I always wait until the end to write the beginning because I am never sure how this will evolve. This week the common thread was overwhelmingly representation. In art, film, politics, in the National Guard, and even for the environment; Representation Matters. The bad news in feminism this week (at least in this blog) revolves around the world of art and the lack of female representation. As I was researching for the bad news section I ran across the Guerrilla Girls - my new favorite thing. They call themselves the "conscience of the art world" and have traveled the world since 1985 bringing attention to gender injustice in art. This group of women wears guerrilla masks wherever they go and they produce artsy stickers, billboards, spotlight art, flyers, short films, and even exhibits that highlight gender injustices that are easily overlooked if you aren't paying attention. They bring attention to the bad news in the world of feminism and art of all kinds, but they themselves are absolutely good news! In other good news we have... brace yourself... good news in politics! and we wrap up the good news with young women breaking barriers and skipping school for a worldly cause. Off we go!
Bad news in feminism:
A recent study on the diversity of artists in major U.S. museums by the Public Library of Science found that a whopping 87% of artists found in U.S. museums are male and 85% of the artists are white. Where are the female artists and the artists of color?! Clearly not in U.S. museums and after a little research I found that they aren't in museums in other countries either. I started wondering about who was depicted in museum art and what that looked like. It was there that I discovered the Guerrilla Girls. They have this great poster that pretty much summed up the information I was searching for (see below). They have a similar one for music videos. I am loving what these women put out into the world. I promise it will be worth your time to check out their work. They have a little clutch bag they sell that touts the advantages of being a woman artist - Number one is "working without the pressure of success". Funny? Yes. But obviously ironically so. How do we change this historical pattern of women's inability to break through the "painted" ceiling? As we've seen over and over in recent months, bringing attention to an issue is the key to opening the door to change. But it worries me that the Guerrilla Girls have been at this since 1985 in some pretty public ways and the art industry seems to be particularly slow to bring about change. For anyone who says women have achieved gender equality, I beg to differ. The next generation has its work cut out for them.
And since we are on the subject of art, let's walk away from the museums toward Hollywood. Reddit.com posted an alarming and revealing chart that compared the voices we hear of women vs. men in films that have won an Oscar for Best Picture since 1991. For purposes of the chart, only main characters are included, meaning those who speak more than 100 words during the film. The numbers aren't pretty, with only one film (in 28 years!) where we heard women speaking more than men. That was Chicago, if you don't want to read the chart. I believe this really speaks (no pun intended) to the lack of representation of women in film behind the camera, including directors and writers. If everything is presented from a male perspective, of course, the woman's voice will be frequently minimized. You'll never guess who agrees with me? The Guerrilla Girls came up once again - this time touting that the U.S. Senate (of all places) is more progressive than Hollywood when it comes to female movie directors. These are pretty frightening numbers coming out of Hollywood and they haven't budged for 20 years! Women themselves are responsible for the change in the Senate. We are tired of not being represented. The number of female Senators has risen because women are running and women are voting. But when it comes to choosing movie directors women have very little voice. Hmmm. I think that is where I started in this paragraph. In Hollywood, our only voice is our dollar power so let's use our voices and support female-centric (both in front of and behind the camera) films!
For those of you who are particularly prone to detail, there is one year/film missing in the graph, The Artist from the 2012 Oscars, which was a silent film.
If you are looking for a great resource to help you and your young female understand both the lack of and the importance of gender representation in film, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has a plethora of age appropriate information.
Good news in feminism:
While we are on the subject of voting and women in office, I'd like to talk about presidential candidates. Women have been running for President of the United States long before we were ever "given" the right to vote. Victoria Woodhull was the first in 1872, running on an Equal Rights Party ticket. We all know (or can guess) how that went (learn more about her here.) Since then we have had a smattering of female candidates with Hillary Clinton, of course, coming the closest to the chair in the Oval Office. But this year is different. For the first time in history, we have six (6!) women running for President (so far) and there is plenty of time for more to throw their hat in the ring. I've read and watched many of their interviews and they are frequently asked about their thoughts on the importance of women running for office, whether it be for the Senate or the President. The one word that I would use to sum up each of their responses is "reflection." It is vitally important for women and girls to be able to see themselves in leadership positions; both in the present as having a representative who looks like them, and in their futures to know that they too can be leaders and representatives. Go here for one such story. This is similar to what I was discussing as it relates to a woman's voice in art and film - if there aren't enough women's voices in politics, we cannot possibly have issues that are most important to us heard. Run Women, Run!!
I was lucky enough to meet the talented artist/advocate of the Run Women, Run! movement at the Women's March in San Francisco last month, Wanda K. Whitaker. Her artwork so eloquently and beautifully represents my exact thoughts on this matter.