‘He is the Subject, he is the Absolute- she is the Other.’ (de Beauvoir 1997: 16) Reading further into the Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir writes about women being an extension of a man, “thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him.” (de Beauvoir, 1997: 16) De Beauvoir’s main argument isthat men basically repress women by portraying them as the Other, defined entirely in opposition to them. Man is therole of the subject and woman is the object or the other. John Berger also had similar claims in his book, Ways of Seeing, ‘Womenare depicted in quite a different way from men — not because the feminine is differentfrom the masculine — but because the ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to bemale and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him.
‘ (Berger, 1972: 64)Berger’s comments imply that man is thought to automatically be the lead andwoman would follow, similar to de Beauvoir’s theories. The Second Sex provides insight into thethoughts of a woman in the late 1940’s, in particular to how she saw herself incontrast to a man. Has anything happened to change these thoughts since then? Thefeminist art movement of the 1970’s is a prime example of how women tried tochange the imbalance of genders. Inthe 1970s, women photographers and artists began to create work as a visual response to whatthey thought it meant to be a woman. Did the feminist art movement of the1970’s have any impact on how women were seen in the art industry? An articleby Benjamin Sutton for Hyperallergic magazine suggests that is not the case.
Titled’Art by Women Sells for 47.6% Less Than Works by Men’, Sutton’s article pointsto a study by the University of Luxembourg that found that art by women iscontinuing to be undervalued. The study included analysis of auction data discoveredthat perception of an artists’ gender regularly affects how their work isvalued. “Crunchingnumbers from 1.5 million auction results between 1970 and 2013, representingworks by 62,665 artists, the researchers arrived at a mean auctionprice of $48,212 for works by male artists and $25,262 for works byfemale artists.
” (Hyperallergic, 2017). This is a staggeringly huge difference ofnearly double the amount between the sales of male and female artists’ work. Thesefigures seem to reflect the views of the Verbund website, “To date, the important FeministAvant-Garde movement, a term which was coined by founding director GabrieleSchor, has attracted little interest in the history of art.
” (Verbund, 2017). An exhibition of theSammlung Verbund collection held in Vienna documenting the previous works offeminist artists in the 1970’s was the subject of editor and curator GabrieleSchor’s book, The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970’s, Schor states “Womenartists made works that were provocative and radical, poetic and ironic. Theyquestioned the one dimensional roles of mother, homemaker, and wife imposed onwomen and devised forms of representation in which the- often naked- femalebody was neither a natural fact nor a sexual object but, in the performativeact, a work of art.” (Schor, 2016: 13) Schor explains the female artists of the time made work to challenge thestereotypes of the female image in the eyes of men during that time. Womenwere continuing to be overshadowed by men as Liz Wells states in ThePhotography Reader “Feminism, in the 1970’s challenged patriarchal valueswithin liberalism and within Marxism, thereby clearly contributing to critiqueof totalising theory. However, debates within postmodernism continued to belargely dominated by masculine voices and perspectives.
” (Wells, 2003: 149) Wellscreates a good point arguing that whilst feminism in the 1970’s tried tochallenge the views of society at that time, masculine views dominated over thework feminists tried to create. FIGURE ONEGuerrillaGirls, 1989. Do women have to be naked toget into the MET museum? Asillustrated in figure one, nearly 20 years after the feminist avant gardemovement the image by the Guerrilla Girls called Do women have to be naked to getinto the MET museum? states less than 5% of the artists in the modern artsections are women, but 85% of the nudes are female pointing out yet anotherfact backing up de Beauvoir’s theory that women are objectified and seen lessthan men. John Berger’s Ways of Seeing also notes “She is not naked as she is.
She is naked as the spectator sees her.” (Berger, 1972:50) Berger studies manyart works in which females appear nude, adding that females who are depictednude are judged upon their so-called vanity. “The mirror was often used as asymbol of the vanity of woman.
The moralizing, however, was mostlyhypocritical.” (Berger, 1972:51) Woman was created in many images as vain bymany artists, Berger is keen to point out, “You painted a naked woman becauseyou enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and called thepainting Vanity thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you haddepicted for your own pleasure.” (Berger 1972:51) This notion was challengedduring the 1970’s as part of the feminist avant garde movement, women were keento claim back their own bodies and create a new image for themselves. FIGURE TWOSherman, C. 1977.
Untitled Film Still #3. Cindy Sherman is a prime example of the feminist avant garde movement of the 1970’s, challenging the stereotypes of women within her images. These images, in particular highlighted within Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, are reflective of the scenes from 1950s and 60s Hollywood. The stereotypes fromSherman’s work have been created with the huge amount of makeup Sherman used, bulletbras and the high heels indicate back to the Hollywood of the 1950’s instead ofthe natural appearance preferred in the 1970’s. MargaretIversen states ‘Sherman’s photographs present the female body in the thirdperson: “she” poses as object of the gaze in relation to “he”, actively takingup a passive, exhibitionist aim’ (Iversen 1988: 57).
This construes thatMargaret Iversen thinks Cindy Sherman is permitting herself to become an objectof the male gaze by posing for these photographs in this specific way as she isunderlining the stereotypes, for example a simple housewife or using the femalebody as a sexual object. In Laura Mulvey’s A Phantasmagoria of theFemale Body, Mulvey notes that “Sherman-the-model dresses up into character,while Sherman-the-artist reveals her character’s masquerade.” (Mulvey, 1991:3) Mulveyis suggesting that there are two sides to Cindy Sherman when creating her UntitledFilm Stills, a model and an artist and both have different roles to play withinthe work. In 1975, LauraMulvey wrote an essay called ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ in thisessay she understands two pleasures of looking, Scopophilia and Voyeurism.These pleasures of looking were predominantly concentrated on the two genders,active meaning male and passive meaning female. This showing that Cindy Shermanhas depicted her untitled film stills as passive females as they never look exactlyat the camera.
In David Bates’ book, Photography: the key concepts, he states ‘The narrative, Mulvey argues, stops when a woman appears on screen,so that there is a division of labour between man and action, women and display,narcissism/exhibitionism’. (Bates 2016: 220) This means that Mulvey has recognised a noticeable gap between men and women, and Mulvey’s central argument is that Hollywood films use women to directa pleasurable visual experience for men. CindySherman is also featured within the Feminist Avant Garde of the 1970’s bookedited by Gabriele Schor in which Schor speaks of Cindy Sherman, “Sherman’s artis a dazzling kaleidoscope, unfolding a variety of female identities amid whichthe authentic person disappears. Such camouflage of the self may be read as anact of subversive resistance against the straightjacket of one-dimensionalidentities.” (Schor, 2016:456) Schor notes that Cindy Sherman includes manyidentities within her work and displays them for her audience, giving more thana one-dimensional view to her images. FIGURETHREECalypso, J.
Comparingthe avant garde to contemporary photography, Girl on Girl, Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze, a book by Charlotte Jansen, examines how women are using theinternet and in particular photography to uncover feminism and concerns offemale identity, and the influence that this is having on modern art. Fortyartists feature in the book, one being contemporaryphotographer Juno Calypso, who is seeking to challenge the feminine ideal. (Time,2017) Comparisons with Juno Calypso and Cindy Sherman are constant, withCalypso’s work reflecting Sherman’s, in an extract from Girl on Girl byCharlotte Jansen, Juno Calypso says “Working as an artist, it is interesting tointerpret my work in relation to that of other artists, but there is no directparody or pastiche”. (Jansen, 2017:112) Whilst similarities can be seen betweenCalypso and Sherman, Calypso’s work also has its own contemporary takeincluding physical masks unlike the metaphorical ones used in Cindy Sherman’swork.
It seems that even though it has been almost 40 years after CindySherman’s Untitled Film Stills, the irony within the images by Sherman andCalypso’s goes unnoticed by the mainstream population in particular, men. Anarticle in which an interview occurs with Juno Calypso, she states “They don’tthink women are funny, they don’t think women are capable of irony, they justthink women are silly and self-destructive.” (Studio International, 2017)Calypso is talking about critics responding to her work and claiming that it ismisogynistic, however they are incapable of picking up the irony behind herwork. From an interview with Alexandra Genova for Time Magazine, Calypso says “Before, women were trapped in thekitchen and they could slam the door and run away and leave. But now we’re sortof trapped in our own bodies and there’s no escape from it.” (Time, 2017) Juno Calypso makes a good pointhere with a contemporary perspective that due to the extensive progression ofthe internet and female portrayal in the media that women cannot escape theirobjectification by men and the “feminine ideal”.
Looking further intothe contemporary perspective, feminism has been transformed more recently as a “fourthwave” feminism has developed with technology and associated platforms such asFacebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. In an article by Emily Steer for VoiceMagazine, Steer writes about a journalist, Suzanne Moore, speaking at BathLiterature Festival. Steer says, “Like the weather, the internet is an unpredictableforce of both good and bad, creating a space for vicious, anonymous misogyny,but also creating a space for women to protest back.
She pointed out that theroot causes aren’t created by the internet, but that the internet just providesa platform for feelings that might have been present in society before, justnot so explicitly expressed.” Steer has noted that the internet has helped misogynistsspread their prejudice against women to a wider audience, but it has alsohelped feminists do the same in order to argue back for equality of the sexes,whilst this has been present before the invention of the internet it has made awider audience range become available for both parties. For example, a campaigncalled This Girl Can was started in 2015, funded by the National Lottery and developedSport England as a platform to overcome the stigma attached to women and sportas women have thought to fear judgement over playing sport, whether that beover their confidence in how they look, having the skills to play, being fitenough or the right size. The campaign’s website features several pages linkingsocial media platforms, further spreading the campaign to a wider audience.
Anothercampaign launched by Always, #LikeAGirl and became a huge success afterbecoming viral on the internet. The campaign aimed to highlight the stigmaaround the phrase “Like a girl”, the videos were viewed more than 90 milliontimes on YouTube. The HeforShe campaign also highlighted the aim for both menand women to become equals, with famous faces backing the campaign, social media became a huge drivingforce behind it Similar to this, according to the Guardian newspaper, “Facebookcaved in to pressure last week and promised to “do better” to tackle anti-women hatepages on its site. A campaign by three women succeeded where many previousefforts had failed, forcing Facebook to take action over content celebratingrape and domestic violence.” (The Guardian, 2013) This is a huge step forwardfor women all over the world as more companies should follow in Facebook’ssteps to tackle hate and content fuelling misogyny. Social media has helpedfeminism take a huge step forwardfor women all around the world with celebrities To conclude, itseems not that much has exactly changed within the industry of art andphotography in terms of men viewing women as an object since de Beauvoir wroteThe Second Sex and it seems to have been enhanced further with the invention ofthe internet and social media. Contemporary works of artists like Juno Calypsotry to challenge stereotypes of women being an extension of a man.
Yet asincluded in recent articles, not many people seem to understand the ironybehind works such as Juno Calypso and Cindy Sherman. With the progression ofthe internet and social media, images are much more widely accessible today andin turn it has been made easier to make women sexualised within this imagery.In The Photographic Image Daniel Rubinstein Katrina Sluis say “Online, there isno point at which the image ends; rather, there is an endless succession oftemporary constellations of images held together by a certain correlation of metadata,distribution of pixels.” The idea made by Rubinstein and Sluis is that once animage is online it cannot be removed, it will always be somewhere on theinternet and multiplies constantly. Therefore, images that appear on theinternet will be seen forever and will continue to have an audience for decadesto come, resulting in the images as a part of this essay will be shared widerwith a future audience.