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.