Systematically Discrimination against Women
From as long as I can remember men have always had the upper hand over women. Institutions and society as a whole have systematically discriminated against women and they have had to deal with the criticism. In every institution you can think of there has been some type of prejudice even in the world of art. Linda Nochlin’s essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Artists” gave me a perspective on how women had to go through obstacles just to try to be considered “great” or “genius” but never really reached that potential in a man’s eyes. The women were not the problem, society was. This applies to all the institutions including the institution of art. Nochlin provides historical analysis to answer this question and she also reveals the theories to answer this question that vary from sexist to feminist that do not only pertain to her own personal stance. Nochlin states how the feminist revolution has not changed the idea of the “white-male-position-accepted-as-natural.” She then expresses “what is ‘natural’ may be intellectually fatal” (Nochlin, page 1).
Lochlin mentions the sexist theory to this question, “There have been no great women artists because women are incapable of greatness.”(Lochlin, page 1). Not only does this degrade women as a whole but it makes it seem like they cannot attain this certain “greatness” that only men can behold. Which is false because that generalization does not take into consideration of how these many “genius” male artists were given an opportunity. These assumptions do not have any historical knowledge for it to be factual and just causes others to remain ignorant. The unfortunate reality is that by attempting to answer this sexist question, the negative implications are reinforced. Others might respond by saying, “there is a different kind of greatness for women’s art… but there are no such common qualities of ‘femininity’” that link the styles of women artists, this causes separation between men and women in art. This segregation was formed because people could not believe that women could be “genius.” In fact, how does one possibly genderize a piece of art based on who created it? For example, if you put David’s Michaelangelo and Edmonia Lewis’ Forever Free could you examine which sex created either if you were not given the artists name? They are both made of marble and are a tad similar although they were created by different artists in different periods. I highly doubt you could guess what sex created which and this was what Lochlin was trying to help us understand. You cannot genderize a painting and identify it as feminine or masculine, it is impossible in most cases.
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“Those who have privileges inevitably hold on to them, and hold tight” expressed Nochlin. Men did not have to struggle the way women did. These male artists we learn about and who are put on a pedestal did not have obstacles. They had everything practically handed to them because men were not criticized as much and had opportunities which lead to success. The reason that there have not been great women in art, according to Nochlin has to do with the lack of opportunities for women in art. Art cannot be created without proper training and educating. It needs to be practiced. It is false to believe that great artists are born great like they were just given mysterious powers to have talent and skill for art. Every artist we have gone over through this semester has been an apprentice or student or/and was born into a family of wealth, opportunities, or were born into artists. Nochlin argues that most educational institutions were only allowed for men. Also, artists who were already established searched for men to be their apprentices because only males were taught art since art schools acceptance was only towards men. However, when women were able to study art it was only because of their wealthy family. An artist who defied the logic of this institution of art was Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun, who we touched base on because of her painting, Portrait of Marie Antoinette With Her Children and Sofonisba Anguissola with her painting, Portrait of Artists Sisters and Brother. It is kind of disheartening that we only talked about these two educated women who kind of empowering although they were given the opportunities to be artists because of their families, mostly their fathers. Out of all the artists and art pieces we learned in class, they were mostly men and that can cause other future women who want to have an occupation in art falter their own dreams. Lochlin stated how our educational institution was an issue in the world of art and I can argue that it is true by what and who we learned in class.
Nochlin then shifts the essay t to tackle a political situation, the various “problems” facing discriminated groups and their disadvantages in society. The concepts can be related to the “glass ceiling” effect, where equality between the sexes seems to be making great strides but there are still many limits that hinder complete equality. It could look like a huge accomplishment but it is yet so small it barely changes anything. If you properly identify what Noclin is trying to say, the essay addresses the political and social chains that prevent the possibility of having many great women artists. The idea that the accepted social norm and natural hierarchy of gender and race has and still will try to hold on to power and prevent in-balance that can topple the system. I agree with Nochlin that “women must conceive of themselves as potentially, if not actually, equal subjects” (Nochlin, page 2) because at the end of the day, these institutions will not change for some Feminist Revolution because this has been their way of life for centuries and we can not change that in a matter of years.
Lastly, I would like to agree with Nochlin on her emphasis on rejecting the values of what it means to be labeled as great and genius. She does this not only because they demonstrate a white European male patriarchy but also because those who apply these words to artists typically involve no regard for the historical context and it mostly is biased. Yet this can cause a domino effect on people and have others take on the same mindset.