WEDNESDAYS WITH WENDY
For wendy.network’s very first round table discussion, we wanted to have a fruitful engaging conversation about how art can destabilise stereotypes. This month is the celebration of Women’s History month. We can look at our title of ‘how can art destabilise stereotypes’ through a critical lens from a woman’s perspective. How have women had to deconstruct stereotypes in a patriarchal oppressive society which isn’t completely inclusive and understanding.
Speaking through our common tongue of art, there is a wide range of views that we can choose to speak about through this title. For example, how does the feminist movement react to art using the female naked body? It could be seen as empowerment and expressive, but also in some context the artist could be over sexualising the body and objectifying it.
This is an compendium of notes that were taken during the discussion.
In Trinh T. Mihn’s 1983 film ‘Reassemblage’ she wanted to view and document the women in Nigeria in a closeness that hadn’t before been explored. By getting very close and zooming in on the women, she was showing them as people instead of documenting them like objects as the male documentary film makers before her had shown.
Gustave Gourbet painted the L’Origine du monde, which at the time in 1866, was an scandalous painting of the female genitalia. This was his expression of celebrating the female body which was uncommon in that time. In more recent times, we have social media platforms monitoring what is and isn’t acceptable such as the female nipple, which does not have the same level of equality online as its male counterpart
The artist Spencer Tunick aims to fight censorship and to showcase the naked body in public places, by promoting the challenge of a superior gaze of what is allowed and what is not. He is pushing the boundaries of the administration of social media and breaking the rules as an expression of freedom.
The Women’s Marches inspired a fashion movement, the Pussyhat. It was chosen in part as a protest against vulgar comments Donald Trump made about women’s genitals. The hats were created in part to de-stigmatize the word “pussy” and transform it into one of empowerment, and to highlight the design of the hat’s ’pussycat ears’. Leveraging social media and the close-knit nature of the global knitting community, word was spread and the fuse was lit.
Art also tackles the taboo of the menstrual cycle. In some countries of the world, people who menstrate are excluded from certain activities because they are seen as ‘unclean’ in those precious days of their cycle. The shock factor of seeing real female issues is the fact that it is an accurate representation of life and not a beautiful version of reality which is represented in early Renaissance art. Provocation is needed to see reality for what it is. We have to keep framing the truth so it becomes normalised.
Reality TV programmes are exaggerating fetishes and false stereotypes of different gender roles. They are bringing awareness to some topics of gender roles but also allowing the audience to only be a spectator in the show and not representing the full picture. We must work on how to normalise those roles in our everyday society. Consider also that by creating art for a specific group, there are always people who can’t understand or relate to it. Labelling is a part of integration. People don’t have a choice to be labeled as society categories them by their appearance or behaviour.
Donna Haraway’s concept of ‘The Cyborg Manifesto’ gives us a different perspective. Using the idea of the cyborg, Haraway tries to reinvent the human, eradicating history. However the history humans have come from has shaped the types of problems we have now, our beliefs systems and how we react with our real environment. We have to have context and history to shape our strength going forward. Our identity shapes social experience and positioning.
Making art takes away the label of what the world expects, because having labels and limits provide a pressure point where great art can be made when we learn to expand those boundaries. The stereotypes that are born from this generative oppressive power can help you understand what is right and wrong about the world around you.
We are deconstructing the stereotypes that were taught to us. By asking questions similar to how children do, we can learn how to resist oppression and find a deeper introspection on how we act going forward. We are taught to be stable and absolute, not that things are able to shift and transform. That’s why we have a fear of new ideas and concepts and why we are shocked when we see a new view on reality for the first time. We are seeing things we don’t expect and at the same time learning a new point of view.
Evolutionists point out how to handle a conversation with people who believe male roles and gender equality is to be based on the Darwin theory. Having a few modern day examples which break away from these sexist beliefs so as to show evidence from social media or have an up-to-date example which resonates with the current technological generation allows for a better discussion on those views.. Having a toolkit of predetermined answers to face common questions you have been asked is also a helpful way to feel strength in your beliefs and hopefully open those discussions up to other people.
- Black and Blue (medical racism)
- Invisible Woman (how everyday concepts are built for men)
- The guilty woman
- “Window Water Baby Moving (Stan Brakhage) 1959 (but the artist depicts the process of birth in such grace and beauty)
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