Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Female Artist Solution

Hmph. Pretty Lady has just returned from a Panel Discussion on the place of Women in the Art World, and she has some sincere advice for female artists.

If you wish to have a fulfilling career in the Arts, the one thing you must be careful to do is to avoid Panel Discussions on the place of Women in the Art World.

For it seems, darlings, as though very little has changed since Virginia Woolf ate beef and prunes at the ascetic Women's College, in nineteen-twenty whatever-it-was. The gallery hosting this vaunted Panel had no air-conditioning, and wholly insufficient seating. Valuable works by Women Artists were held to the walls with pins. The P.A. system was non-functional. And when the ludicrously excessive number of Women Artists on the panel were invited to share their thoughts, they sat there--glum, courteous and silent--as one of the two male panelists gave an extempore and stultifyingly dull treatise on C.I.A. history, and the rise of suburbia in the nineteen-fifties.

Pretty Lady was not nearly as depressed about her Career Prospects before attending this panel as she was afterward.

For she noted, early on in the discussion, that the word allowed was used, more than once, in a negative sense. As in, 'Women Artists are not allowed to...'. During the question-and-answer phase, Pretty Lady wished to point out the damning connotations of this phraseology; the fact that persons who are waiting for Someone Else to Allow them to do something are--willy-nilly, a priori, within their own minds--Disempowered. We, as Women Artists, need look no farther.

But Pretty Lady kept her thoughts to herself, because no-one allowed her to speak. She supposes she could have been terribly rude and masculine and loudly Interrupted, but something--perhaps an overwhelming feeling of Invisibility, as though her confident demeanor, her intense gaze, her raised arm, were being deliberately and wilfully ignored--kept her silent.


Kesha Bruce said...

*rolling on floor laughing and sobbing all at once*

Pretty Lady said...

Ah. Yes.

Chris Rywalt said...

My wife, being a woman, is occasionally invited to various conferences, lunches, brunches, symposiums and whatnot to discuss the topic of Women In [whatever], [whatever] usually being "the University" or "Engineering" or something similar. She always tries to avoid these things. She says that if you want to be a successful woman in a career, one of the things you have to do is stop reminding everyone you're a woman. The other thing you have to do is do your job really well.

This has worked spectacularly for her: Last year she was Master Educator of the Year and now she's the chairman of her department. I'm so proud of her, and I'm honored to make her meatloaf.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes a modifier can subtract a lot from what it qualifies. I remember what Vox wrote about how Bush campaigning as a "compassionate" conservative raised a red flag for him.

And I'm reminded of an acquaintance of mine who had discovered the work of Flannery O'Connor and really enjoyed it. She hadn't known that Miss O'Connor was a woman until I mentioned it.

I congratulate you, Pretty Lady. You are an artist. Oh, and I guess you are also a woman.

k said...

Got a good meatloaf recipe for us, chris?

k said...

I mean, I can never seem to make mine come out consistently. There are so very many very different recipes out there, and I keep thinking perhaps there's a Universal Secret to it that I just haven't discovered yet.

Chris Rywalt said...

I have an awesome meatloaf recipe, actually. But first you should try Alton Brown's recipe from Good Eats. I found his too moist for my taste. I wanted my mother's crunchy meatloaf exterior -- which all too often became a carbonized meatloaf exterior. So I combined my mother's hit-and-miss recipe with Alton's to come up with the Magic Meatloaf Recipe, which I will share with you if you e-mail me. Or, if Pretty Lady says it's okay, I'll put it up here.

Pretty Lady said...

Why on earth would it not be okay, Chris? Pretty Lady is All About good cooking tips. If you email her the recipe, she'll even post it up top.

k said...


You're really taking me back to my own working days, here.

Big Money was very much the province of the Alpha Male.

Yet from 1986 - 1990, the asset manager staffs I worked with were almost half women...

until 1991, when the *emergency* phase of the bank/S&L failures had morphed into bureaucracy, and we were working 8-5, 5-day weeks instead of 100-hour weeks, and had portfolios that were almost equal to SOP specs...

and when I ended up, then, in NW Louisiana, I found out AFTER I'd been hired that I was only the second woman out of 36 to ever work Major Assets there.

In our committee meetings, when I spoke up, the entire room would fall silent and they'd all turn and look at me, quizzically, as if a rock or tree had suddenly grown a mouth and spoken in their presence. No one would say anything for several minutes. Dead silence.


I knew what I was doing far more than anyone there, up to and including the highest level of management.

Which only made it worse, you see. Because when I did venture to comment or suggest something in committee, I was always right.

That was a problem. There was nothing for them to say back to me. Nothing to use to try
to dismiss me. I left them no ammunition. Zero. One big reason they were silent for so long after I'd spoken.

Big mistake on my part.

In an emergency, what's needed, wanted, appreciated are those who really do know their stuff and have the moxie to get it done. Any individuality, personal quirkiness, congenital defects like being born, uh, hm...okay, 'scuze please, dickless? Those things were overlooked. Production was all that mattered.

After the emergency, it's an entirely different story. What's desired are those who can play office politics and such bullshit. Ick.

Took all the fun out of it.

Anonymous said...

Make art.

Avoid Artistes.