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Challenges to the Status Quo

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Challenges to the Status Quo
Art has deliberately hidden the figure of women and their work in society. There have been great women artists, but have not been recognized as such and valued by posterity. Many paintings by women were initially credited to males, suggesting that there is no objective difference between art made by women or men, but when it is verified that the author is a woman, the economic and symbolic value of the work decreases immensely. Even today, there are works by women that are not attributed to the real author because the fact that they are women would reduce the price of the work considerably. As Linda Nochlin explains in her essay, “Why Have There Been no Great Women Artists,” the answer to this question “lies not in the nature of individual genius or the lack of it, but in the nature of given social institutions and what they forbid or encourage in various classes or groups of individuals.”
Women have a long experience in the fields of art and culture, their contributions have always been present, although in many cases the concept of "respect" has not been applied to them in the same way as their male counterparts. They have always been relegated to a second plane. Being a woman and artist has often been seen as an unserious occupation and inconsistent, while it has been traditionally reserved the epithet of genius for men. Women have to live in a society which has not ceased to be sexist, in a culture where women are still thought of as an inferior place and lacking certain rights. And this, as Nochlin explains, does not apply to art only. In her article she gives us the example of the great artist, Rosa Bonheur. Now a day if women become the CEO of a company, an architect, or a policeman, they would be categorized the same way Bonheur was: a tomboy, a woman with a desire to be more masculine, or selfish. Yet if men “have a need for feminine involvement,” as Nochlin puts it, the jobs such as pediatricians, child psychologists, or chef, are admired rather than frowned upon.
In her essay Nochlin explains the disadvantages women had in art education that led to the lack of great women artists. Some examples were the restriction put on them to participate in classes with nude models or be a part of several contests. Nevertheless, today those restrictions no longer apply but the lack of ‘great women’ still persists. Society and history is to blame for this. Now, as John Stuart Mill points out and Nochlin quotes in her essay, “everything which is usual appears natural. The subjection of women to men being a universal custom, any departure from it quite naturally appears unnatural.” We have progressed as a society and we have reached equality in many areas. Nevertheless, sexism as well as racism seems it will never cease to exist because they are distinctions we consider natural.
In her article Nochlin writes about how her question can or has been answered incorrectly. Afraid to be included in the category of incorrect answers, I would like to put my life as a perspective and show how the view of today’s society regarding the sexes are clearly defined instead. From a very young age I had a nanny, who as many would expect was a women because caring for children, cooking, and cleaning is a role usually given to a women if in a household. A man drove me to school every morning and generally anyone who drove that was not a family member was usually a man. I remember the usual comment that ‘women do not know how to drive.’ When I arrived to school there were five male security guards, and my teachers all the way from pre-kinder to about sixth grade were women. Society would see this as correct because security guards are there to protect and men being stronger than women means they can do a better job. And the reason why all my teachers at a young age were women is because we are still young, I do not receive a grade but simply smiley faces, stickers, or a ‘good job’ in its place, and I need a mother figure at all times. High school was not much different. I started to get grades and was considered a grown-up, so men began being my teachers as well. Physical education, however, was still separated by sex, including the teacher, because “boys are more aggressive and they can hurt little girls.” Now I arrive at Washington and Lee University. An Ivy League education in a beautiful campus with amazing professor, but, a place where it is believed that women only come here to get their MRS degree. A joke that has been around since the university became co-educational back in the 70’s, saying that women only come here to look for a husband. At this point Nochlin will probably consider me a feminist, but I am simply showing a perspective from someone that is in her twenties in the 21st century and can still clearly separated the roles of men and women as expected in the realm of our society, but we claim has improved and changed.
My life is only one perspective and many might not have the same experience I did, but it does support what Nochlin repeatedly states in her essay. I quote Nochlin’s words once more: “the question of women’s equality—in art as in any other realm—devolves not upon the relative benevolence or ill-will of individual men, nor the self-confidence or abjectness of individual women, but rather on the very nature of our institutional structures themselves and the view of reality which they impose on the human beings who are part of them.” The statement that ‘there have been no great women artists’ can be justified, but it does not mean it is correct. Women as well as other minorities have been deprived from being a ‘genius’, a term that is unreal but largely used for men, due to their social conditions and deprivation of an education. But the only way to transform this lack of recognition is to stop listing excuses or have minorities keep treating themselves as such. Much has changes, and even though equality is still unnatural, the restrictions Nochlin gave as reasons for the lack of women artists no longer exist unless one puts them there. Artistic expression comes from the spirit, not the body type you have or hormones. “The language of art is, more materially, embodied in paint and line on canvas or paper, in stone or clay or plastic or metal-it is neither a sob story nor a confidential whisper.”

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No great Women Artists?” ARTNews 70 (1971): 11
[ 2 ]. Nochlin, “No Great Women Artists?” pp. 6
[ 3 ]. Nochlin, “No Great Women Artists?” pp. 6
[ 4 ]. Nochlin, “No Great Women Artists?” pp. 6
[ 5 ]. Nochlin, “No Great Women Artists?” pp. 4

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