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.