Few years ago, my husband and I (and our then 3 year old child) were asked to go down to Sussex to stay with some friends for a Tennis Weekend. I didn’t play tennis, but I am a keen learner and I thought it would be a perfect place to pick up this new game surrounded by an enormous garden, new friends and a beautiful house.
Our arrival was met by enthusiasm and we were shown around the gardens soon afterwards. The few people on the two tennis courts had already started playing.
They all wore white. I felt anxious and upset that I had failed to bring the essential kit. I had interpreted a friendly tournament to mean lots of laughter, kids on the greens, balloons in the sky and colourful tutus as dress code.
I was badly mistaken. The tournament was organised with full seriousness. The white clipboard displayed a list of players, and the bottles of water and new tennis balls still in their plastic packaging were on sight next to the court. I even spotted a ball girl.
My name wasn’t on the list. I felt relieved. With my green tutu and a baby on my hip I would have been an odd addition. And so thought the hostess. With a big smile and ostentatious hospitality I was soon led to the attic where a rocking horse and lots of toys were promised to make me have “a splendid time in the house”. “I hope you don’t mind if your husbands stays with us. We’ll all have lunch together at 1.30” said the hostess and left me with the baby on the top floor of the house, where the chatter of the players could still be heard through the small windows too high to look out from.
One day my daughter came back from school very happy – she had finally managed to memorise the order of the planet system. It goes like Mars, Venus, Earth, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. I still can’t quite remember the order but that’s not important. What’s important is that someone had come up with such an amusing mnemonic that the whole class happily repeated it every morning.
MY VERY EDUCATED MOTHER JUST SERVED US NOODLES.
My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles, happily chanted my 6 year old daughter. My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, sang the other.
In the country which prides itself on an exemplary gender-equal society my children are daily schooled with an already well established stereotype that once women become mothers they get confined to the kitchen.
When so many women worldwide struggle to pursue their careers and instead end up cooking away for their husbands and families shouldn’t we be worried about how this might become a normal visual image for our kids?! Why can’t we use something less stereotypical, more interesting and exciting to describe what mothers can do? e.g. My Very Energetic Mother Just Sat Upon (the) North Pole, My Very Enthusiastic Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets. Or should women just stay home and serve noodles?!
A few days ago I went to The Royal Academy of Art that just opened the most comprehensive exhibition about Abstract Expressionism since Tate’s 1959 New York school survey in Britain. The exhibition claimed to acknowledge the “lesser-known artists who contributed to the movement”, but entirely focused on the male group of known/or lesser-known individuals. Even the official page didn’t list a single female voice of the movement “This autumn we bring together some of the most celebrated art of the past century, offering the chance to experience the powerful collective impact of Pollock, Rothko, Still, de Kooning, Newman, Kline, Smith, Guston and Gorky as their works dominate our galleries with their scale and vitality.” The retrospective did feature few works by the “lesser-known” Lee krasner and I think one work by Joan Mitchell but it was disappointing to see that even today an exhibition of such scale failed to acknowledge the contribution and the importance female artists played in the movement. The media very much focused on the “big boys” and the “giants” and so did the curators of the show. The four main rooms were dedicated to Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning and Clyfford Still. And the rest of the works were presented as part of the “thematic rooms”. It very much resounded the piece “Do Women have to be naked to get into the Met. museum”, as it featured more works of naked women from de Kooning’s series than the works of female artists. Out of 169 works presented only a handful were by leading female Abstract Expressionists.
It seems RA is not ready to host anything beyond the mainstream.
For comparison here is a link to the Denver Art Museum’s recent exhibition titled ” Women of Abstract Expressionism”. AAARGH!