear. :/

Clearly the pressure of numbers is not enough.
 

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I used to think the same. And I'm older than you, Alessandra.
 

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I don't know if this will be an unpopular opinion or not, but there also have to be more women out there dedicating their lives to art. Fighting for it.

You can be a good librarian and have a life. I'm not sure you can be an artist at the top of the pile and nurture other relationships, children, life balance. You may have to risk being poor. You may have to abandon your life to grab onto that chance for a fellowship, an installation. You may have to dedicate your evenings to networking within the arts community. You have to throw your time and emotional energy into the work itself. You may have to selfishly hold back from nurturing other artists (I've so often seen female artists teach—which is wonderful, but what if the time could have been used creating that one perfect work.)

I've seen so many interviews of older actors who said they were gone from their children's lives, their wives raised the kids. Maybe they got a chance with their bonus family.

Yes, I know there is systematic sexism. Women are being overlooked in these exhibitions. But another of the changes we have to make as a society is supporting women who want to dedicate themselves completely to their passion. The interview shouldn't always have to include, "You made the choice not to have children ..."
 

Roxxsmom

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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.

Women and men are pretty equal in terms of degrees, even doctorates, in the biological sciences. But men still get more of the tenure track positions at prestigious research-focused universities.

Physics and engineering still have more male students at both the undergraduate and graduate level, though there are more women doing these things than there once were. Again, the percentage of women who go on to win tenure track positions at research universities is lower.

All kinds of reasons for this that don't relate to the ability of women overall. I don't know whether similar reasons would explain the discrepancy in the arts, though.

You may have to abandon your life to grab onto that chance for a fellowship, an installation. You may have to dedicate your evenings to networking within the arts community. You have to throw your time and emotional energy into the work itself.

I'd think the poverty thing would be more of a turn off to men as a group. Historically, men tend to turn away from lower-paying professions, because it was perceived to be the man's job to support his family.

It's true, though, that any profession that requires years of long days and lots of burning the midnight oil (like academia too) will force women to make a difficult choice that their male counterparts don't have to make.

Men can marry a younger partner and start their family later (or rely on their partner to provide the bulk of the child care), so they don't have to be so torn between family and professional development during those critical years in their twenties to late thirties.

We still don't refer to a man who has a high-status profession along with a family as "having it all. And interviewers don't seem to ask male researchers, artists, writers etc. with high profile careers what kind of a toll their success has taken on their family life as often as they do women.

Yes, I know there is systematic sexism. Women are being overlooked in these exhibitions. But another of the changes we have to make as a society is supporting women who want to dedicate themselves completely to their passion. The interview shouldn't always have to include, "You made the choice not to have children ..."
No arguments here. But I wonder if this is something that's ever going to happen in the US, given our general mistrust of social programs and government support for things that we don't see as very, very practical. Even scientific research gets fingered a lot of the time for being "too esoteric or theoretical to be worth taxpayer dollars," never mind that applied research always builds from theoretical foundations.

We take a lot of pride in our "rugged individualism" and practicality here. Countries that have done a better job than we have at closing the wage and achievement gap between the sexes across professions tend to be more socialized and to have more programs in place that support mothers and students, I believe.
 
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Jamesaritchie

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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.

.

She probably was. There are many, many women who look like clowns, but saying so is sexist, isn't it?
 

Jamesaritchie

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Maybe it isn't sexism? Maybe it's just a lot of really bad art by women? And don't say this isn't possible.

It may simply be that no one likes the art.

There's always something to call sexism when you use groups as an example. The real question is do any women succeed to the same degree as men? Art is not a percentage game, and can't be treated as such. It's purely about the individual artist.
 

Alessandra Kelley

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She probably was. There are many, many women who look like clowns, but saying so is sexist, isn't it?

Saying so is judgemental.

There is no objective standard for how much makeup is the right amount.

It is always arbitrary, based on local cultural standards and personal preferences.

To say someone looks like a clown is rude. One may choose to be deliberately rude.
 

Alessandra Kelley

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Maybe it isn't sexism? Maybe it's just a lot of really bad art by women? And don't say this isn't possible.

It may simply be that no one likes the art.

There's always something to call sexism when you use groups as an example. The real question is do any women succeed to the same degree as men? Art is not a percentage game, and can't be treated as such. It's purely about the individual artist.

Statistics are useful for revealing systemic prejudice.

Art may not on an individual level be a percentage game, but in the aggregate it certainly can be analyzed.

If there is a noticeable, let alone an enormous, discrepancy between the percentage of women trained as artists and the percentage of women among working artists, one might look for a cause.

That women on average are terrible artists compared to men, as you suggest, is one possibility.

That there is systemwide ensconced sexism against women, that they are perceived as worse artists (as, for example, demonstrated when orchestra tryouts were moved to behind a screen so that the gender of the auditioner was not visible -- women suddenly rose to roughly 50% of hires instead of the dismal low percentage they had when they were known to be women), that they are overlooked for positions in galleries and museums, that they are not nurtured at an early stage of their careers onto tenure tracks, that they are not considered by the old, established art networks full of men who went to school together and know each other socially, that there is in fact a socially sanctioned, prejudice-reinforced bias against women at every level, is another.

That women, more than men, make bad art that nobody wants is an extraordinary claim: that half of humanity, by virtue of its genitals, cannot make good art.

Such a claim would require extraordinary proof.
 
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Friendly Frog

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There's currently a documentary series running on the BBC, The Story of Women and Art, that ties in well with this discussion.

Maybe it isn't sexism? Maybe it's just a lot of really bad art by women? And don't say this isn't possible.
Quite, because it would be rude to accuse anyone of sexism when it's just the women's own fault, right? If only they knew how to make good art! But alas, somewhere on their double XX, an unfortunate bad-art-gene is lurking! Ah, it's only nature.

:sarcasm

Yeah, I don't think so.
 
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