Now that I've spent some time researching Judy Chicago, the women's movement and its influence on Art, my perspective has changed a little. Not only on feminism, but on Art as well.
Bias is endemic
I see it everywhere - this blindness to women's contribution or even at times to our presence - and that there is a lot of work to be done - and that it is an uphill struggle and would tend to destabilize everything, and that anyone who aligns themselves with this work inevitably becomes part of the blind spot.
It's in me too
I see that those attitudes and blindnesses that Judy Chicago was trying to right in 1960s and 70s America are in my marrow too, much as I'd love to pretend I don't see a hierarchy between fine art and craft. Much as I'd love to pretend that I would never dismiss the 'merely pretty' arts as 'girly'. I have swallowed the 19th century male-dominated rules and taken them as my own, and I don't know if it's possible to do anything about that. Or (my feminist soul forgive me) if I really want to: wouldn't that make me an outsider in my own culture? You can't escape your culture. And my culture is to develop the skills to express myself in my own way, but as a hobby because I also have a 'proper job'.
How do we know when something is good?
And you have to have some criterion of quality that isn't totally individual, don't you? So how can you dismiss the whole edifice of the Art establishment? Er....I see that this paragraph could be a lifetime long. I suspect that 20th Century Art might have been all about this question in some way. I think I should do some more reading and thinking on this subject too. (But not here, because this entry is all about me!)
What am I learning from this?
I begin to think that while feminism is one of the biggest issues for me, it is not the reason I am doing this course. I signed up for this course to learn to open up the visual and tactile world to myself. So that I can enjoy the material world more, and create things of and from myself. Not to close it all down into a single narrow-minded channel of activism.
The thought of activism comes in when I think that there are parts of me that are not acceptable for expression outside myself, and that this shows something fundamentally wrong with the rules. While you could argue that this is just me being a product of my culture, it seems to me that the best way to manage this when it comes up would be to express myself anyway. Like Judy Chicago did.
I am lucky enough to live in London where there are a million subcultures. Perhaps I need to find some people who think of artists as valuable members of society rather than naval-gazing weirdo drop-outs! And start expressing the part of me that may be different, without worrying too much about what might be thrown at me if I do.