Feminism and Art


photo 1

Judy Chicago The Dinner Party 1979.
Mixed media 48’x42’X3′.
Triangular table on white tile floor.
Photograph by Donald Woodman (2010)
From Prebles’ Artforms , Tenth Edition
Patrick Frank
published by Prentice Hall

In the late 1960’s, many women artists began to speak out against the misogyny that always blocked them in their careers. It has always been difficult for women to be taken seriously. Our patriarchal society has always looked at what was produced by women as less than. For women artists it has been difficult to have their work shown in galleries, in artists’ groups. Galleries have been and continue to be more willing to accept the art made by men than by women. This has long been a problem for women artists and women in general. If a woman is entering a  jar of preserves or a pie in the county fair, fine. But real creation has been considered the product of men. Women in the 60’s were afraid to allow their art to reflect their problems producing artwork in the male dominated world.

In the early 70’s, feminist artists, in New York and California began to take action. They wanted the art world to be a more balanced world where their work wouldn’t languish in obscurity. Lucy Lippard, an art critic and feminist wrote, “The overwhelming fact remains that a woman’s experience in this society—social and biological—is simply not like that of a man. If art comes from the inside, as it must, then the art of men and women must be different, too.”

The work of some women artists is definitely influenced by their gender and their interests in feminist issues. The two groups worked differently. California feminists tended to work together in collaborations. They tended to make use of media that had  been used traditionally in “craft work” and with women: ceramics and textiles. The upper photograph, The Dinner Party, was a collaboration of many women and a few feminist men. Judy Chicago organized this work over a period of five years.

“A large triangular table contains place settings for thirty-nine women who made important contributions to world history. They run a wide gamut, from Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut to Georgia O’Keefe. The names of 999 additional women of achievement are inscribed on ceramic tiles below the tables. Each place setting includes a hand-embroidered fabric runner and a porcelain plate designed in honor of that woman. Some of the plates are painted with flat designs, others have modeled and painted relief motifs, many are explicitly sexual, embellished with flower-like female genitalia.” (Description from Prebles’ Artforms)

New York feminists were more pointed in their protests. Some of them formed the group Women Artists in Revolution (WAR), which picketed museums. In response to dealers who were reluctant to exhibiting female artists, they formed their own collaborative gallery, Artists in Residence (AIR). Nancy Spero, a leader in feminist circles on the East Coast participated in both groups. Her work used uncommon media such as paper scrolls, stencils and printing to document subjects such as the torture and abuse of women.

The bottom photograph is of a work by Nancy Spero. It is called the Rebirth of Venus. Venus is the ancient goddess of love. And in this art piece the goddess is split open to reveal a woman sprinter who runs directly towards the viewer. The contrast is strong, women as love object releases a woman who is strong and a achiever.

Women still have to fight for recognition in the art world. Women still have to fight for everything including equality. But women will never give up and go back to being subjected quietly by society. We will never be quiet again.

 
RebirthOfVenus
 
 
Nancy Spero Rebirth of Venus detail 1984
Handprinting on paper.  12″ x 62′
Photograph David Reynalds
From Prebles’ Artforms , Tenth Edition
Patrick Frank
Published by Prentice Hall

Why I Remain a Feminist


Quote from Maya Angelou

Quote from Maya Angelou

I initially became a feminist because of books. I was taking some continuing education classes in nursing. One book I had to read discussed the “The Burning Times.” These were in the good old days when women were midwives. Men felt that taking care of sick people was beneath them. Midwives got paid in a pie, some vegetables, some homemade bread. They were also more than expert in herbs and healing plants. Because of the nature of such a woman, she often enjoyed gentle relationships with the animals around her cabin or home.

There were a few men who exhibited the same gifts. Today we would call them feminist men. I am sure everyone knows some. The Church, in those days found it hard to handle midwives and healing women.

We are looking at the time in history of the Spanish Inquisition. Protestants had to confess after torture, Jews fled to present-day Europe and the Ottoman empire. Special priests were sent out to root out and to kill the blasphemers who said they could heal. As time went on, village after village suffered through “witch trials.” Many good and caring women went to their deaths because they were deemed witches. Children had no protection from these accusations. They often would be tortured and would speak the name of someone they knew. They would call someone a witch, just to get the pain to end.

It is said that over 2 million women were murdered for being witches.  This was also a holocaust. At this time, midwives went underground and men began to look to medicine as a way to make a living. So men suddenly had good reason to ensure that no healing women or witches were in their communities. Much information about the healing effects of herbs was lost for a very long time.

I was interested in what I was reading and took more books out of the library. I couldn’t stop reading and thinking about these women. There is an article you might be interested in reading called “Witches, Midwives and Nurses”, by B. Ehrenreich and D English.. It can be found at .www.blancmange.net/tmh/articles/witches.html.

To this day women’s medical practice has thrived in the midst of rebellious lower class movements. These witch hunts for the midwives did not stop these healing and caring women,, but the midwives where often branded as superstitious and possibly malevolent.

I read all this, and another feminist was born. I got involved with other concerned women in my community and we tried to assess women’s needs in our community. What we discovered was that women were being abused in their homes. So we started a shelter for abused women. We had no money, but we got a rundown old house in a bad neighborhood and the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic women worked long and hard to save these battered women and their children. Some of the Catholic women were nuns and I remember that we all “planted” a penny in the tree lawn of that house and the nuns prayed for the women and children who would be saved. Today that shelter, started in the 1970’s has a budget of nearly a million dollars a year. I am still a feminist because they need every penny of that budget to continue to protect the women and kids.

Children are also beaten

Children are also beaten

This may be happening to someone you know...like your sister, your cousin, the neighbor, your minister's wife, or the wife of that nice young family who always comes to church.

This may be happening to someone you know…like your sister, your cousin, the neighbor, your minister’s wife, or the wife of that nice young family who always comes to church.

As our society becomes more violent, with mass shootings and other community violence, Domestic Violence is not shrinking. Nearly forty years after domestic violence shelters and programs were established in this country, we are still taking pictures of injuries, advocating for abused women in court and hiding them until they and their children can get safely away from the abuser. Oh, I must not forget to tell you that more women are killed trying to get out than at any other time in the battering relationship.

This is the number one reason I am still a feminist, however it isn’t the only reason.  I am concerned that women are not legally equal, and do not get paid the same as a man for the same work.  And so, I fight on.

Together we can gain our legal equality. Together we can take care of each other. Together we can become equal partners.  Together we might just add some peace to the world.

You can't beat a woman!

You can’t beat a woman!

Please remember the extreme danger many women are in and talk to the young women and girls. It isn't their fault. They were victims.

Please remember the extreme danger many women are in and talk to the young women and girls. It isn’t their fault. They were victims.

Gender Bias


Sexual harrassment is a crime and it is unacceptav=ble

Sexual harrassment is a crime and it is unacceptable

Women have a lot happening these days. We are working to make sure that we become legally equal citizens for the first time in the history of America. We still earn less than a man for the same work; even though our President Obama has signed a new bill into law, laws have to be enforced. Many women are wives, mothers and often workers in the workplace. Yes, we have a choice. We get to choose to stay home with children, go to work and not have children, or to work outside the home and have children. I have 3 daughters and they have each made the choice that works best for them.

Now we have candidate Weiner sexting with women. He is not sure of how many women. So we could conclude that these relationships were so unimportant to him he can’t remember how many there were. I respect his wife and her decision. It wouldn’t be mine, but this is feminism.  A woman has the right to decide what she will put up with and what she can’t take for another moment.

Then there is Mayor Filner of San Diego. Mayor Filner who has a plethora of women coming out with ugly stories of what he did to them. These are all professional women; one is a Rear Admiral.  The accusations include, but are not limited to, touching the posterior, licking of the face, putting a woman into a headlock, trying to force a kiss on an unwilling woman. It makes me sick. I wonder what it takes to go from Filner’s behavior to Ariel Castro. Castro held three women here in Cleveland as slaves for a decade. There is one child who survived from his raping one of these women. Other fetuses were killed. To protect the young women from the further trauma of having to testify, the court has given Castro a life sentence plus 1000 years. It was done to save the women from more victimization.

Mayor Filner states that his behavior is in contrast to his belief i n equality, and justice. He apologized to the community and the women. Is it enough? I fear not. Years of disrespect of women doesn’t just stop.

Filner is accepting responsibility for his actions, he says.  He will be entering behavioral therapy on August 5.  He is not planning on stepping down as mayor. A two week stay in a rehab center isn’t learning not to be a sex offender. It is a vacation. He loudly declares this is his first step in becoming a better person…in two weeks.

These are men who are uncomfortable with women in power and need to intimidate them.  It is wrong morally and criminally to use this behavior to keep women in their place.

If anything like this has ever happened to you in the workplace, report it. No man has the right to touch you in any unwanted way.

If anything like this has ever happened to you in the workplace, report it. No man has the right to touch you in any unwanted way. 

If you have been touched, licked, patted in the workplace and if it makes you feel as though your job is at risk, report it. These actions are not part of your job description and must not be tolerated. Your self-respect is being walked on and you are being used. It is scary, but there are women’s organizations who will help and the ACLU will help and possibly be your legal council. Take care of yourself and make sure male coworkers are not allowed into your personal space.

Can you answer the questions?

Can you answer the questions?

By the way, this is all part of the WAR ON WOMEN. You remember the war:  the one Congress is attempting to use against every American woman.  These conditions are part of the reason why we are not legally equal.  And they are why we still need to fight to be equal.

Unwanted touching is against the law. Speak up!

Unwanted touching is against the law.
Speak up!

 

Women are Human Beings


We need to look at the lives and accomplishments of women for inspiration and understanding. Women’s lives have been written only in the last few decades. One of my passions is to read women’s diaries that they leave behind. They give us a glimpse of their heart and souls. Their dreams and passions. The cost of accomplishing a life outside of the ordinary can be steep for many women. Those who were successful have paid a dear price for the life they created.

The irony is that women follow dreams just as men do. Martin Luther King had a dream and millions of women also have dreams. Women and men need to create meaning in their lives and their communities. It is not unfeminine to reach for public power instead of settling for private power. The unfulfilled woman and man are a loss to our society because each of us has much to contribute.

Women have been conditioned to do what is expected and not what they need. Some women want to stay home and be a full-time mother. Some want careers, some want many children and some don’t want to have any children. These decisions are the ones men make every day, but women are encouraged to fit into the proper box. This is a danger for women because to deny who you are and what you are capable of accomplishing is to short change the world and ourselves

The Universe gives us all gifts and talents and I believe we are expected to use them to create meaningful lives. Women who are living in violent relationships, who are verbally humiliated and are insulted day in and day out are suffering from emotional abuse.

The abuse takes many forms. Physical and emotional and psychological abuse can wreck a woman’s self-esteem and she learns to be a victim. This is one role no living being should be in. Feminism gives voice to those who have never had a voice in their own lives and those who have lost it as they have gone through the challenges of life.

Women are not inferior and they are able to make good choices about how to live and how to follow their dreams. Women have a right to have public power and not just power in the bedroom or the kitchen. Power is the ability to take one’s place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one’s part matter.

An assertive woman who has discovered her power is not “less of a woman” than a man who has discovered and uses his own power. Many people today confuse assertiveness with aggression. They are two concepts which are not at all related. Many times assertive women are maligned by people like Rush Limbaugh when he coined the term” feminazi.”” I have never understood why men are so intimidated by an assertive woman who knows who she is and what she wants and where she is going.

Women are human and that means that we are capable, intelligent, compassionate, passionate, strong and have the right to live our lives without interference from families and government. We can choose candidates, take care of our health, make decisions about reproduction. We don’t need keepers, or a strong man guiding us. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. You are each perfect as you are and have the right to be who you are. Don’t allow the voices around you keep you from accomplishing your dreams and touching the stars.
We are equal. And in 2013, we will make the government legalize that equality. Being different, seeing from a different perspective does not make you unfeminine, it helps you to hold your head up and straighten your back and live with the dignity that The One gave to each of us. Different is not dangerous. It is just different!

What Women Want


This is a subject that has inspired books and movies. It is now a huge part of our 2012 Presidential election. Now, be assured that not all women want more rights. Some are happy and content being “owned” by the significant male in their life. But for those of us who are strong. capable and passionate, we want change. We don’t want to go back to the nineteenth century and we want to move forward.

Women want to be legally equal in 2013. We are the only citizens of the United States of America who are not equal legally. We want the government and men out of our bodies. We are capable of making choices that effect our reproduction and our health.

We want people to understand that rape is not legitimate. It has nothing to do with sex. It is completely about power and control. I cite the cases of eighty-five year old women and one year old babies being raped.

We want stronger laws protecting women and men from Domestic Violence. I worked in Domestic Violence in two states for over 25 years. A women does not have to live in fear. No one has the right to verbally abuse you. No one has the right to hit, slap, punch, kick, break your jaw, threaten your life or the lives of your children. There are shelters and helplines in almost every town and in every state. Call your local police for telephone numbers to receive shelter, food, counseling, legal assistance, moral support and caring attention.
At the shelter I helped to start we had a slogan, “You can’t beat a Woman.”

We want equal pay for equal work. Women who are doing the same job as a man are currently earning $.77 for every dollar a man earns. In the 1970’s, it was $.64 for every dollar a man earned. Yes, it is an improvement but a pathetic one.

Women want the world to know that women’s work counts. If a woman chooses to stay at home with her children she is just as worthy as a woman who goes out of the home to work. And if we go out to work, our work is as meaningful as a man’s work.

Women do not want to be viewed as second class citizens. We don’t want how we look, what size we wear, or how much plastic surgery we’ve had to matter more than our character, morals and intelligence.

We want the women in every country of the world to be free from honor killings, being sold into sexual slavery, from genital mutilation. We want every child, boy or girl in the world to be able to learn to read and write and to receive the medical care they require.

We want American insurance companies not to put caps on the health costs of human beings. We want every man, women, and child to receive the medical care and medication they need, even if they aren’t in the 1%. We want insurance companies to be forced not to tell doctors what medications they can prescribe and what treatments they can order.

We want the bullying that children are suffering at the hands of classmates to end. We want schools to be free of violence and hatred. Every time a child commits suicide due to bullying, we as a society, have failed them. Our hands are also bloody.

We want people to be able to love whomever they love. Love comes from the soul and souls don’t have gender. Souls just love and that love is no less beautiful than any other.

Please feel free to add things that I have not mentioned. I am happy to have your feedback. We need to create a better life for all women on this planet. If you don’t know much about feminism and would like more information, I suggest reading, Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, Gloria Steinem. Revolution from Within, Robin Morgan, The Burning Times. I also suggest Lenore Walker and Alice Walker, Marge Piercy and Toni Morrison.

Alice Walker, author and feminist

A Garden of Her Own


Photography by Barbara Mattio

I confess the title is a twist on Virginia Woolf’s A Room of Her Own. However, times have changed a lot since the days when Woolf was writing. In Woolf’s time, there was still the concept of a woman having a room where she took care of no one else and could peruse the few things in life considered appropriate for young ladies and women.  It as also a world where we were wearing corsets and breathing was a skill and swooning was the inability of the lungs to acquire the proper amount of oxygen. This also made physical exercise beyond a sedate walk quite an impossibility. So times have changed and we have changed.

The media has, of course, changed much of what happened in the 1970’s. A time came when we, who were feminists were called FemiNazis because we were expected to line up and get in our places. Being a feminist became something that some no longer wanted to admit. We had made a difference, so it was no big deal. Many people spoke up that we can accomplish everything we needed as women.

It is now the twenty-first century.  With the signing of President Obama’s equal pay law, women now will make $0.77 for every dollar a man makes for equal work. In the 1970”’s, we made $0.67 for every dollar a man made.

We worked to give women choices in the 1970’s. Many women stayed home with the children then. Many thought they were slowly losing their minds. A book called The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan came out and changed the prospects of American women. It was, for me an” aha! ” moment. Women were capable and many wanted choices. To stay home with your children, to go into the workplace, or to do both. Over the years, big business has made it almost an impossibility not to have two family incomes. So we don’t really now have the choices we worked for.

The grassroots movement against Domestic Violence began in the 1970’s and many women were able to seek legal recourse, to receive counseling, have a support system that let her start again where she and her children would be safe. We used educational programs and training for educating local police departments on how to safely answer a Domestic Violence call. Historically, more officers are injured answering a Domestic call that any other type of call.
In the twenty-first century, Domestic Violence is on the rise. FBI stats document this fact. Young women don’t understand Domestic Violence and don’t realize that when they are pushed, shoved, kicked, slapped, humiliated or even called demeaning names they are victims of Domestic Violence.

We are once again fighting for the ability to control our own bodies. They are after all, ours. We and our bodies have become a pawn in national politics and this fact is so distressing. Congress wants to be able to tell us when we can go to a doctor and when we can have procedures. They even want to be able to tell us when to have procedures.

So, we all need a room or a garden of our own. I think of my daughters and I know that they are not wearing corsets but between the demands of running a home, having a career (for those who have chosen this path), and children and husbands, they need some space for themselves. I believe that we all need the room and a garden of one’s own can be a fragrant, colorful, non-political place to breathe, be true to yourself, make decisions, and give hurried, pressured lives a time of rest and relaxation. I encourage you to try it. It also is a soothing balm for the soul.

Photography by Barbara MattioPhotography by Barbara Mattio

A Woman Can Speak


Unlearning To Not Speak
—Marge Piercy

Blizzards of paper
in slow motion
sift through her
In nightmares she suddenly recalls
a class she signed up for
but forgot to attend.
Now it is to late.
Now it is time for finals:
losers will be shot.
Phrases of men who lectured her
drift and rustle in piles:
Why don’t you speak up?
Why are you shouting?
You have the wrong answer,
wrong line, wrong face.
They tell her she is womb-man,
babymachine, mirror image, toy,
earth mother and penis-poor,
a dish of synthetic strawberry ice cream
rapidly melting.
She grunts to a halt.
She must learn again to speak
starting with I
Starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.

My choice of photo and poem might seem to be confusing. While we women here in America are struggling today to retain the rights we already have, many women around the world are trying to emerge from lives of servitude, illiteracy and fear. They are our sisters and we must recognize all of the strength and courage it takes to make baby steps to speak.

They face acid in their faces, beatings, children taken away, being isolated in their homes and being an object a man owns. We must recognize how difficult their attempts are for them to make. We must look at them, different, yet our sisters and applaud them for each step and gesture which enables them to begin speaking.

There are many women here in America who were taught not to speak. They didn’t know what they were taking about, they needed to shut up and take care of the children, they needed to “stifle” like Edith Bunker. Thanks to books such as the Feminine Mystic by Betty Friedan, Ms magazine and the work of Gloria Steinem, we can speak…we can speak out and up. What we have to say as women is as valuable as anything a man has to say.

Here is to total equality for all the people, male and female, all colors, and all religions and forms of spirituality.