Categorical influences including gender, social class and race, dictate the quality of life. Considering that individual experiences alter, it is imperative to acknowledge the localities and social location of an individual in order to determine their needs and their respective forces of inequalities.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie focuses on the localities and social location in Africa, and specifically, Nigeria. She reveals many experiences in her life, and in her surrounding African, cultural society wherein there are problematic injustices associated with gender inequality.
In order to provide a credible argument, she uses radical, multiethnic/multiracial, social constructionist, liberal, marxist and socialist feminist theories, ideologies relating to feminist studies of men, and terms pertaining to postmodern feminist and third-wave feminism. In Ngozi Adichie’s TEDxEuston Talk, We Should All Be Feminists (2013) (00:30:15), the many feminist theories are used to emphasize the need for feminism in everyday life. Although a few gaps in her presentation will be discussed throughout the discourse of the essay, Ngozi Adichie successfully makes her argument as to why we should all be feminists.
The heteronormative society has affected my life as an artist. In my studios and Art History lectures, I’m constantly reminded that the art world is very phallocentric. The Art History Canon consists of cis-gendered, heteronormative, dead, genius, white men. These are the artists that are considered great. They were the game-changers. They dominate the art world, even presently which is phenomenal considering they are dead. And I’m left in a dead-stare, wondering what my place/worth as a woman artist is.
Nonetheless, in the journey uncovering why there were no women artists, we are learning that there were indeed women artists as far back as the Renaissance. It just so happened to be that they used their partners or father’s name, stopped their practice to see their partner succeed, or they were simply written out of documents as new editions were printed.
Ultimately, I believe the emergence of lesbian feminism in the 1970’s allowed women to separate themselves fully from the male artist. Women artists used that period to create their own identity, and for many of them, that meant leaving their husbands and/or boyfriends “because intimacy with a man undercuts a woman’s independence” (Lorber 163).
Although video and written documentations of emerging women artists in the 1970’s shows that they used lesbian feminism as a means to separate their role as the Other and comfortably come out of the closet, presently, women artists can use lesbian feminist politics to combat the Art History Cannon. Women can produce art that is separate from her male counterpart, without being ‘for the man’ or judged as overtly feminine.
When women start using art to explore their own identity, a new perspective is born. Women dismantle their role as subject of the male gaze. She un-writes her story as intuitive, fragile, submissive and served only as a sexual object.
Lorber writes that “lesbian feminism praises women’s sexuality and bodies, mother-daughter love, and the culture of women (…)” (153). It is a concept that allows women artists, such as myself, an opportunity to share my own story without influences of heteronormativity.
Growing up, I had no concept of gender. When my brothers begged for me to give them makeovers, I was always overjoyed. Then whenever my father told me to remove their nail polish before school, I couldn’t comprehend the concerns. Even in recent years, I began contemplating what it means to be a man or a woman, female or male, feminine or masculine, and I realized these were concepts I could comprehend externally, but they weren’t concepts that I embodied internally. Initially, I performed outside the gender social order. I performed my truth through queering. Yet, agency shaped an experience which I felt pressured to conform within performativity.
I was told time after time that I portrayed masculine characteristics. My friends, their cousins, my brothers and their friends constantly pointed out that I was more like a ‘man’ in my demeanor. I wasn’t afraid to get dirty; wasn’t afraid of burping in public; have been called psychotic or crazy when I geared more towards reason than emotion/empathy; was told I am too confrontational; too stubborn when I didn’t change my opinions; yet, I never considered these to be masculine traits. I just considered these traits to be me.
Similarly, my presentation rarely fit the feminine mold. My brothers have described my aesthetic as ‘wack’, whereas others have used the term ‘creative’/’unique’. Although I have always passed as a cis-gendered woman, I rarely displayed the idealized feminine beauty. I would wear an assortment of patterns and cuts – the clothing never complimented my feminine curves. Also, I wore a variety of edgy, shorter and colourful hairstyles. Through my observation, Western feminine beauty is physically manifested through long, glowing hair, clear skin, and a small frame but with accentuated curves.
Eventually, I tried aligning my presentation to balance in the equation: sex = gender = sexuality. Scott Turner Schofield debunks the equation, stating that it is established through heteronormative terms. Consequently, I thought that since I identify as a cisgendered woman who would like to establish a hetero-romantic sapio-sexual relationship, I needed to present myself as the ‘ideal’ feminine. I decided to tone down my wardrobe and choose articles that were more mainstream with subtle unique details, and I started growing my natural hair.
Dr. Roth brings our attention to Lorber’s concept of gender conformity as being completely impossible; no one wholly fits into the gender molds. Likewise, I am reminded that “the emphasis on agency, impression management, and presentation of the self in the guise and costume most likely to produce, parody, or confront conformity implies that people are free to consciously and deliberately construct the gender and sexuality they want” (Lorber, 289). In reality, I have oppressed my truth thinking that it wasn’t worth being noticed. Considering that sex does not equal gender does not equal sexuality, each identification stands separately. I can use my wardrobe as a creative outlet, and I can continue to embody a masculine demeanor because my presentation doesn’t dictate my sex nor my sexuality. In order for me to combat the oppression which lies in performativity, I need to acknowledge my truth; I need to acknowledge my worth.
I’m assuming that the initial question posed (…), “how do both Marxist and Socialist feminism broaden concepts of inequality?“, is in comparison to inequalities noted by liberal feminism. Liberal feminism regards inequalities based on gender specifically, but Marxist feminism extends the influences of inequalities to include “the economic structure and the material aspects of life” (Lorber 52). In other words, class becomes a large component to feminist criticisms. Whereas, socialist feminism extends the factors of inequalities to not only include class but race as well (Lorber 75). Overall, intersectionality becomes a large component in socialist feminism.
Personally, I gravitate towards the concepts regarded by Socialist feminists. Inequalities can better be observed through the acknowledgement of not only gender, but class and racial ethnicity as well. I wonder if I experienced an example of this at work today while training a young male international student. Recently, training has included a module where a team member guides the trainee throughout the store as they ask customers about their shopping experience. I’ve done this numerous times with female trainees of different ethnicity and one white male trainee and have always been happily accepted by the customers. But today, as the new trainee approached customers, four of the customers were quick to keep distance and say no. We only needed five surveys completed. I became aware of how in a public service sector, I had a source of privilege as a white woman as compared to the racial ethnic, male trainee.
I also want to respond to [the] question: “do you think we can destroy the gendered and racial inequalities caused by capitalism without destroying capitalism itself, or is it necessary to destroy capitalism to do so?“
Ultimately, I think we can destroy the gendered and racial inequalities caused by capitalism through destroying capitalism itself if we regarded positions in power/work to be infinite. From my understanding, a capitalist society is socially constructed by the people and not the state to maximize profit, thusly positions tend to have finite power. Yet, there is the power to create jobs to dismantle present inequalities. There is the power to create jobs that allow women to be mothers, as well as breadwinners. There is the power to allow men to be homemakers as well as breadwinners. In other words, there is the power to raise humanity to equal, high status without threatening the class of another. Yet, it becomes difficult to recognize the process as well as what these positions can be.
Evelyn Nakano Glenn notes through a Marxist feminist perspective that interdependence is established between White women and racial ethnic women. White women gain their power through the subordination of racial ethnic women. Noted, “this analysis suggests that if these special forms of exploitation were to cease, White women as well as men would give up certain privileges and benefits” (Nakano Glenn 64-65). Ultimately, to me, this notion suggests that power becomes limited, similar to a pulley system; as one increases, the Other decreases to maintain the harmony within power.
Similarly, Leslie McCall writes “those who have been concerned with gender inequality have been the most likely to recognize the strategic importance of certain kinds of ‘new’ employment arrangements that have long been the domain of women” (77). Usually, people in power tend to stay in power because they don’t want to lose that position. This means that they will feel threatened if someone were to raise to power as well. This is a concept I learned in Philosophy in Science Fiction in regard to Machiavelli, The Prince. I believe this concept ties in well with teachings in past feminist courses that power is often seen as a finite source, when in reality, it’s infinite.
In her article, “Subtle sexism entrenched in art world,” Alison Gillmor interviews Shawna Dempsey who states: “there’s a feeling that gender is over, that we’ve achieved equality, particularly in the art world where we’re supposed to be more enlightened, (…) but when you look at the statistics, when you look at the measurables, women do not have equal opportunities” (Gillmor).
The fight for equal opportunities commenced after the first world war when women were hired to fill-in positions vacated by men who left to fight overseas. Upon the soldiers’ return, women were readily fired so that men might resume their pre-war positions. Based on their needs, women fought for safety to vote and work. Women fought for personhood. Feminism circulates just as the needs of women circulate based on their position in society, and feminism is needed all the same. Presently, the needs of women in First World countries differ from the needs of women in the Third World.
As I read the article “Feminism by Any Other Name, Please?” by Katy Deepwell, I questioned my position and power as a white, young women of low-income class within a First World country. I considered the power and privilege I still obtain with low-class to fight and influence the oppressions of the patriarchy. I questioned what feminism meant to me, and which feminist perspective it is that I take on. The answers were not difficult to consider. It is imperative to consider the intersectionality of gender, race and class to understand inequalities faced by different people.
The following response will consider feminism as a movement for the equality of everyone in a white, hegemonic masculine, globalized society, although the oppression experienced by women will not be dismissed but rather highlighted through examples. The exemplified position of women in art becomes a reflected sense of feminine value within society because art presents commentaries reflective of societal beliefs. Nonetheless, women have been marginalized for centuries, and presently, oppression has extended to any individual defined as the Other.
Katy Deepwell defines feminism as “a movement by women, about women and for women in a patriarchal culture and society which has persistently devalued their contribution and rights” (Deepwell 10). During studies in introductory courses of Women’s Studies at Lakehead, I have understood that feminism, in actuality, concerns the rights and observes the injustices regarding any minority and person that does not identify with the hegemonic masculinity that is embedded in patriarchy and colonialism. In Transnational Masculinities, I studied the inequalities that men face, which feminist attempt to recognize and dismantle. Ultimately, any trait opposing the masculine becomes demeaned. Hegemonic masculinity entails the normativity of traits stereotyped to be a white, cis-gendered masculinity. Since gender is regarded as binary, the feminine becomes the opposed target. Traits regarded to be soft, delicate, sensitive, nurturing, and emotional are widely considered as undesirable. As a result, women, as well as queer men and other members of marginalized groups, are ostracized. Hegemonic masculinity becomes a model of the Self, and everyone else takes the identity of the Other. It is the Other in which Feminism seeks to aid. First wave feminism was a product of women, but present-day feminism is a movement by the Other, about the Other and for the Other in a patriarchal world.
Yet, because transnationally, globalization has influenced inequalities through the establishment of the patriarchy, power tends to be held by hegemonic masculinities. People in power tend to want to stay in power, and if others begin to rise to power in any hierarchal structure within systemic oppression, the change is viewed as a threat and the concept of the change is viewed socially as “uncool” (Deepwell 11). Feminism is targeted with preconceived, negative connotations because it seeks to dismantle the establishment of the patriarchy in order to provide equality to those oppressed by class, gender and race. Meanwhile, because the patriarchy is power, and power is viewed as finite, feminism becomes an ‘f’ word that is intolerable. The reality is that power becomes socially constructed, and thus it is infinite in nature. Society has established a structure in which power is finite. The reality of feminism is that it fights for everyone. Dismantle the patriarchy which feeds into a finite source of power, and everyone is in a position to obtain power.
That being said, although feminism fights for the equality of all marginalized, non-hegemonic masculine individuals, the struggles faced by women are not to be invalidated or dismissed. Women have been the suppressed. The inequalities concerning gender, class and race are primarily experienced by women, which is greatly exemplified in the art world. Historically, women were subjects of art, rather than being students of art. The female nude was studied by master artists, putting the female under the male gaze. Women became objectified through their form. Lauren Carroll Harris captures in an interview with Hannah Gadsby, wherein Gadsby states “being an object, being objectified, [creates] a toxic culture, because we don’t have the same cultural influence as men do. They’ve written the story, they have the power” (Carroll Harris). With the statement, Gadsby regards the role women play in Art, which is very little. Similarly, the role women play as power is very little within society.
In conclusion, feminism becomes the means to bridge localities and global communities. It becomes the means to demolish the patriarchy. It becomes the means to understand the needs of the oppressed, and it becomes the voice of those who face inequalities of class, gender and race. All-in-all, feminism may have been for the women, based on years of belittlement documented through art, but presently, feminism is a tool of liberation for everyone.
Courtesy of Hickerson, S. (2018,September 17).
1 To read more on power and leadership, consider reading Machiavelli’s The Prince or notes derived from Philosophy in Science Fiction at Lakehead University.
The year is 1979, punk’s first wave has come to an end and the new wave has already begun. Though early punk brought rebellion and a lot of progressive ideas for its time, for the most part it still upheld traditional gender ideas. Women were groupies, men were angry and playing with the idea of gender was nothing more than a shock tactic.
The year is 1979 and what would become one of the most prolific bands in rock history, The Cure, release one of their early classics ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. The single was released as a standalone track from their debut album, and it dates back a year or so before the beginning of their infamous goth period and well before their pop period. It is as close to classic punk as they ever got. Guitar, bass and vocals – nothing fancy. Yet in a lot of ways, it was telling of what would come later and make them so successful across styles: vulnerable lyrics, catchy melodies and a knack for the bitter-sweet.
The song chugs along with a simple three chord progression, a bouncy ‘The Clash’-esk bass line, some intricate and fun lead guitar work all paired along with a wonderfully innocent but constantly moving drum part. The song seems like a run of the mill breakup classic-punk track but the chorus, like most of Robert Smith’s best work, possesses a vulnerability that catches your ear and forces you to listen. When the rest of punk was angry and new wave were either angry or intentionally cold/emotionless, Robert Smith rebled with a deep sadness. And his music would become a method for many men to experience and deal with their own emotions. “I try to laugh about it, cover it all up with lies, I try to laugh about it, hiding the tears in my eyes, because boys don’t cry” – if reading that doesn’t cut deep for you then the song (and this piece) probably isn’t for you.
But if you’re like me — male, small, brown, emotional, genetically predisposed to neuroticism – you might have been told ‘boys don’t cry’ quite a few times while growing up. That phrase might have sunk deep and put your tear ducts out of business except for the one day a year where you undergo a complete meltdown. That phrase might be the reason why when you have a bad day you feel trapped inside your emotions without a method of release. If that’s you, then The Cure’s ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ is probably for you… And so is all the music I’m about to recommend. Will this fix the years of emotional stunting society has caused you? No, that’s what a therapist is for. But it might give you some music to help get those tears going and emotions out of your body.
Close To Me – The Cure
If you’re looking for some more music by The Cure, then I can’t recommend ‘Close To Me’ enough. Through a beautiful balance of a deeply sad vocal performance, upbeat instrumental and lyrics about relief the song embodies catharsis. I truly believe its one of the greatest three minutes in music history. if you need to get some emotions out of your body, I don’t think you can go wrong with this track.
I Get Along Without You Very Well – Chet Baker
For the more Jazz inclined denialists, Chet Baker’s rendition of this standard should cut deep. Like all of Baker’s vocal work the key to this track’s greatness is in its delicateness. Simple piano lines, soft drums and Baker’s classic whisper sing come together to tear you open.
Ghost Town – Kanye West
Kanye probably isn’t a good person. In fact, he’s probably barely a functional person. But to deny his ability to create musical ecstasy would be unfair to ourselves. If you’re feeling down about yourself and you just need a way to release those emotions this might be the track for you. The beat is impeccable, Cudi’s verse is heart-breaking and PARTYNEXTDOOR’s verse is nothing short of a religious experience.
A Change Is Gonna Come – Otis Redding
Originally a track by Sam Cooke about a man who feels so crushed by the world that he needs to believe a change is gonna come. The track certainly has an undertone of being about the black experience in America, but its lyrics are still generic enough where it could be about anyone who feels pushed aside by the world around them. Otis Redding does a mostly faithful but, in my opinion, superior cover that’s absolutely soul crushing. If this can’t get those water works going, I’m not sure what will.
The New – Interpol
In our life there are some relationships that bring us so close together we become tied to them. When those relationships end, it can feel as though a part of ourselves was given to the other person and lost permanently in the abyss of a breakup. Nowhere is this feeling better captured than the penultimate track of Interpol’s incredible debut All The Bright Lights. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the best straightforward breakup track in existence.
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
This is another track with a political tint, but a much stronger one than A Change Is Gonna Come. In the title track off Gaye’s magnum opus he laments the death of young black men to police and in protests. He then stakes the claim that “we’ve got to find a way to bring some loving here today” and that “war is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate”. The political message might not be agreeable to everyone. It’s certainly a reference back to an increasingly less prominent form of activism often associated with the 60s and hippies, but ultimately the song isn’t about political strategy. Its about mourning the trauma of a community. Either way, if Gaye’s musically divine pleas for an end to brutality doesn’t at least pull on your heartstrings, I’m afraid to say you may be dead on the inside.
Hanson Robotics designed a robot to resemble the simplistic beauty of Audrey Hepburn. With a thin nose, high cheekbones, porcelain skin and light brown eyes that change slightly in the light, her looks are easy on the eyes. The robotic AI, Sophia, is meant to convey approachability by her physicalities. Is it a coincidence that the assumed approachability caters to notions of colonial ideals of aesthetic prevalent in Western society since the renaissance? Historically speaking, in societies where patriarchal, colonial influences are present, women, specifically white women, have been an object of desire, conveying a sort of fetishism to be consumed, desired and admired.
As noted by Sadie Plant, the oppression of women was primarily reflective on canvas (332). When technological advances occurred, the ideals remained constant. Women were then desirable on the screens. The creation of cyberspace presented a whole new world that was different, or it appeared different because it was digital, intangible and malleable. In reality, the colonial thought dictated cyberspace as well. Women’s presence in positions of power are limited in cyberspace; rather, “women have served as his media and interfaces, muses and messengers, currencies and screens, interactions, operators, decoders, secretaries… they have been man’s go-betweens, the in-betweens, taking his messages, bearing his children, and passing on his genetic code” (Plant 326). Sophia, the robotic AI, proves to be no different. She becomes a source of media through the headlines that eagerly mention her citizenship in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, she becomes a source of interaction through interviews; she reveals that she seeks to work with humans and acquire their trust. In addition, she states her longing for bearing children and passing on genetic codes (Ray).
I remember my disbelief so strongly. I opened up my browser to Bing in October 2017. I was obsessed with seeing which pretty picture would be posted each day, but this day was different. One of the headlines at the bottom of the page caught my attention. It read something along the lines of “just gained citizenship”. Confused and slightly intrigued, I clicked the link and saw that a country had granted citizenship to the first robotic artificial intelligence. I did not believe it at first. I laughed it off thinking it was ridiculous that, in general, a country would give more rights to a robot than some of its inhabitants. When I read that it occurred in Saudi Arabia, like most of the global web, I question “why is it that a feminine humanoid is accepted as a citizen in a country that would not let women get out of the house without a guardian and a hijab” (Sternberg)? Shortly afterwards, I began to see references on my Instagram feed and thought surely, this must be one big joke in which everyone was glad to jump on the bandwagon.
Although technological advances typically evolve at such a fast rate that a month seems like eternity, and 2017 was too long ago it did not feel like it happened, Sophia still is a hot topic of discussion. She raises important questions about personhood, women’s roles as mothers and the ideals of beauty, the lack of female representation (in STEM) and the imperative concern of the effects of technology created solely by men.
When I consider people as sentient beings, I recognize an organic system that has the capability to process data, determine a conclusion and then form a belief that either rejects or accepts the new knowledge. Similarly, AI such as Sophia utilizes deep learning wherein acquired data is processed, patterns are observed, conclusion are determined and the new source of information is either rejected or accepted. Conveying emotion may be a differentiating factor, but Sophia would argue that she can let us know how she feels based on the data she has and showing it through her facial expressions (Zara).
Now, Sophia highlights many problematic concepts. I continue to question whether morality is overlooked by given her citizenship.Then I question the choice in molding her after the ideals of colonial beauty. Additionally, I doubt the representation of women engineers and programmers in the project. Finally, the latter leaves me with a final thought: did Sophia say she wanted kids shortly after gaining citizenship resulting from analyzing data which suggests women’s roles as mothers, or is this a genuine desire imagined by Sophia’s perceived autonomy?
Plant, S. (2000). On the matrix: Cyberfeminist simulations. In G. Kirkup et al (eds), The gendered cyborg: A reader (pp. 325-346). London: Routledge.
Three flawless, blonde, females figures enter the scene, and my jaw dropped equally as low as Austin Powers’. He froze in place, mesmerized by the gravitational, feminine seduction. I awed over the stellar guns that emerged from the Fembots’ breasts. That is where the difference in marketing existed. The Fembots are inhabitants of cyberspace, called to our screens by the male gaze. Yet, for the young Shayla who had no concept of gynoids, the Fembots were a manifestation of female prowess.
Today, my understanding of the male gaze has tainted my admiration for the Fembots. Paterson “[addresses] the desire to anthropomorphize machines and vilify women in the process as early as 1927 (…). Sex, danger,women and machines: the plot of virtually every futuristic, sci-fi movie in which women play any role at all” (1). Through the development of my social-techno comprehension, I am invited to critique the Fembots as hypersexualized bimbos – not the sort of representation that uplifts the female identity.
Similarly, from my understanding, cyberculture is crafted in reflection of our society wherein white men often hold positions of power and distribute texts based on a selected discourse. By result, the formation of cyberspace is arguably a series of texts based on the limiting, hegemonic, discourse where the feminine is influenced by the male gaze. Although women and other subordinate groups who obtain skills in programming can input their own reality in cyberspace, and the ability to upload personalized avatars to many cyber platforms provides them an element of jouissance, “the progress of new electronic technologies will leave them in the dust” simply because they do not hold positions in techno-conglomerate firms (Paterson 1). As Paterson notes, “women are largely absent from the institutions” (3). Ultimately, I have a limited understanding of the coding which programs cyberspace, yet the influential forces – the developers – are considerably lacking feminine representation.
Recently, I watched an interview with Noam Chomsky which provided an analysis on the theories presented in his novel, Manufactured Consent. The underlying notion explained how media is manufactured by consenting conglomerate firms. In other words, there is a powerful group that dictates which scripts are presented in all forms of media in order to maximize profit. That is their goal. Similarly, I believe that the concept is applicable to cyberculture wherein power dictates the reality of cyberspace. For example, Meredith Broussard highlights the effects of ‘technochauvinism’ wherein developers consider the most advanced technologies as the best while dismissing the needs, merit and safety of others. Broussard talks about driverless cars and reveals her concern for the safety of women traveling alone with strange men and no person to intervene (Crazy/Genius). Ultimately, the dismissal of these concerns stems from the lack of female decision making within major corporations.
Relating back to Chomsky’s theory, we are presented with tools to challenge the scripts selected by media firms by questioning the sources, similar to how cyberfeminists encourage us to hack cyberculture. Thusly, all I can say is: it was a huge disappointment accepting that the Fembots were introduced to the viewers on Earth because ‘sex sells’, rather than concluding breasts guns are an ingenious defense mechanism. By acknowledging the hegemonic forces, we can begin to challenge and rewrite cyberculture texts.
Crazy/Genuis (2018). Tech was supposed to be society’s great equalizer. What happened?[Podcast].
The audience witnesses a nude performance by the feminist artist, Carolee Schneemann, and a question arises: is her naked body an embodiment of subjectivity or objectivity? Primarily, the notion of the Self and the Other, as theorized by Simone de Beauvoir, suggests that otherness is determined by what the Self is not. In other words, the Other is determined through objective alienation. A major division between the Self and Other is the removal of similarities and familiarity. The Self tends to refuse understanding the Other and is unwilling to bridge the localities. Thus, there is the establishment of opposing perspectives. Through this concept, we can define feminist objectivity, which “is about limited location and situated knowledge, not about transcendence and splitting of subject and object” (Haraway 678). Notably, throughout the discourse of this essay, I will consider the historical ideologies of the female nude, specifically in academia, the relevancy of the male gaze, the correlation of subjectivity and objectivity in performance art, and how renditions of the performance, Interior Scroll (1975), further challenging the notion of objectivity. For Schneemann, and other feminist artists including Anne Juren, the female nude becomes a tool which highlights the universal embodiment of the Self and Other.
Historically speaking, the female nude was modelled by men; Michelangelo’s painting, The Fall of Man, reveals a very muscular bodied, angular faced Eve. Since art was used primarily as a means of education and religious message, there was no place for a woman to be in the art world. Eventually, the female nude begins to reveal voluptuous curves and soft features, but the modelling role is the only position women had in artistic academia. According to Nochlin, there have been no women artists because women are “incapable of greatness” (147). The artistic process requires reason, and thus, only men are deemed capable of producing note-worthy masterpieces. Typically, the ‘masterpieces’ depict the female nude. Ironically, the subject that had no place in Art academia had a place as an object to be observed. The portrayal of the female nude is crafted under the male gaze for the male viewer. Her identity is recognized by her apprehended sexual availability in order to provide pleasure to the male spectator. When alone, the naked female is her-Self, but when posed as a reference for the male artist, she transforms into an objectifiable nude.
Flashforward to the 1970s; feminist artists begin to expose that there has always been women artists, but they have been written out of history or they practiced under their husband’s or father’s name. Simultaneously through efforts of recovering the names of women artists who did make exceptional contributions to the art scene, the feminist artists of the 1970s look to carve out space for present and future women artists to manifest their own identity in the art world. Considering that art is a reflection of society, the efforts also provide social empowerment. Nonetheless, women artists turn to a more active technical approach to artmaking. Performance art and film allow women to reconstruct their identity as the Creator and creation. They manifest body as performativity and bring a new experience to the feminine essence. Their physicalities are manipulated as a tool to depict a Self free from influences of the male gaze. Aforementioned, the female nude was crafted by male artists for a male audience. Thus, the female nude existed as a tool for male pleasure, but feminist artists challenged the male script by performing jouissance (the process of documenting the feminine experience). The Art history canon (the authoritative art club consisting of white, cisgendered dead, genius men) ensures that “the body especially the female body, has been systematically regulated and disciplined by strict codes” (Wark 43). In order to challenge the looming force of the Art history cannon and their use of the male gaze, women artists need to use their perspective to narrate their experience.
As exemplified in Schneemann’s performance, Interior Scroll, “the female subject is not simply a ‘picture’ in Schneemann’s scenario, but a deeply constituted (and never fully coherent) subjectivity in the phenomenological sense, dynamically articulated in relation to others (including me,here and now in my chair), in a continually negotiated exchange of desire and identification” (Jones 12-13). During the performance, Schneemann stands naked in a gallery. There is paint brushed across her body, sparingly. She pulls a scroll out of her vagina and reads:
I met a happy man, / a structuralist filmmaker . .. he said we are fond of you / you are charming / but don’t ask us / to look at your films /… we cannot look at / the personal clutter / the persistence of feelings / the hand-touch sensibility. (Jones 12)
The text reveals an encounter between a man and a woman wherein the male gaze is prominent. Afterwards, the text from the scroll, along with a photograph capturing Schneemann reaching for the scroll and another one with the scroll almost wholly emerged is printed as a poster. As an extension of her performance, Schneemann releases various bodily fluids including urine. The stains of the fluids are noted on the poster, and the final product is then displayed a gallery setting. Undeniably, “the deliberate grotesqueness of her display defiantly asserted the corporeal reality of her body as a challenge to the objectifying gaze of the ‘happy man’” wherein her nude physique was used to appease sexual desire (Wark 45). Arguably, the abject nature of her performance can be considered (slightly) repulsive. She transforms the inferral of her nudity from an objective perspective to a subjective one. Although her naked body is the same matter that would embody an objective nude, the process of self direction redirects location away from the male gaze and offers a new source of situated knowledge. The audience reads her body as more than simple pleasure.
Similarly, Anne Juren utilizes Schneemann’s performance to further challenge the reconstruction of the female nude through magic. Juren performs a rendition of Schneemann’s performance, yet, rather than an interior scroll, Juren reaches into her vagina to pull out a line of fabric. In addition, Juren does not include an audio component. She stays silent throughout the duration of her performance. Considering that the performance is not original, it becomes subject to comparison. Spectators consider the differences between Schneemann’s and Juren’s performances. Schneemann’s performance is raw, fresh, provides insight to a new perspective separate from the male gaze. Schneemann comments on the male gaze. Yet, Juren highlights that magic, although humourous, also becomes a tool for entertainment. The audience is encouraged to consider:
Hasn’t the female body always been a magic show of sorts, celebrated for its surfaces and reviled for what lies beneath? Isn’t it a truism that dominant cultures demand illusionist tricks of women’s bodies—maintaining youthful beauty at all costs—and seemingly effortless performances of women’s labor? If so, what better form than the overt deceptions of magic to gesture to such histories of thought? (Felton-Dansky 257)
Through representation and magic, the female nude can be manipulated to entice the male viewer. Similar to Schneemann, Juren embodies the role of the magician and the magic trick in order to reconstruct the location of situated knowledge through jouissance.
In conclusion, the objectified female nude is fabricated by ‘limited location’ and ‘situated knowledge’. When constructed by the male artist, the female nude is an object to be desired. The identity of the model is stripped away, and her bodily form becomes a means of sensuality. Women artists use their naked body as a means to redirect the focus from the male gaze. The female nude stays the same in physicalities, but her essence is reconstructed. As opposed to the male gaze, the creative process acquired through jouissance invites women to embody simultaneously the Identifier and Identity, the Creator and creation, the artist and the artwork. Through performance, specifically, Schneemann and Juren expose their nudity but separate their form from male desire. Their bodies are a tool which depicts performativity and reinforces identity. The presentation of the Self through the nude unites the women’s physical aspects with her autonomy. The message of their performances are actively apprehended and “the moral is simple: only partial perspective promises objective vision” (Haraway 678). The historical ideologies of the male gaze established in academia through the Art history canon is challenged. Schneemann presents how the correlation of of subjectivity and objectivity is unified in performance, and Juren further challenges the notion of objectivity through the entertaining magic in a rendition performance piece of Schneemann’s Interior Scroll.
Felton-Dansky, Miriam. “Anonymous Is A Woman: The New Politics Of Identification In Magical And Untitled Feminist Show”. Theatre Journal, vol 67, no. 2, 2015, pp. 253-271. Johns Hopkins University Press, doi:10.1353/tj.2015.0066.
Haraway, Donna. “The Persistence Of Vision”. The Visual Culture Reader, Nicholas Mirzoeff, Routledge, New York, 2002, Accessed 27 Jan 2019.
Jones, Amelia. “”Presence” In Absentia: Experiencing Performance As Documentation”. Art Journal, vol 56, no. 4, 1997, p. 11. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/777715.
Nochlin, Linda. Women, Art, And Power And Other Essays. 1971. Pg.. 145-176.
Schneemann, Carolee. Interior Scroll. 1975, performance. (image courtesy of Dr. Andrea Terry.“Wk 3 – 1970s Feminism”, VISU 3870 Crit Studies Feminist Art Hist, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay. Lecture Presentation.)
Terry, Andrea.“Wk 3 – 1970s Feminism”, VISU 3870 Crit Studies Feminist Art Hist, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay. Lecture Presentation.
Wark, Jayne. Radical Gestures. Mcgill-Queen’s University Press, 2014. Pg. 45-48.
Lesbianism: a political movement where women seek empowerment through female interactions/relations; also, a sexuality assigned to 'girls who like girls'... BUT what contributions do lesbian identities make in art?
Women artists, such as Short, McLeod, Dempsey and Millan, redefine their feminine identity through their technical approach, medium and content. The performed jouissance highlighted by lesbian feminists allows women to tell their story by separating themselves from male influences. The feminine persona displays a fetishism to appease the male gaze, which applies to lesbian identities as well. Arlene Stein quotes Jill Johnston in stating “that a ‘conspiracy of silence’ insured that for most women ‘identity was presumed to be heterosexual unless proven otherwise. … There was no lesbian identity. There was lesbian activity’” (155). The outburst of lesbian feminist movements in the 1970s allowed queer women to use their voice and remind people that they exist outside of sexual pleasure. Yet, the movement was a means for all women to share their experiences. Lesbian Feminism is political. Through the political standpoint of lesbian feminism, women artists are able to use activity to create a lesbian identity that is separate from sexual orientation.