Brown v. Board of Education
On 17 May 1954, 9 white guys unanimously ruled that separate but equal, is not equal.
A few decades later The Guerrilla Girls noted that it's easy to get in the museum as a naked female model. But almost impossible to get in as a woman artist.
The problem the Guerrilla Girls addressed is "old news" in that it's been talked about for a long time now. But being old news doesn't make it a solved problem. Now in 2014 Micol Hebron has curated a powerful show:
(en)Gendered (in)Equity or “Gallery Tally”
ForYourArt, Los Angeles
29 March - 25 April 14
As I look through the many different visualizations of the gender inequity in art galleries in Los Angeles and New York I am sad.
I am angry.
But ultimately... I am confused.
To be denied equality because of your gender, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or age, or ableness, or body image, makes a poorer world with an impoverished culture for everyone.
Images: (en)Gendered (in)Equity / Tumblr
But what does equality mean? Does it mean giving women equal access to the things that men do?
Men write about important things, like war. Women write about unimportant things, like family.
As a writer does equality mean that I can have the same opportunity to write about all the horrific violence and culture of aggression and domination that men do? That my war-murder-rape-mayhem-torture-violence novel can get just as major distribution as a famous male author's violent tome against humankind?
Another Equality is Possible
Blue seas cover seven-tenths of the earth's surface,
And are the domain of the largest brain ever created,
With a fifty-million-year-old smile.
Civilization was built on the back of the whale:
Coastal settlements followed the presence of whales;
Shore-stations near the whaling grounds became cities.
Boston, New York, Plymouth,
Tokyo, Leningrad, Vladivostok,
Lisbon, Bergen, Brest,
Odessa, Yokohama, San Francisco,
Reykjavik, Valdivia, San Pedro,
Vancouver, Sydney, Durban,
Rotterdam, Whitby, Hull,
Darwin, Buenos Aires, Hobart,
Wellington, Auckland, Helsinki,
Seoul, Murmaksk, Manila,
Valparaiso, Glasgow, Dundee,
Cunningly used to protect the whale's sound-library from the cold,
Is extracted by hard-nosed, gimlet-eyed parasites
Who view the whale only as an industrial resource,
And eat through their musical society like deaf maggots -
Unable to detect the presence of oil
In the body of a fellow creature
Without desiring to suck it out.
-- Heathcote Williams, Whale Nation
Whales don't need to have the same opportunities as humans, they're already better. It would just be nice if we stopped killing them.
For myself, I don't want to be exhibited in any of the galleries whose female:male exhibition ratios are presented in Hebron's show. Regardless of what their percentage may be, I see all those galleries as the male way. They are about conquering culture. They are about myths of heroic artists and genius works. They are about selling objects. They are about running artist's lives through some magic press and squeezing them out as gold.
I want another way.
In our land there were enough gods for women to have at least one on their side, while your religion has three in one, and they're all men, even the bird.
-- Sarah Dunant, The Birth of Venus
5 Centuries of "Progress"
Bad as gender inequality is in the 21st century, believe me, if you haven't spent time in the 16th century, you haven't seen anything yet.
In my first life (1542 - 1576) I hosted a literary salon, wrote poetry, commissioned music, performed frequently, and produced large, spectacular events, most famously at carnivale time. I was also a talented and ambitions rider, and an avid hunter. Hunting felt right in the 16th century. It doesn't anymore.
Today I am deeply troubled by the triad of Patriarchal Culture, The Slaughtering of Animals, and The Military Industrial Complex.
There is no reason that my nutrition needs to come at the death of another living being. For me, that's what these male-dominated, old media, art galleries are, slaughterhouses. I have no interest in gorging myself at their trough.
Even if by some miracle we lived in a 100% misogyny-free world, patrilineage alone would still be enough to ensure and unequal world. A world of over-emphasized, yes, almost phallic-like, male lineage. A world of the lost connections of generations of women. Of course those connections of generations of women are not lost to the women themselves who are smart enough to remember them. They are only lost to the men who never cared about them in the first place.
Don't give me equality in the corrupt, and bankrupt, art galleries of the 20th century. Give me real equality, and real voice, in the new media of the 21st century. I don't want to break past a legacy of discrimination into an artworld that was never truly interesting anyway, I want to create new culture in this new time.
(en)Gendered (in)Equity or “Gallery Tally” is a crowd-sourced, social engagement art project in which over 500 artists from around the world have joined the effort to collect and visualize statistical data regarding ratios of male and female artists in contemporary art galleries.
As for Hebron's exhibition itself, it is the structure of the collaborative exhibition, more than the data about the misogynistic old media galleries, that excites me most.
A world of less commodity art objects, and more social engagement. This is my dream.