When Thomas Jefferson penned the phrase "We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident" (the truth being about equality), he couldn't have foreseen his words used by feminist artists for a mural overrun with sexist remarks from 21st century politicians. But it’s also unexpected that the femmes - Zoe Buckman and Natalie Frank - would invoke the Founding Father’s words for their mural on view at the Ford Foundation Live Gallery in NY. Apparently they forgot that Jefferson was a slave owner said to have impregnated his daughter’s teenage chambermaid. One of the sexist quoted remarks, uttered by former Wisconsin State Assemblyman Roger Rivard, conjures up Jefferson’s behavior: "Some girls, they rape so easy." An offshoot of such chauvinism is #Donald Trump’s boast that he grabs hold of women “by the pussy,”

Prejudice in painting

But here’s the thing.

Advertisements
Advertisements

If you’re talking about truth, politicians aren’t the only bad guys in the story. There are plenty in the art world who have been just as disregarding to women. In fact, artists may be guilty of rabble-rousing men to be sexists. British art historian Edwin Mullins doesn’t say that, but he may as well have when he made the following two points: 1) There are 276 museums in Europe and America with important collections that draw between half a million to five million visitors each year. 2) Most of the paintings that these millions of people see are made by men about women. So for centuries, people have been looking at images of women seen through men’s eyes. And while there are pictures of adoring mothers and Madonnas, there are a ton of rape pictures and those of females reminiscent of Nurse Rachet in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Examples include paintings of man-eaters like Picasso’s “Women with Stiletto” featuring a cavernous mouth or imagery of female bestiality, like Juan Miro’s ‘Head of a Woman” with pterodactyl-like teeth knife-edged enough to devour men whole.

Advertisements

Women-hating

As if to explain the sexist view of women by male artists, Germaine Greer, leading feminist in the last century, famously told the New York Times in 1971, “Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.” So you get male artists saying hateful things, like Edgar Degas who saw women as "animals" with an "absence of all feeling in the presence of art.” And art historians, such as Karl Scheffler, who also saw women as beasts without souls: "In an Amazonian state, there would be neither culture, history nor art." That’s a lot of sexism to counteract. Will mounting derogatory remarks about women on a mural make a difference? For that matter, will the protest posters by women in the “Amplify The Voices Of Resistance” project in Seattle matter? #Politics