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Hairy Legs: A Study of Female Art, Feminism and Femininity — By Kirsty Flockhart

Hairy Legs: A Study of Female Art, Feminism and Femininity — By Kirsty Flockhart
HPD
  • On January 14, 2014

During my last 2 years of Visual Arts in High School, I was introduced to the idea of Female Art, Feminism and Femininity. These topics involved a variety of artists (mostly female, singular and plural) who focus their art works on gender difference and all the impacts and effects of gender on art. The idea is a rather broad spectrum, which to name some are:

The effect of female art compared to male.

That there is a radical inequality within the art world.

That there is a breach of morals towards female artists and unfair advantages given to male artists by male artists within a penis shaped world of art.

What does it mean to be feminine or womanly?

And has anything really changed since the suffragettes?

So many accusations thrown by an array of feminists of the 20th and 21st century really makes me question the foundation of art in this modern world, are males really the forerunner within the artistic community?

And how much does society have to do with that?

I personally, don’t consider myself to be a feminist (though my art teachers might think differently considering 2 years worth of feminist and lesbian art essays) but I can’t resist the sub-gravity of these artworks and the ideas they push, and how they each question the way contemporary society interacts with itself.

So many accusations thrown by an array of feminists of the 20th and 21st century really makes me question the foundation of art in this modern world, are males really the forerunner within the artistic community?

And how much does society have to do with that?

With the rise of commercialism and modernisation comes a reflection in the art world.

Some of my favourite female artists use these highly text-based commercial-like artworks to promote their messages. Barbara Kruger uses re-contextualisation and large scale billboards to portray her message of gender discrimination and anti-female-stereotypes so she can reach the largest scale of public exposure.

The picture above is one of my favourites: We don’t need another hero.

Kruger’s works and also Jenny Holzer’s present the process of social change in westernisation and industrialisation; they depict the adoption of new technology and modernisation.

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This artwork is by the Guerrilla Girls, they’re an anonymous group of radical feminist woman who use bright colours, text and appropriated imagery to provide statistics about gender discrimination and inequality. This particular image (posted onto buses in New York after the Museum of Metropolitan Art refused to show the piece inside their gallery) and the Guerrilla Girls themselves inspired me to begin researching feminism and feminist art.

“…We have produced posters, stickers, books, printed projects, and actions that expose sexism and racism in politics, the art world, film and the culture at large. We use humour to convey information, provoke discussion, and show that feminists can be funny…” — The Guerrilla Girls

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This poster print is an example of sarcastic truth about the position of women felt by the Guerrilla Girls. These artists question the relationship between popular culture and female identification.

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The Dinner Party- Judy Chicago

The triangular table features 39 dinner plates symbolic for each woman. Each plate shows ‘vagina-like’ objects that have been produced in a stereotypical ‘feminine’ way. For example, hundreds of volunteers participated to produce these ceramic plates, many have been hand crafted with embroidery of the names of the feminist guests-of-honour beneath. Ironically, Embroidery is considered to be a “woman’s job” from as far back as the 18th century.

The work is intended as an elevation to heroic scale of contributions of women in a way that has been excluded throughout history.

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I have to add in Naomi Wolf, not of the visual arts, but of the literary arts.

Her book The Beauty Myth expresses her belief that the power structures and institutions of today exploit and oppress woman. For an easy example in the work force; dressing too conservatively or masculinely can label Miss X a ‘prude’, or a ‘dyke’ however dressing more liberally can be labelled inappropriate or overly sexual.

Wolf questions the way governing forces try to ensure ‘equality’ where it is so very grey. She highlights the rise of feminine customs in 21st century materialism and the way society pushes the importance of feminine aesthetics, for example, applying make-up in a ritualistic manner. These are manifestations of culture that make feminism distinctive on a daily basis.

Who for instance said boys are blue and girls are pink?

I’ve found that there are many misconceptions made by the public about the opinions and appearance of feminists, such as stereotypical and negative views that feminists are ugly, mean, stubborn, masculine or lesbian, have shaved heads and hairy legs.

These ideals of “unfemininity” often mislead men and women of today, giving feminism unwanted connotations. Why would anybody today pursue something so unattractive?

Such examples are highlighted by Naomi Wolf.

I’m having trouble finding an appropriate conclusion to this splurge of lipstick and perfume, but I can’t help but think about gender difference and the way it affects your life on a micro or macro level. I found it to be like some sort of magic trick, where once somebody points it out I don’t stop seeing it around me.

I hope this makes any sort of impact on possible readers, I hope it pushes any sort of vague wave towards feminine enlightenment.

Kirsty Flockhart is about to start studying at Sydney College of the Arts, this is her first article for HomepageDAILY

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