Women In Art History

Throughout history women in the arts have had to contend with notions that genius is a man’s trait. They’ve been subjected to accusations their work was not their own, had to hide any trace of femininity from their work, and only allowed to create “as long as [she] remains from unsexing herself.” (Chadwick, pg. 31) As long as they conformed to their role in society and were noble and feminine, they could play at the arts. Never daring to greatness, because then, they may as well be a man and who wants that? Amiright?

Education for women has historically been to create “better wives and mothers.” (Chadwick, pg 34) Even as recent as the 1970s Home Economics was still standard for school girls. Now, I’m not knocking Home Ec or even the creators, they had their hearts in the right place. It’s just everyone should learn it, not just girls sewing poodles on their skirts. The term MRS degree and the idea that women need to settle down after college further denigrates the education of women as only having education to attract a husband. I’d argue this is past thinking, but even when I graduated the assumption was that I would get married, have kids, and not have time for art.  It is moving in the direction of the dodo, but not fast enough for my liking.

Therefore, any art education, serious art education, had to either be performed in secret, such as anatomy, or under male tutelage, where rape was a possibility. *cough* Artemesia *cough* (no, I’ll never let it go). If the women weren’t of noble birth, it was even harder to study the arts. Heaven forbid you slacked off caring for the household. Men were able to spend all day in the studio honing their skills and ignoring everything else.  “Women were isolated from the theoretical and intellectual debates that dominated the arts because in most cases they were barred from membership of the academies in Rome and Paris, the major centers of art education during the eighteenth century. Excluded from life drawing classes, they were insufficiently trained to work in prestigious genres like history painting.” (Chadwick, pg. 38) Guess what just so happened to have a resurgence in popularity.  If you said history painting, you’re a smart cookie.  Naturally, men will be seen as more skilled or more genius if they are the only ones privy to the game and change the rules when it suits them. Naturally, there will be less women artists. Their restrictions were greater. Yet, they still managed to leave their mark. I’m not saying women are better, I’m just implying it.

Women were entirely left out of the discussion while simultaneously being taught they must be polite and the opposite of men or they were no good. It would rarely occur to them to just show up en mass. Not ask permission. Start their own schools. They probably would have been arrested for indecency of some sort, though, but at some point, one must “Fuck Politeness” if one wants to “get shit done.”

Yet, we are still politely asking permission to be included. As if men are the gate keepers of art. The Guerrilla Girls put up posters in 1989 pointing out the exclusion of female artists in museums, but that hasn’t lead to much change almost 30 years later. Sure, the numbers went from 10% to 20% and a lucky one woman a year now gets a solo show at the Guggenheim, Met, and Whitney, but that seems a bit unexciting. We must either demand inclusion by joining forces and petitioning/boycotting museums for more female representation or create museums of our own, not just for female artists, mind you, but for equal representation. Then we must go to these museums and support these museums more than the ones which refuse to acknowledge female artistic genius is a thing. We can start with this one.

No more quietly whispering our suggestions with our hands raised while others shout over us when it is no longer their turn. I recommend starting by sending postcards of paintings by women to your local or favorite museums, asking them to include more women artists. You can either make your own or use the affiliate links below to purchase some and share with friends and women groups you may be part of. And maybe a few men would even like some ūüėČ Hopefully a bombardment of postcards featuring women’s art will help it sink  in. (You may need to turn off an adblocker to see the links to the cards.) Here’s a non-affiliate link to 30 Contemporary Women Artists Postcardsyou can’t see an image with that one though, so don’t hold me responsible. Or even better, get postcards from your favorite female artists who may not even be well-known and send them in. Show these museums what they are missing. Personally, I am on the look out for post cards by Sylvie Guillot and will most likely contact her for some if she’s interested. 

Chadwick, Whitney. Women, art, and society. 5th ed. NY, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1990. Print.

18 Flavors Of Activism. Something For The Whole Family.


Photo by: Timothy Krause

No matter which side of the great political divide you find yourself, there are causes close to your heart. Things you’d like to see improved and people you’d like to help. Activism is about finding ways to make a difference in the world around you, for yourself and others who don’t have a voice. But how can little ol’ you make any kind of difference at all when sometimes, it probably feels like you don’t even have a voice?

Let’s break down some forms of activism. Not all of them will work for you. Maybe none of them will and you’ll have to clear your own path. Hopefully this list will at least give you some ideas on where to start. The important thing is to try to appeal to as many groups of people as possible. There’s no need to alienate someone who may feel closer to the way you do than you would first believe. The more the merrier; and effective.

¬†Volunteer:¬† I’m sure there is a local organization that wants to help the very same group you do. Google them, then get to work. Just remember, you’re there to help what they’ve already started, not swoop in to save the day. Listen, learn, do. If you want something more exotic, there are organizations all over the world for all kinds of causes. Pick one and give them a call.

Find volunteer work
Volunteer Abroad Ethically

Grassroots activism: Spread the word. Let people know the problem exists and that you know a group that helps.
Set up a table at your school, print some pamphlets, make some brownies, and start chatting. People need someone to show them the way, to let them know there is, in fact, something they can do. Make sure your message fits the group you are trying to reach. Remember, the more groups you can get on board, the better.

The best part of our current age of technology is you can put your cause on shirts, mugs, bags, your car. It’s easier than ever to wear your message on your sleeve.

Letter writing and petitions:¬†Send letters. To everyone. Especially your representatives. Here’s some tips:

How to write it.
How to write it. Part Deux.

Who to write it to. (Or call)

Remember that table you set up? Maybe you could put some pre-typed and addressed letters or post cards to give to people. They fill out their info and stick it in the mail. If you use postcards you can use sites like Vista print  or Moo to add your images to the front. You could also go even cheaper and buy some to print yourself. Go door to door and hand them out too.

Direct lobbying:¬†You can march¬†into the Senate or House office buildings, and request an on the spot meeting¬†with your senators and congresspeople. If you can’t go to D.C., go to the state capitols or their offices when they aren’t in D.C. ¬†Your local officials too. They have public meetings once a month usually. you will probably end up meeting with their aides, but these are the pretty good people to meet with. After explaining your position, ask them to help you. If they say no, ask why not. At the very least you will find out what your opposition thinks or any weakness in your argument.¬†

They have to listen to you. It’s what their elected position is all about. Who wouldn’t want to give one of those out of touch government elitists a piece of their mind? Politely and with respect of course. After all, you’re asking for their help.

Litigation:¬†Lawsuits, with the help of ¬†wonderful lawyers, are filed against institutions and their executives. These can be long and drawn out and emotionally taxing. Not for the faint of heart, it’s probably the most definitive way to reach change, though.

Consumer boycotts:¬†We all know this one. Put your money where your mouth is. You don’t have to go it alone though. Contact any groups that may want to get involved, even if they have different reasons than yours. Say you’re against the use of child labor a company practices and the company also mistreats animals. There are a lot of groups who will get on that train even if, for some insane reason, they don’t care much about child labor.¬†

Quick Start Boycott Guide
More Tips
Keep Going

Turn up the pressure!

Selective purchasing ordinances:¬†If a group, say a university or organization, has large buying power, you can try to get a law enacted that prevents the organization from doing business with any company whose practices you don’t agree with. This is another extreme measure, but can also be extremely effective.¬†

Ethical investing: Not only can you do this with your own investments, but if you are part of an organization, you can help control what investments they make. You can choose how to invest based on negative actions by a company or positive actions. 

Economic sanctions: You can help lobby the government to put sanctions on countries that have unethical practices. 

Demonstrate: Demonstrations include marches, strikes, sit-ins, sleep-ins, teach-ins, performance art and street theater, and, hunger strikes. You can even cause websites to crash by getting large groups of people to access the sites at the same time.

Social media is a great place to find where protests are happening or to start your own.

¬†Civil disobedience:¬†This one is for all you people who like causing a bit of mayhem with your movements. Sometimes, politeness just doesn’t cut it so you have to block traffic, sit in front of bulldozers, vandalism etc. You’ll probably get arrested or maybe just pepper sprayed.


History and more examples

More, More, More

Agitate:¬†We in these here parts like to call this “stirring the shit.” If you see people or groups being exploited and otherwise treated inhumanely, help them help themselves.¬†

Make a career of your activism:  Get a job, you lazy hippie. Just kidding, but seriously. 

Look here.

And here.

Give this a read too.

Here’s ¬†5 unconventional ways to practice activism from Elephant Journal:

Autonomous Zones: Think Occupy Wall Street and read this about Fiume.

¬†Daily Acts as Protest:¬†Think boycotting on a smaller lever….population: you. Grow your own food or buy local instead of using big farms that mistreat animals. Make small changes that support your beliefs.

“…in 2011 in Belarus, a country north of Ukraine. As the economic crisis reached a tipping point, the president outlawed political protest. Citizens were not willing to give up the battle though. ¬†They would show up in public places in large numbers, collectively setting their ringers off on their cellphones or banging¬†pots and pans. Not a single sign was needed to make a large and dramatic show of their disagreement with the political system.However, large scale participation like this is not necessary! During the Gay Right movement in North America in the 60s and 70s, same sex couples would make their mere existence a form of protest by kissing in front of political buildings. Another example of this is¬†the Dance Liberation Front, which organized small group dances in the street in the late 1990s to protest the 1920s ‚Äúanti-dancing‚ÄĚ law which was still in the books and being reinforced by Mayor Giuliani.”

Okay, this one sounds pretty fun.

Changing your profile pic to show your support for certain causes and using hashtags is another way to use activism in your daily life.

Creative Demonstrations:¬†Kind of like performance art or street theater, this includes “flash mobs, dances or even something as simple as ‘glitter bombing’ a city counsellor at a Q and A session… the poor guy had to spend the rest of the meeting covered in glitter, which made his homophobic stance seem quite ridiculous.”

“Another cool example came out of the Ukraine last year when protestors simply held mirrors, reflecting the images of police officers back to¬†themselves. Many officers ended up joining the side of the protestors after seeing themselves in such a negative and aggressive light.” ¬†Well, I think we all know a group who could use this idea…..

Art: Writing, drawing or painting , music, dance, acting, poetry slams.

“The possibilities are infinite because every artist will express themselves in different ways.

“The very essence of this was captured during the civil rights movement through¬†the use of freedom songs and political poetry and is still seen today via¬†individuals like¬†Banksy¬†or groups like Rising Appalachia (a musical cooperative¬†based out of the Appalachian mountain region who use their music to protest against environmental issues).

This doesn‚Äôt have to just be used to point out the problems either! Lots of artists use their passion to spread hope for the future, something that is necessary when the future may seem dim.”

Just make sure you know the difference between political art and activist art.

Self Care:¬†¬†“In the words of Audre Lorde, ‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.’ In a society that teaches us that we are not good enough, not thin enough, pretty enough, manly enough, feminine¬†enough or smart enough, not allowing ourselves to buy into that and knowing that we are good enough is one the biggest ways to say ‚ÄúF you‚ÄĚ to the system. Love yourself, and love others. By shedding light on our own tiny corners of the universe we are changing the world, even if it‚Äôs only by a fraction.”

Could not have said it better myself, so I didn’t.

10 Rules For Changing The World

I don’t know how to change the world, but apparently, Ghandi does. ¬†Here’s a link to the expanded version, but I’ll give you the run down:

  1. Change yourself.
  2. You are in control.
  3. Forgive and let it go.
  4. Without action you aren’t going anywhere.
  5. Take care of this moment.
  6. Everyone is human.
  7. Persist.
  8. See the good in people and help them.
  9. Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self.
  10. Contrive to grow and evolve.


Print out the list above and keep it where you will see it every day. Even if you can’t change the entire world, you can change yours.

What’s Next?

I didn’t want to leave you hanging after yesterday’s post. If you want something more specific for art and activism, I recommend checking out The Center For Artistic Activism.

They have webinars and podcasts (although they haven’t done one in awhile. I have no room to judge). ¬†They are a fount of knowledge and they give it away for free. They do need donations for that to continue happening though so even if you don’t want to be an artistic activist yourself, but you find it worth while for other people to do so, I ask that you please donate.

(I’m still going to do my animals and my figures etc. I’m just not hiding the serious art anymore.)