Monday, May 2, 2011

Feminists, Put Your Hands Up

Dear Everyone,

Feminism is not dead.


Common Sense

Now that, that has been said, let’s have a little chat about feminism through the lens of the art world. This art world is a strange place; it is FILLED with women, women who run things. Curatorships, gallery ownerships, and directorships are now predominantly reined by a generation of women that had the chance to D.I.Y or PHD it to the top. The assistants, managers, and attendants of art spaces and institutions are an online dating site’s dream of fresh young females who are as eager as beavers to climb up the art world ladder. How to get to the top of this ladder, now that’s the rub.

Although this art world is hoisted by women who are authorities and decision makers, it is sadly, actually devastatingly, still being played with the rules of a man’s game. What do I mean? I mean this: To be a feminist, to be a women trying to make both philosophical and tangible change in our society is to make women not more like men but to make these sexist constructions revealed and then altered so that being a women is normative.

In the art world, there are poor and hypocritical labor standards (more about this in length at another time). In addition to these arcane standards for everyone, women are even more humiliated because they are still paid less than their counterparts and there is the whole have a baby = bye-bye/pause your career thing. Having a vagina is not a handicap. More so, the biological fact that a vagina is attached to a uterus which is still the number one place a baby can develop, is not a disability. These facts are still flagrantly disregarded. If you decide to have a child this decision is treated as a declaration of battle that prompts peers, work, society, government to play tackle football against you and you are provided with only a pillow marked “Family Values / Christian Right / Honk If You Like Kids” as defense. This is hard for everyone who decides to spawn, but for women even more so because the body is the site of this.

In addition to reproductive issues, there’s a bevy of other internal and external turmoils facing today’s feminist. All of this fighting between first, second, third and on and on waves within the feminist movement is not very productive but it should be treated as normal and it should be patiently exorcised. Seriously folks, men have had like a bajillion years to create history and they fought a lot, way more than women. It’s good to fight, it’s good to argue. It is a waste of time though when resources and brainpower are used to fight just for the sake of fighting. What is more startling is how women are sometimes the worst to other women, (Judy Chicago, stop being such a bully! No one likes that stupid dinner table anyways!). Feminists of times before should be respected, but not in an elderly grandma way. Young ladies: we have to listen, learn and continue their work. To the middle-aged/old guard: the younger generation is not as vapid and disengaged as you think. Stop telling us what our feminism should be. Like you, we don’t like to be bossed around. Why does this happen? It’s because women are only allotted to have a certain amount of power, money, and limelight so everyone is pushing, screaming and wrestling for this bouquet dangled by the men. Depressing, isn’t it? Women have egos too, women have objectives and are strategic about self preservation and promotion, this is fine, but remember that this is collective. We are all drinking from the same watering hole, don’t shit in it.

Women should also relax on the whole man hating thing. Yes, men are really (really) bad sometimes. Yes, men are totally oppressive and they have constructed this thing called modern civilization that sustains itself on brutalizing, demoralizing, and brainwashing. Yes, men have named, labeled and stuck a flag on everything. This has happened and of course it is necessary to discuss, reflect and to analyze but to fixate on this and to do nothing but obsess about it is beyond redundant. Bitch and moan for a bit but then find solutions. On the flip, to the men that embody the cliché of macho, a middle finger to you. To the others, you should know a few things. One, feminism isn’t some sort of trendy cool club, you are with us or you’re not. Two, stop saying bitch(y), we can you can’t. Three, we don’t have penis envy; we have money and power envy.

So what to do: Should we pack it all up and call it a day? Heck no, but it does seem daunting. Everything today feels like it has been sucked up into this transparent sack where everything is slowly bouncing and self cleaning itself. It isn’t nihilism, it isn’t apathy, those are too decided of terms even…it is just this bizarre something. We all want to have meaning, and there still is, but we also know that there isn’t, not really, not the way it should be. This state has latched itself onto feminism as well. What we have to do is snap out of it but not in a commodified way or just for the sake of having something to do. We have to confront that women are still regarded as secondary, are still being brutalized, still self-mutilating and self-hating because of the way things were and still are. Each women, each person, has to alter this condition first personally and then if possible outside oneself. These actions are private, everyday, and consistent. Those that are in power, have power, have access to power, whether through money, influence, education, gusto, use it to make things change. Use it a lot and all the time; don’t use it just for a charity benefit or an article or a degree. Use it because most can’t, at least not yet.