I just read a piece in The Chronicle of philanthropy (philanthropy.com/news/updates/index.php?id=8307). I read it thanks to the brilliant artsjournal.com, because, oddly enough, The Chronicle of philanthropy isn’t on my usual reading list. Anyway, the article says that when it comes to making charitable donations, women take the lead in determining the choices that couples make. Snippets come up regularly in the media about ‘differences’ between men and women. Sometimes they’re a bit pointless: as in “studies show that women breathe more through their left nostrils than their right"* and sometimes they’re bloody annoying: as in Brian Sewell saying (doubtless for effect),
The art market is not sexist. The likes of Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois are of the second and third rank. There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50 per cent or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.** (Quoted in the Independent, www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/theres-never-been-a-great-woman-artist-860865.html).
I would have tended to discount Sewell’s nonsense, and stuck to my belief that it’s all grand, and sure isn’t sexism a thing of the past, battles having been won long ago and all that, were it not for the fact that once noticed, the issues of how men and women are valued, evaluated and esteemed seem as complex now as when the battles first started to be waged; perhaps even more so – as they have been complicated by the ‘victories’ of the past.
What raised all this for me again had nothing to do with art, but with that famed bastion of sexism – mechanics. I needed a part to fix a car. After phoning, waiting, being promised delivery, phoning, waiting (repeat, etc) I finally got stroppy, and as a result got sent a broken part that doesn’t work. Three phone calls producing no response, I tested a theory, and got my brother to call. “That part’s broken," he said. “You should never have sent it." “Of course," they replied. “You’re right. We’re sorry." I would have phoned them back myself after that – only I realised that I would have conformed to their stereotypes of women and cried. I was so bloody furious. Not upset – furious.
Cars apart, it did make me think that men and women are, of course, not the same. We respond to some things differently, and we may well make different sorts of art (though I’m not convinced about that one). If The Chronicle of philanthropy and others regularly create their headlines from announcing newly discovered differences between the sexes, it strikes me that there is a desire to get to the bottom of what these differences may be, and how they affect human transactions. But noticing how these transactions are often played out – and not always as overtly as in the world of mechanics – makes me wonder if it isn’t time to stop whinging and start another proper fight.
*I made that up.
** You couldn’t make that up.