Since feminism aims to transform social relations in order to overcome women’s subordination, why is it that it has made such little or should I say limited progress? Yes, we have changed laws, outlawing discrimination and obvious inequality. However, for the most part women’s lives today are still conditioned by insidious and so-called natural ordering of men.
This situation may to some extent be residual but just how can you make inroads into the sub-conscious conditioning of both sexes when the workings of one are a mystery to the other and visa versa? If audio & visual signals are to be understood then the language used and the translation have to have common denominators that are universally agreed.
Would feminism have made greater progress if it had managed to find common ground for understanding with men? It is my experience that many men still have no real understanding of what all the fuss is about! And having taken great pains to find a successful way of communicating with my male partner the shocking discovery was that what I had thought he understood implicitly, he had in fact translated in to a male version and in doing so lost my original meaning. The difficulty we experienced was that he thought I actually meant what his translation told him was the meaning of what I was saying. If this is so, how far does it extend? As a maker I am interested in how my work is perceived, as a feminist maker whose work is involved with continuing the uphill battle with inequality and acceptance of difference I have a vested interest in communicating to as many people – of both sexes - as possible. But am I succeeding?
I speak through my work in the same way that I speak with my voice – it is a narrative that comes from within and is therefore primarily conditioned by my individuality but also by my gender. I have always been interested in the nature and effectiveness of communication.
Communication is the primary way in which we manage to interact as human beings in a given society. Clearly not all societies function in the same way so I will take this opportunity to establish that the rest of this document refers to the first world and accepts the limitations that this necessarily implies. In 1996 I wrote with regard to the myriad of subversive remnants of Patriarchy, (a copy of this essay will soon be available on the website) the insidious and pervasive legacy which could be seen as the result of criminalsing discrimination on the basis of gender and increasing the ‘on the face of it’ quantity and quality of female role models. I looked at the sub-conscious conditioning that not only drives males to dominate but females to accept domination. I concluded that the abundance of subversive domination within our primary forms of communication was in excess of that which could be considered likely from a superficial glance of the evidence. I also concluded that a large proportion of women were not aware that they were (by default of their own conditioning) actively condoning their own subjugation. Neither could women find the kind of unifying factor that has enabled men to successfully, persistently, silently and simply ‘be’ the winning team.
The demise of ‘Feminism’ as a political or ideological stand-point has been a successful ploy of the assertive male – since are we post modern we are also post feminism – a fait accomplis. Having achieved equality in the workplace and in law the continuing practice of supporting further change in other less obvious areas was rapidly and conveniently dismissed as unnecessary. My last paragraph read as follows: “ The total exclusion of men from women’s discourse would seem to destroy its relevance and be highly undesirable, however, if males aim to dominate in this field as a natural extension of residual patriarchy how can women establish change?”
I had also asked myself questions with regard to the ownership of narrative, this was tied up in the essential notions of communication - meaning, understanding, language use and forms of translation. Since I hold the fundamental belief that women and men are more different that is usually or commonly acknowledged (psychologists, communication experts and specialists et al excepted) it does not surprise me that women’s efforts to have their ideas understood and taken seriously by men have been thwarted. Not only are men conditioned to believe inherently in their right to dominate but they appear unwilling to even try to translate that which is being proposed as an alternative. Furthermore part of their conditioning is to actively defend the male position regardless.
It is hard to see in these circumstances along with the not very appealing notion of cheerfully agreeing to accept less for anyone in any circumstance, how change may be effected. For many women the situation subsequent to so called improved rights of equality is actually worse, especially those single parents on low incomes. The imperative is for progress and change. This work is my contribution to this much bigger game Women have traditionally employed reason and had patience with regard to achieving their aims. We live content in the belief that if something is wrong it can and will be fixed by applying these qualities. So we – as a gender based group, do not understand the mechanisms of the male psyche any better than they understand ours!
I see the visual arts as one area where communication has the potential for being less abused – at least with regards to making. My work explores communication, the notion of ownership of narrative and investigates residual patriarchal structures in the art world. It sometimes employs humor as a vehicle for communicating ideas, less aggressive and i’m sure you’ll agree a laugh is always welcome in this difficult economic period!
Other areas of silent discrimination have recently come under my scrutiny - the situation for mothers of disabled offspring quadruples the effects of residual patriarchy by setting women against their sisters. Should any peep of discontent with their situation emerge publicly, very little female support is forthcoming and condemnation silences all but the very brave. Chained to their beloved but impossible child and isolated by anxiety and weariness in a male dominated society that provides little help and high expectations of martyrdom. Small wonder most suffer in silence.
Recent work aims to highlight this issue and give credibility and legitimacy to the plight of this minority, whose situation is, for the mostpart, not of their own choosing. I feel qualified to represent these women as I am one of them.
Thanks for visiting my site, thanks for taking the time to read this.
I hope you enjoy my work – you are supposed to laugh at some of the work, cry with me over other pieces…but mostly I hope you think about the issses raised within it.
I was a full time single mother to my handicapped son for the period between school and college and a full time single mother and full time student for some years after that.
Like most artists I have taken many jobs not directly creative - mostly part time retail dealing directly with the general public which I find most useful as a general experience applied to other areas of my life and work. I have also had some rather unsavory experiences in the so called corporate world of business!
More recently I have been pursuing my own work from my studio at home, completing my MA (long overdue) growing veg, keeping chickens, keeping a weather eye on my big 'boy' (now, at nearly 27, a man in body if not in mind) and generally enjoying my husbands retirement!
Creatively I have a broad base of ability encompassing painting and drawing, print making, photography, cartoon illustration, graphic design and ceramic sculpture. Although I fully acknowledge that this makes me a ‘jack of all trades’ to a some extent, I believe that in certain circumstances a high level flexibility in approach can be invaluable.
Currently I live and work in Cornwall, the work has moved on but the ethos remains the same.