Broadsheet, The Blog

Two Lady Artists with Bees in Their Bonnets

27 June 2007

CAT FIGHT!


Ok, I shouldn’t have even been watching this show, but rather than drink alone, sometimes, despite the utter depravity, I watch really, really, really, and I mean REALLY, bad TV. Yes, I confess, dear reader(s), I subjected myself to the newest of the vilest reality dating shows, Age of Love. And I have to say, I was riveted with disgust. But it got me thinking that along with ageism (oft discussed in the art-related blogs), it is clear that sexism is an intramural sport.

One of the most gag-inducing aspects of this ridiculous spin on the The Bachelor, in which 40-something women are pitted against 20-something women (kittens vs. cougars) to “win the heart” of an Australian tennis “champ,” is the unconcealed female self-hatred expressed as fear of aging by the younger women toward their older counterparts. The former speculate, as they primp for their group date (ew!) that perhaps the older women are experiencing hot flashes (at 40? please...), they spew phrases like “hello, do I hear stretch marks, anyone?” and make references to sagging skin. I’m sorry, but do these women even know anyone over forty? Furthermore, do they think they will never age? Ultimately, this isn’t pitting age against beauty as much as it is the same old, same old, pitting women against women to fight over a man. Meow… and, again, EW!

Subsequently, I think that the retreading of the improvable idea that youth trumps wisdom and age in the art world and that women are always being cut out of the equation serves to not only depress us, but to reify this notion that we can’t get ahead. The structural systems in place are clearly not working in our favor, but for every over-40 female artist that you point to that has been rejected on account of sexism and ageism, I can point to another who has managed to launch a career at this age. Okay, not a superstar, Matthew Barney, Damien Hirst-type of career, or even a Tracey Emin, Kara Walker-type career (and maybe we should ask them how they feel about what they make compared to the boys), but how many people have careers at that level anyway? Indeed, the numbers are skewed in favor of the men. But if you’ve gone down the path this far and are still making art at 40 or 50, you’re clearly not just in it for the glamour *ahem* or the money.

Now, This Broad will tell you that I’m no Pollyanna, and she regularly, rather endearingly, calls me a curmudgeon, so don't think I'm here to give you a pep talk and tell you to just put your nose to the grindstone! But I do believe that the language that we use and the scripts that we repeat in our heads can be as damaging as any external forces. Women in the art world and in the world in general lose site of their ultimate goals– kind of like any oppressed group– and bicker and fight amongst themselves.

Rather than blame the obviously faulty system, let’s try to help each other out a bit more and spend our energies on our work and, of course, simply refuse to go away.

Yours truly,

That Broad

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly a contrarian viewpoint. And one that I believe will prove accurate, because it really boils down to the power of the, ahem, “art market”.

It seems that the dogma recently written about buying art is that artists must be below a “certain age” for the collector to maximize his or her investment in the “art market”. But that assumes that the “art market” will include those artist(s) in their collections. Come on. How many artists, no matter what their age, make work that “ascend” into the market, as opposed to, say, becoming a drop in the bucket?

I find it hard to believe that serious collectors don’t know this, and buy art because they believe that the work has meaning and importance on non-monetary levels. Yeah, maybe they would like the world to view them as prescient visionaries, but when faced with putting their cash into art or sound financial investments, do you think they are reckless enough to think that art purchases will yield the same or greater returns? It might be true that they regard their art collection in the same way that older wealthy men are said to regard “trophy wives”…but no one ever said those wives are considered savvy investments, either. Hell, Donald Trump makes sure to divorce his just before ten years are up to make sure they don’t get their hands on all his money….

10:28 PM  
Blogger That Broad said...

Well! A very cynical spin on what I was trying to get at, with a very nice illustration of civilian sexism and ageism at work!

Artists end up fighting over scraps, and frankly, I'm sick of witnessing it and taking part in it. There is a fallacy that high visibility translates into financial remuneration, and with all the talk of money in the market people are getting a little hysterical. But I am ready to bet my back inventory that the distribution of goods in the art world is a mere reflection of the world at large, with one percent of the population controlling 40% of the wealth. And we know now that when economists speak of the trickle-down effect, they really do mean only a trickle.

So, if we all want to achieve financial success as artists, we would do well to consider that it may be more than just sexism and ageism that are keeping the majority of us from eking out a middle-class standard of living solely from our art.

7:29 AM  
Anonymous JamieJ said...

I liked Age of Love but I have to say, I thought his picked the wrong girl. I prefered at least two of the older women, but I guess that's his choice. That site gocougar you linked to is cool, I also found cougared.com which is pretty similar. I probably won't join either but never say never, right.

11:47 AM  
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