Feminist Art Paper Topic Proposal

For my Feminist Art term paper, I would like to write about feminist art dealing with immigration issues, if possible focusing on indigenous people, from Latin America. I would like to learn more about how the work of feminist artists –such as Favianna Rodriguez and Judith Baca –deal with these issues and how through feminists’ art work immigrant women’s hardships are addressed. Therefore, there are three main points I would like to address in my paper: 1) migration in the U.S. and immigration issues, 2) the struggles of Latin American immigrant women, and 3) protest feminist art and artists dealing with immigration issues, especially amongst the Latin American community in the U.S.

On Goddesses and Os

  • Why did Monica Sjöö’s “God Giving Birth” (1968) cause such a public scandal?  

Monica Sjöö’s painting God Giving Birth depicts God as a non-white woman shown with great dignity, looking ahead non-smiling, with a child coming out of her womb between her legs. When I was reading about the huge public scandal this painting had caused, I thought it would be a monstrous, pornographic image of a God-like image, which of course could be considered obscene and blasphemous by religious people and believers. The painting goes against the idea that God is male and phallic, thus, an image that has been created and assumed unconsciously worldwide. Although according to some religions God does not have a specific sex, people still assumed God is male. When I saw it I didn’t think how this could be as scandalous or seen as pornographic. As a Catholic, I can definitely see how it could be blasphemous, but knowing that the painting is a piece of art, I am able to analyze and criticize it from a different perspective. I guess that the meaning, influence, and reaction this painting main caused on each member of the audience, is definitely subjective to their personal believes.

 

  • Do you agree with Sjöö that “art is a revolutionary act”?  Explain.

I do believe that each individual has a different understanding of the world and, therefore, has a different way of seen it and a different way of making sense of it, either through art or other means of expression. Although that I am not an artist, I think that when an artist creates or does art that person should try to make a strong statement of what she/he believes and is trying to express or communicate to the audience. I think that art is one of the best forms that exist of communication and connection among humans. Not only can art be use as a tool to communicate one’s ideas, feelings and experiences, but it is also a way through which people from different places around the world and cultural backgrounds may come together by understanding, analyzing, criticizing, or exploring the work of a person that is trying to convey a message or issue that, as a humanity, pertains to all. Therefore, art is a powerful tool that can be use as a revolutionary act to benefit or harm, and as such, I think it should be use to create positive change no matter how scandalous and controversial.

  •  What is the “myth of the vaginal orgasm”? Explain and Respond.

The “myth of the vaginal orgasm” is the false idea that the female orgasm can be obtain through the arousal of the vagina by penetration. The vagina is not a highly sensitive area and is not constructed to achieve orgasms, as many men, including women, believe. The reality is that the clitoris is the center of the sexual sensitivity and which is the equivalent of the penis. Therefore, the female orgasm is a clitoral orgasm, and frigidity is not the failure of women to have vaginal orgasms, because ‘vaginal orgasms’ do not exist! This is a false assumption about the female anatomy that has been perpetuate in patriarchal societies, especially ours, through magazines, mass media, music videos, and other media. There is only one area for sexual climax, although there are many areas for sexual arousal.

Blog #5 Rape Culture, Protest Art, and Kara Walker

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http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/fashion

I was really surprised when I found this picture in Tumblr. It was almost shocking; not only because of the photo itself, but because when I was browsing through Tumblr I had type the word ‘fashion’ and I was surprise to find that a lot of the fashion photographs that appeared portrayed 1) naked women and 2) extremely thin, almost anorexic, models. This photo got my attention right away, since, in my opinion, it is a very graphic and is a clear representation of rape, violence against women, and misogyny.  As aforementioned, the thing that upsets me the most about this picture is the fact that is portrayed through fashion or at least that is what it seems to be. However, from what I’ve seen, women’s breasts are not usually shown straight to the audience in fashion magazines or fashion in general (I covered the breasts as a sign of respect for anyone who might feel uncomfortable). It is true that brands often use and objectify women’s bodies in the fashion industry to sell their products, but despite the fact women’s might appear naked in a photograph, their breasts and pubic area are always covered. Thus, this photograph was probably taken with the purpose to satisfy the necessities of the porn industry rather than fashion industry. Although I was not able to find the original website to it, the blog where I found this named the picture “Abnormally/Unnaturally Bound: Experiences of a Slave Bride.” “Experiences of a Slave Bride”? So, is this the future of a woman who will get and are married? This title makes me think two things: 1) that women are submissive and need to be treated like chained animals by men in order to satisfy men’s sexual instinct and desires; and 2) that the purpose of this photograph was to probably, maybe, create awareness of violence against women, particularly in marriage (which I’m reluctant to think of because of the model’s portrayal in the photo). What do you think?

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http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/fashion

Another picture that caught my attention while looking at a friend’s Tumblr is the one above. The first image that came to my mind when I saw this picture was: a woman who was sexually assault and tortured was found dead in a field next to a road. Isn’t this the first impression that comes to your mind when you see this picture? Once again, the thing that upsets me the most is that this type of images are been portrayed through fashion and that because it is part of an industry that makes billions of dollars a year, this and other visual representations of misogyny and violence against women are been normalized in society. Therefore, not only people start to see this type of images as normal but most importantly, it is young girls who follow and sometimes idolize fashion who begin to internalized these images and accept them as something that is part of life. How is it that someone who takes or sees this photograph cannot see the negative and violent meaning behind it? How can this even be considered fashion? The message that I get from this picture is the idea that women are fragile and voiceless, don’t really have an opinion or something important to say. Therefore, they need to be silenced and treated as dead, inhuman beings, and in some way, ‘they even agree or like to’ be treated this way because you can see how female models use their bodies to make this type of pictures, and make them seem as something normal and not scary or bad. I think another important detail to notice is the color of the dress the model is wearing: a soft, pink pastel. This reinforces the image of the model as a fragile and innocent doll.

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http://www.beautifully-invisible.com/2010/10/controversy-lara-stone-for-calvin-klein-2010-gang-rape-or-fashion.html

The third image I found was an ad for Calvin Klein Jeans in which the only female model in the photograph is been sexually abused by the male models in it. If the ad is to advertise men’s jeans, the female model has nothing to do here. However, I guess that if you’re manly enough to take advantage of a woman if you are worthy of wearing Calvin Klein Jeans. The woman really has no purpose in this picture, other than for the amusement of the guys who are using her to satisfy their sexual desires or fantasies. The female model lies still on one of the guy’s arms, like a doll, lifeless and passive; whereas, the three men appear active, dependent and strong, and in positions of domination. Therefore, this photograph demeans the woman and the three men, the first for been treated as a sexual object and the latter for their sexualized, animal behavior.

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http://www.elpasotimes.com/portlet/article/html/render_gallery.jsp?articleId=21172721&siteId=525&startImage=1

On July 27th, 2012, Mexican visual artist Elena Chauvet displayed red shoes in front of the Mexican consulate in El Paso, Texas as a form of artistic protest on the increasing violence against women that has taken the life of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The ‘Zapatos Rojos’ (Red Shoes) art collective is a call to stand in solidarity on the escalating violence against women in Juarez  as well as to raise awareness in the community to on an issue which attention has decreased on the last few years.  Chauvet placed more than 200 shoes –from toddler boots to high heels –along the sidewalk of the consulate where people usually lined up. Over 700 girls have been raped and murdered in Juarez since 1993 and hundreds more are still missing. Chauvet’s art protest against violence against women in Juarez is one of the many protests that have taken place due to the escalating rape and murder cases in the border city since 1993. Most of the victims were last seen when working to and from work or school, therefore, the red shoes are a representation of the last steps that these women took before been attacked. After twenty years of the first disappearances and murders, both the Mexican and American authorities having been able to find the suspects of these atrocities. Most people say that a close relationship exists between the drug cartels and the police. The saddest part for me is that most of these women who have been killed were someone’s daughter, sister, wife, or mother, who, when attacked, were just coming back home from a hard-working day at school or at a maquiladora.

MoMA Contemporary Art From The Collection Reinstallation Opening Reception

The first time I saw the work of Kara Walker, I thought of the Disney, particularly of the Disney movie Peter Pan, because of the black caricature images and figures she creates. Her work immediately transported me to an imaginary world that, similar to a little kid, it only exists in my mind. I felt that she was invited to form part of this world, her world, as well as to analyze every creature and story she had created. As I analyzed some of her caricature images, I came to the realization that through her work Walker was trying to combining real life situations issues, such as power, race and sexuality, illustrated through the use of historical events that had been particularly important references of discrimination against African American people. I think Walker’s is meant to be subjective to every viewer rather than trying to conveyed a particular meaning or message, and this, in my opinion, is what makes her work so controversial. The clash of ideas and opinions from different perspectives that her work provokes is what makes it so powerful and controversial. Walker is not trying to unite all of us into a single thought or opinion about her work, but instead, by addressing controversial issues through disturbing images of people as sexual, animalistic and violent creatures who fulfill certain racial stereotypes and define racial identities, she is making us confront our own reality.

First of all, I’m not only surprised at all the ads you can find on violence against women but most shocking is to find all these blogs full of pictures of violence against women, and how some of these blogs see rape as ‘sexy’?!?! Check this Tumblr blog, one of the most aweful I found. http://ifyourewilling.tumblr.com/

Blog #4: “Thoughts on Pop Culture and the Beauty Myth”

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This ad just drives me crazy! I think it is pretty self-explanatory and the sexual connotation is more than obviously portrayed. Let’s start from top to bottom. First of all, the girl’s facial expression of astonishment with her mouth open not only represents an absurd image of her been submissive to a burger, but what is most upsetting for me is that the burger is a phallic illustration of the male genital (penis), thus, making it seem as if she was giving ‘the burger,’ what we could properly called a fellatio (blow job). How messed up is this!! Along the image, the messages “It just tastes better,” “It’ll blow your mind away,” or “BK Super Seven Incher” in the ad only reinforced the phallic symbolism of the burger. This ad is definitely offensive and derogatory to women by portraying a woman who appears to be submissive, vulnerable and defenseless to a burger, which is a clear representation of masculinity and male dominance over women. It is surprising to find out that even fast food ads can communicate sexist and discriminatory messages against women. This ad is a pornographic fantasy that targets to satisfy men’s pleasure through the sexualization of women. Therefore, this ad is a clear example of how pop culture and mass media’s main concern is to satisfy a patriarchal, male society in which women are been underrepresented and undermined.

Maxim Magazine - November 2011

This image was the cover photo of Maxim magazine on November 2011. Although November is not the best month of the year to wear a bikini and go to the beach, swimsuit model Jessica Gomes seems to be having a great time while watering herself with a hose, object that is used in this photograph as a phallic symbol of the male organ (penis). Since Maxim is a magazine intended to target the attention of men, it is not surprising that the female model is used to create a pornographic fantasy for the audience. With messages in the ad such as “Be her sex hero,” the magazine invites the reader to buy the magazine as the reader is guaranteed to find more photographs of Gomes wearing bikini, or probably even naked, inside the magazine. Therefore, this cover photo is a clear representation of the sexual objectification of women for the only purpose of satisfying men’s fantasies. I really doubt that in this photo Gomes is having the opportunity to enjoy her sexuality, but instead I see this photo as an extremely damaging image that helps to perpetuate women subordination and objectification through the power of the male gaze. Gomes’ body position and facial expression makes it really obvious that she should be getting watched by men. Therefore, as a swimsuit model Gomes falls under the phrase “men act and women appear,” by which she has learned to look at herself the way a man would be looking at her in the photo. Therefore, Gomes has seen to have internalized this self-objectification as part of her role in society.

When thinking of my worst memory of women in pop culture, so many female artists and music videos come to mind, such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, etc. These are artists who have had a significant influence on young people throughout the world, especially young women. One of the worst music videos I remember watching was Jessica Simpson’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking” from the movie “The Dukes of Hazzard.” In this music video Simpson is the object of attention as she portrays this country, promiscuous girl who dances in front of every man who stares or flirts at her because of her provocative outfit and movements. Even part of the lyrics to the song say, “Now your looking right where I thought you’d be looking.” When I thought of this provocative, promiscuous attitude that she carries throughout the video, the first idea that came to my mind is that if she had been raped by one of the man at the bar, the man would have argued in his defense that “she was asking for it.” Is this really the message Simpson is trying to convey? The worst part of the video is when Simpson is washing a car wearing a bikini, thus, creating a pornographic fantasy for men as she is self-objectifying herself as a symbol of desire and pleasure. I definitely think this scene is completely irrelevant to the music video and only reflects the internalized oppression of women. Even though the video tries to portrayed Simpson as a ‘powerful, independent’ woman, her sexualized image and attitude throughout the video overshadows that side of her.

I think that one of my favorite moments in pop culture was in 2010 when director Kathryn Bigelow made history as first woman to win a best director Oscar. In the 82-year history of the Oscars, Bigelow was only the fourth woman to be nominated and the first one ever to win the Oscar. Only four have been nominated out of thousands, even more, director female directors around the world. I think this number speaks a lot about the strong presence of patriarchy in Hollywood as well as about the strong presence of gender inequality when it comes to recognizing the work that is done in film by directors, producers, screenwriters, actresses, actors, etc.  If patriarchy and gender inequality strongly exist within the world’s biggest and most influential film-making industry, –Hollywood –what are women directors, film producers, screenwriters, and actresses to expect from future Oscar awards? Should it be necessary to add a new category to only honor and award female directors? Consequently, Bigelow’s nomination and winning award is definitely a step forward women’s deeper inclusion in the film-industry as well as stronger attention and recognition of women’s work in film-making, particularly in Hollywood. Although I’m not very familiarized with the film industry, I think that both women artists and women filmmakers have had and are still having to face struggles, discrimination, underestimation, and few support in their career and work.

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The Beauty Myth

According to Naomi Wolf, the Beauty Myth is the ideal of the perfect woman and beauty that is represented and created by the mass media (music videos, magazines, etc.) and to which women are encouraged to aspire although this ideal of universal, eternal, healthy and sexual beauty that doesn’t exist in real life –tall, slim, young, Caucasian, blonde, big breasts, no wrinkles, no opinions! In other words, the ideal that Wolf talks about most likely describes a Barbie doll in real life. Wolf says that this ideal of beauty is not true: beauty is not universal or changeless. Moreover, the idea that men want to posses women who embody it is also false. This beauty myth backlash movement happens every time women are seen to gain increased social power and prominence. Therefore, every generation has had to fight a different version of the beauty myth. Unfortunately, in the last decades many of these physical beauty ideals have grown stronger in women and have become universal because of the mass media. Consequently, the patriarchal society we live in has perpetuate this of ideal of perfect beauty, thus, causing mental illnesses and lethal eating disorders in women. The demand from women to the cosmetic surgery industry has also increased dramatically in the last few years. I definitely agree with Naomi Wolf’s argument, and even though I find this universal and eternal ideal of beauty incoherent, I will often, unconsciously, fell into this notion as I get ready in the morning, go shopping, or interact with people.

 

Feminist Art and Womanhouse

  1.    Based on your recent readings, what, according to Judy Chicago, is “central core imagery”?

While working in the Feminist Art Program at Fresno State College  in the early 1970s, through discussions and analysis of the content of her students’ personal experiences, which the book Judy Chicago encourage them to explore female sexual imagery by doing images of vaginas. The book The Power of Feminist Art, also refers to this analysis on women’s personal experiences as “socially constructed female experience as revealed through consciousness-raising” (Broude and Garrard, 35). By using the word “cunt,” Chicago was trying to recuperate a term that had been censored and considered a taboo. Therefore, Chicago encouraged her students to create images of female sexual organs and thereby opposed the phallic imagery developed by men (Broude and Garrard, 35). Therefore, “cunt art” originated from an attempt to analyze, confront, and articulate the common social experiences of Chicago’s students. This type of art became theorized as “central core imagery.”

2. What is the critique of essentialism often applied to 1970s feminist artists? (Briefly summarize the problem of “essentialism”)

Essentialism can be defined as an essence that defines you by gender or race; what makes an individual essentially different. In the 1980s, critics singled out feminist artists of the 1970s as “essentialist’ –false universals that did not represent all women. This feminist art criticism identified feminist art that focused on the female body with a negative perception of a “female essence residing somewhere in the body of woman” (Broude and Garrard, 23).

One of the critiques against ‘essentialist’ art within feminist theory was made by female artists Griselda Pollock and Rozsika Parker. Both artists argued that images of women can be ‘easily recover and co-opted by a male culture if they do not cause radically meanings and connotations of woman in art as body, as sexual, as nature, as an object for male possession’ (Reckitt, 37). Also, the relationship between verbal language and visual image was marked as antagonist role in the essentialist debates because of the argued lack of affective force of experience and the capacity of language to express full that experience. Therefore, the initial critique of essentialism in the 1980s was based on the impossibility of a ‘universal’ feminine, a central system of expression that could be discerned across culture and across media (Reckitt, 37).

“Central core imagery” was one of the types of feminist art that was criticized as “essentialist.” Many artists, particularly feminist artists of the 1980s, had no understanding of how and why this imagery had emerged and were not aware of the historic place it had in the representation of female sexuality and identity. In 1972, Patricia Mainardi response to Judy Chicago’s centralized core imagery by saying that a “right wing of the women artists’ movement” was “codifying a so-called ‘female aesthetic’” (Broude and Garrard, 23).

3. According to Norma Broude and Mary Garrard’s introductory chapter in The Power of Feminist Art (p.10-29), it is important to differentiate between biological essentialism, cultural essentialism, and political essentialism. Why? How can this help expand our appreciation of feminist artists? 

According to Schapiro and Chicago, biological essentialism can be look as a means of liberating women from negative attitudes about female anatomy and their own bodies. Therefore, the emphasis on the biological and sexual in early feminist art must be understood against the historical background of the severe repression of women’s sexuality in the 1950s and 1960s (Broude and Garrard, 24). Seventies feminist artists defined their sexuality in art on through their own interpretations rather than through men’s perspective. They celebrated the female body by exploring their and society’s attitudes about the female body and organs. Thus, through “cunt” imagery, feminist artists represented women’s independent power and freedom from male dominance and patriarchy.

Cultural essentialism is defined as society’s gender-stereotyped conditioning of women’s self-image and experience. In other words, cultural essentialism is social construction of femininity. However, because of women’s role in society, they have help to perpetuate this issue by their gradual acceptance of social construction. Therefore, the only way women can escape cultural essentialism is by identifying and challenging it. Along the same lines, political essentialism appeared in the 1970s. It was described as the deliberate celebration of culturally essentialist forms (Broude and Garrard, 25). Schapiro and Chicago claimed political essentialism to be the commonality and enduring characteristics women’s art must have and share. Further, many early feminist artists tried to connect with a historical female ancestry, including figures such as Great Goddesses, Frida Kahlo, Artemisia Gentileschi, among others. By connecting with other historical feminist artists, who many had been silenced or ignored because of social constraints, seventies feminists were trying to create a culture for women to deserve attention, admiration, and recognition. The goal was to deliberate feminist visual expression from an area that had been controlled by Western art for centuries. Consequently, by reviving the art and rituals of previous feminist artists, feminists gave new forms of life to their work and challenged the value system that had subordinated them.

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One of the most impressive pieces of Seventies Feminist Art is “The Cock-Cunt Play” by Judy Chicago.  While watching this video, it really surprised me how powerful is the gender social construction is interpreted through the role of the sexual reproductive organs. According to the book The Power of Feminist Art, the play portrays “the  battle between the sexes as it demonstrates the culturally assumed connection between biological differences and sex roles (Broude and Garrard, 58).” From the biological essentialist perspective, women’s cunts “are round like a dish,” therefore, women must watch dishes. On the contrary, a male’s cock is “strong, and hard, and straight, and it is meant to shoot, like guns or missiles.” From the cultural essentialist perspective, the play is a comical representation of the social construction of gender roles. Women are expected to stay in the house and do the house chores because they’re sensitive, weak, and fragile, whereas men are characterized as strong, independent, and aggressive. Along this same lines, from the political essentialism perspective, women are taught to act according to the gender stereotype of what means to be a woman. However, the critique behind the play encourages women to identify, connect, and challenge the issue as a means of resistance against stereotypical gender roles.

4. Drawing from “The Feminist Art Programs at Fresno and CalArts, 1970-1975” by Faith Wilding (PFA, 32-47) and “Womanhouse” by Arlene Raven (PFA , 48-65), discuss Womanhouse (what/when/where/who/why)? What methods were utilized to generate content for Womanhouse? Choose 3 works from Womanhouse, 3 different artists. For each, address: How is the work “feminist”? How offering a critique of ambient sexist culture? What is the specific subject of critique? How different from other representations of women?  

The project Womanhouse was a collaborative art-environment addressing the gendered experiences of women in the context of a real house located in an urban neighborhood in Los Angeles. Under the direction of feminist artists Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, a total of twenty-one students from the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts helped to create the collaborative art environment of the Womanhouse. It was created in 1971 and opened to the public in 1972. “Womanhouse became both an environment that housed the work of women artists working out of their own experiences and the ‘house’ of female reality into which one entered to experience the real facts of women’s lives, feelings, and concerns,” Chicago explained (Broude and Garrard, 48). The project developed using the methodologies of consciousness-raising, reading, research, and role-playing, and then, therefore using the content arrived at through this process to make art. Woman’s concerns particularly found in American suburban home, such as nurturance, sex, self-consciousness, rape, and murder, where use as the main issues to create the Womanhouse. Further, Womanhouse emphasized feminist ideas and viewpoints concerning menstruation, sexuality, marriage, and promiscuity, pregnancy and post-partum depression, psychic breakdown and suicide in middle-class suburban homes. In order to repair and structure the house as an independent exhibition space as well as a work of art, students learned how to work cooperatively and developed their artistic skills. Also, working skills such as carpentry and window glazing became part of the creative process. The content of the activities and rooms in Womanhouse were based under a relationship between biology and social roles. Through the use of creative exaggeration of the ordinary physical and emotional elements of each space, most of the rooms replicated the conventional areas of a house while at the same time they challenged the activity of that room and the meaning of that activity to women’s self-image.

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Sandy Orgel. Linen Closet. Mixed media site installation at Womanhouse, 1972.

The art work Linen Closet by Sandy Orgel is one of the only two human figures shown in Womanhouse. The piece is characterized by a naked woman mannequin that is located among her clean, pressed linens, which represents how women are forced into cultural identities that are constructed by others rather than by them. The critique of this piece goes along to what Betty Friedan described as an American woman’s fulfillment which could only be defined as “the housewife-mother.” After 1949, many white middle-class women were alone, confined in their homes, and didn’t know who they were except in relationship to family members. Therefore, this piece was a critique to the internal oppression housewives live, thus, constructed by stereotypical gender roles in which women are encourage to believe that the role of housewife-mother is their only aspirations in life. “As one woman visitor commented, ‘This is exactly where women have always been –in between the sheets and on the shelf.’ It is time now to come out of the closet (Broude and Garrard, 55).”

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Susan Frazier, Vicki Hodgetts, Robin Weltsch. Nurturant Kitchen. Mixed media site installation at Womanhouse, 1972.

A second interesting and very popular art work that was displayed in Womanhouse was Susan Frazier, Vicki Hodgetts, and Robin Weltsch’s Nurturant Kitchen. In the picture, you can appreciate that the room’s ceiling is covered with Hodgetts’ plastic fried eggs, which are transformed into breasts on the walls. The closer the small round images are to the frying pan on the stove, the more these images change again to eggs. For the creation of this room, Schapiro suggested a consciousness-raising session about feelings raised by kitchens in the artists’ childhood memories. Therefore, the pink kitchen represented the institutional source of all mothers’ milk as well as the war zone of the home. “Struggles between mothers and daughters for psychological power were embedded in the gestures of giving and receiving good (Broude and Garrard, 52). Further, the stove is defined as the heart of the kitchen and the egg is the image of nourishment that means food and that also signifies the hunger in many women’s hearts and lives. Under the female stereotypical gender role, women are considered to be the nourishers of the family because they have breasts as well as the only individuals cooking the family meals.

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Judy Chicago. Menstruation Bathroom. Mixed media site installation at Womanhouse, 1972.

The Menstruation Bathroom was created by Judy Chicago and was meant to present the issue of women’s blood as taboo in society, and by implication, “puberty as the moment of shame when signs of womanhood appear and must be hidden behind a locked bathroom door (Broude and Garrard, 55).” The white, clean, deodorized (except for the blood), and silent bathroom, filled with feminine hygiene products, was a metaphor of the unspeakable. According to Chicago, “However we feel about our own menstruation is how we feel about seeing its image in front of us (Broude and Garrard, 57).

Powerful Images

1.      Bunting’s “Yes, You Are”

I always remember this article from the event “I’m not a feminist, but…” when it is been read out loud at the end of the evening. Many of the attendees to this event have probably never thought about what feminism really means less have they considered themselves as feminists. Therefore, I find Bunting’s article “Yes, You Are” as a good reflective exercise for the audience. With so many misconceptions and negative connotations of feminism, I think it is important for people to read this article in order for them to understand that feminism is not about a person’s particular believes or lifestyle that has to follow in order to be considered a feminist. Therefore, I like how the article addresses common issues on physical appearances, looks, education, socio-economic status, sexuality, politics, among others, that affect people when making a decision or stating an opinion. However, I think Bunting’s goal is to invite people to reconsider feminism as she emphasizes it as inclusive to everyone rather than only as exclusive to women or women studies’ students.

Patriarchy, the System

            This reading made me realized that even though I considered myself a feminist, when I hear the word ‘”patriarchy” I always identify it with men, sexism, female subjugation, and gender discrimination. Therefore, I often interpret patriarchy from my own individualistic perspective and how it, according to my point of view, affects the rest of society. However, one of the things I agree with the reading is that in a patriarchal system we are all participating in something larger than ourselves or any collection of us. Yes, it is important to understand how patriarchy is affecting our lives and the lives of others, but more importantly, we need to acknowledge that it is us, and only us, who can make a change in the system through our actions and the consequences they will produce. People’s lives are shaped by institutions like the family, religion, and the economy. It is not just about individual perspectives. In order to attempt to solve the problem we need to start working “with the social roots that generate and nurture the social problems that are reflected in the behavior of individuals” (Johnson, 99). Therefore, if a society is oppressive, then the people who grow up and live in it will tend to accept, identify with, and participate in it as “normal.” If we choose to remain silenced, this action will support and perpetuate patriarchal beliefs. Consequently, the important thing is not to let a specific group in society to have “power over” another, but instead the purpose should be to empower all social groups in the right way, particularly oppressed groups, for the benefit of them and all.

PFA & A&F

The history of feminism and art seems to have been very complex after reading the introduction. As everything in life, feminist art has transformed through time in a slow but progressional process. Similar to the feminist wave movements, feminist art has lived through different stages characterized by the struggles and differences between feminist artists of different generations. The one that I seemed to familiarized the most with was the seventies feminist art, which took place during the women’s movement. What was revolutionary about the feminist are of the 1970s and 1980s was its content. Seventies feminist art opened the door to diversity by including a number of races and ethnicities, and addressed social concerns rather than formalist progressions. However, one of reasons I familiarized best with the women artists of the feminist generation is because their art was characterized by their socialized experiences as women and in because they accepted these as different from men’s but equally valid. Therefore, they were aware of “the social construction of gender” which had repressed and subjugated women in society for such a long time. For the first time, women had the opportunity to realized and comprehend the internal oppression most of them had been living for most of their lives, and thus, some of them had the opportunity to express this, or free themselves, through art. Even though, I don’t think I would be able to recall any of the feminist women artists of the seventies, at this point I can say that I’m most eager to learn about the feminist art of the seventies, since it will resemble more the women’s movement, which I’ve studied before.

 

2.      Woman: When I think of the word “woman” the first two things that come to my mind are power and complexity. When I think of women as a collective group I think of the infinite opportunities and things women can achieve. I tend to forget a little about the inequalities and oppression lived by many of them, and whereas, I try to imagine how their lives could be different. I think of women as powerful and beautiful beings, who if drive by their passions and intellect can achieve so many things. In worst scenarios, I would even dare to say that women, no matter how hurt, disoriented, or oppressed, can use their internal oppression and suffering to empower themselves. And I say this from personal experience. Therefore, women can be powerful and strong, to the point of solving their own problems. However, at the same time, I believe that to achieve this might take a lot of will to work with own’s complexity. By complexity, I’m not trying to say that women are difficult human beings who are impossible to handle or socialize with, but on the contrary, when I say this I mean to address that not all women’s feelings, life situations, gender, socio-economic conditions, ethnicity, religion, political views, art expressions, etc., are the same, and that to be a woman implies so many beautiful things that differ us from one another, particularly from men. Therefore, women should not be placed under one category or group, but rather our diversity, beauty, and strength (all external and internal) should be recognized by everyone. Consequently, the complexity that lies in the personality of each human being, however, in this case women, is what makes us unique and beautiful, and what, if use in the positive way, adds to the force of the  women’s movement.

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Characteristics (both physical and cultural) we share and differ: The five of us are women of color, although mine is lighter than theirs. Although both of our ancestors were colonized, they were able to preserve their Maya ancestry untouched, while my family’s history includes European ascendancy. The five of us identify ourselves as Catholics, although they have fused spiritual Mayanism practices with Catholicism. We all are identified Hispanics. However, I was born in Mexico and them in Guatemala. Because of the proximity of our countries we share similar rich cultural and historical backgrounds. However, I dressed up with Western clothing whereas they preserved the ethnic costumes. Physically, we all are short in stature, have dark hair color and dark eye color.

This photo was taken during my research trip to Guatemala the community of Santiago de Atitlan, Guatemala on July 2012. Santiago de Atitlan was the first community I had the opportunity to visit. Most of the people living in this community are Maya indigenous people who, still to the present day, preserved their Maya ancestors’ customs, traditions, and lifestyle. Although Guatemala is located next to my country (Mexico), the demographics are very different from the ones in the northern part of Mexico. Having the opportunity of meeting women who shared and differ with me in so many aspects was culture shocking.

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Jennifer Watson, Cyborg Cindy, oil on canvas, 68″ x 39″

Baby Doll: A Female artists view of Contemporary Women

http://www.broadwaygallerynyc.com/2010/04/baby-doll/

The nude model in the painting is supermodel Cindy Crawford. She appears completely naked, and the part of her body that is ‘cover’ are her breasts and part of her front side. Her body in this painting is portrayed to resemble a Barbie dolls’ body, particularly from the waist and all the way down. Her body position, particularly her hand, and facial expression is sexually seductive, which in my opinion, might look ‘inviting’ to the audience.

When I first saw this image, I interpreted it as a criticism to the patriarchal society we live and to the mass media that has distorted the minds of so many women. The mass media of today is inundated with false information about how women should look, how they should treat their bodies, how they should satisfy their men, what they should do, eat, wear, or not, etc. Mass media, such as magazines and reality shows, encourage women to look almost like supermodels or Barbie dolls, thus, to look unaesthetic and fake. Therefore, the mass media forces women to change, or ‘fix,’ themselves according to what the patriarchal society considers beautiful, attractive, and acceptable to men. Consequently, this creates low self-esteem in women and causes other mental illnesses as well as physical too. Women are drawn into drown into a world in which the ultimate goal is to look like a doll, which if it existed in real life it would be considered unaesthetic and not human. Most frustrating, is that the only and most important reason behind these physical changes women undergo is to please men’s necessities instead of their own.

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This is a photo I took during my trip to Guatemala during the summer of 2012. This photo portrays the Maya indigenous population of a town community in Guatemala. This image shows the difference of dress code between the men and women in the community. All of the women preserved the Maya costumes of their ancestors, while the men are dress with Western clothing instead of wearing the traditional costume. Also, most of the indigenous women in the photo (and from my experience) appear to be selling fruit, vegetables and other goods at the local supermarket, while men seem to missing in the picture.

Every time I see this photo I see a mixture of the inheritance from colonialism, the preservation of Maya traditions and culture, and the influence from the West in the people. Experiencing this environment in real life impacted my perception of the real living conditions in a third world country which you don’t always find in the big cities or in certain parts of the country. Immersing myself in the community was culture shocking because I had never experienced been in the middle of an indigenous majority who are treated and oppressed as a minority by their own government. Coming from a different part of Latin America, my presence in the community was noticed by all, since my skin color was lighter than theirs, my hair was curlier, and my clothing was very Western to them. Even though I could relate to these women in the sense that we all are women of color living in a patriarchal, machista society, I realized that I could never understand their life situations as Maya indigenous women who were not only subjugated to their culture, but also to the discrimination of their government and the rest of Guatemala citizens.

On Great Women Artists

1.      How does Nochlin reply to the question “Why have there been no great women artists”?

“There have been no great women artists because women are incapable of greatness.” This was the idea that the white Western male viewpoint had of women artists. Undoubtedly, this accepted viewpoint in the field of art history created gender discrimination in the arts. Thus, the main reasons that answer this question is institutional exclusion of women from the arts. Women artists were positioned as outsiders, radical intellectuals, whereas white male artists were acknowledged as the “natural” form of representation in art. Therefore, women artists’ work was undermined just for the simple fact of been done by a woman. The domination of white male subjectivity in the arts led to sexism and employment inequality, particularly affecting women. Nochlin even expresses this by saying, “The subjection of women to men being a universal custom, any departure from it quite naturally appears unnatural.”

The fault behind women’s institutional exclusion in the arts, and in many other areas, lies in the patriarchal society we live and the patriarchal mass media that feeds it. Women were discouraged to attend art institutions and even if some of them reached this level of education, they were forbid to take certain classes that were necessary to improve their art skills. For instance, the complete unavailability to the aspiring woman artist of any nude models at all, male or female. To be deprived of this training meant to be deprived of the possibility of creating major art works. Instead, women would be used as the nude model rather than. Nochlin replies, “It is all right for a woman to reveal herself naked-as-an object for a group of men, but forbidden to a woman to participate in the active study and recording of naked-man-as-an-object or even of a fellow woman.” Therefore, women artists were criticized for devoting her time to one thing (their career) instead of concentrating in domestic and social duties commonly acknowledged only to women, such as housewives and mothers. The only and one choice of women in life was, and it still is in some places, marriage. However, despite the deprivation of encouragement, educational facilities, and rewards, there are women artists who did persevered and became professional artists.

2.      Who are the Guerrilla Girls and what do they do?

The guerrilla girls are a group of women artists or art professionals who fight discrimination in the history of art. They considered themselves as the conscience of the art world. Their work explores sexism and racism in the art world and the culture at large. Said this, the guerrilla girls use the label ‘women and artists of color’ to describe all the women they represent. An interesting fact is that they were gorilla masks to keep the focus on the issues rather than in their personalities. Also, they use humor to prove that feminism can be funny too. Therefore, they try to make their work attractive and accessible to everyone.

3.      What does Woolf say would have happened had Shakespeare had a brilliant sister (Judith)?

Woolf describes Judith as an adventurous and imaginative girl who, like her brother Shakespeare, would have been eager to see the world. However, her parents would have force her to remain at home working instead of going to school. She would have written things behind her parents’ backs. Thus, they would have force Judith to marry to a stranger despite against her will. Because of this arrange marriage, she probably would have escape to London to follow her passion in theater. However, she would have been denied the opportunity to act. She would have been consider crazy because of her genius artistic gift. Because of all the frustration it meant to be a woman artist back in those days, she probably would have killed herself and be buried at some crossroad.

4.      What do you think? (Your reaction/response to Nochlin, the Guerrilla Girls, Woolf)

When I first read the question “Why have there been no great women artists?”  I thought of sexism and gender discrimination that had been socially constructed through patriarchy. Because I’ve learned about women’s studies before, I already know some of the main issues that women have and still face nowadays. However, I enjoyed learning about women issues in the field of arts and how gender inequality and institutional exclusion, as in many other fields too, had prevented many women artists to become renowned artists. I was also glad to learn about the guerrilla girls and about what they do. I completely support their mission of representing women and artists of color through the constructive criticism they do in their posters and work. However, although I understand the reason behind the gorilla masks, which I think is a great and captivating way of presenting themselves, I think they could be use by the mass media as a way to criticize the cause of the movement and debilitate it. Woolf’s piece on Judith gave me a more clear and better understanding of what a woman artist back in those suffered simply because institutions such as the family, school, and religion prohibited her to follow her passion because of her sex. Although nowadays we live in a more ‘just and equal’ world, humans sometimes ignored that gender inequality still exists and that it continues to affect women everywhere.