Heidi over at there is grace recently posted about this wonderful documentary about the struggles women have in modern society in balancing their need for artistic creativity and the demands of motherhood.
I haven’t seen the film yet, but something in the trailer caught my attention: people on the street were asked if they could name five female artists. They couldn’t even name one!
At first I was self-righteously disgusted. These were people on the steps of the Met Museum in New York, for heaven’s sake, and they couldn’t even name ONE woman artist? I could name a dozen right off the top of my head, right?
Hmmm. . . .
This one is easy for me:
Ursula K. LeGuin
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Christine de Pisan
(and I could go on.)
Hmm . . . getting a little harder:
Liane Collot d’Herbois
(I had to reach into anthroposophy land to find two of them!)
Now, I’m not going to do actresses, as that’s too easy, as is musicians/singers. And of course there are quite a few writers and artists in my own blogroll! But it was interesting to realize that while I can name many female writers, it wasn’t that easy to name more than five visual artists.
As I mentioned to Heidi, I don’t know if that’s a reflection of poor arts education or the patriarchy of the art world. Even if artistic work is easier for women without children (if only because they have more time!), why aren’t more women prominent in the visual arts? Why can I think of fifteen male visual artists in a few seconds and struggle to think of that many women?
Patriarchy certainly plays in there — notice all of the female artists I thought of date from the late nineteenth century at the earliest, but I can think of male artists dating back to the early middle ages. On the other hand, apparently writing has been an “acceptable” female activity for much longer. I wonder why that is?
Try it — how many can you name?