I feel like this is why a lot of people have a negative connotation with the word FEMINIST, thinking of feminists as angry women who hate men. This is certainly not what feminism is about right?
But why do these women artists have to show everyone their vaginas and label it ''feminism''? ( The most annoying one, Carolee Schneemann, you can see at the top of the screen.)
Well, let us research this with some history: there has been some stereotypical thinking about female artists since there have been female artists basically, and even some ignoring of great women artists since the 19th century ( I guess people where already hating on the first feminists back then). These stereotypes include that women were weaker in painting, and could only paint homely, decorative subjects like flowers. This must be biologically so, women were only good to be mothers and that is what they truly wanted to be, painting was just a hobby for them, etc.
But the truth is that women, even if they wanted to paint for real, did not even get the chance. If a woman was doing art schools, she was not allowed into the classes where nude models where present. This is one of the reasons most women seemed to be painting only flowers and puppies and other ''female'' subjects. It was institutional discrimination, if you want to know more about that I can recommend Linda Nochlins 'Why have there been no great women artists'.
So basically, in the course of (art) history, women were seen as weaker and only good for birthing children, which was biologically determined. (this even went so far that when a woman did paint ''like a man'' it was because she was frustrated because she did not have any children (yet)).
What I see here is case of "women are only good for their vaginas".
It kind of makes sense then that women artists in the '60s and '70s go to the extremes of magnifying this vision of the woman as a vagina and just throw the ridiculousness of it in your faces. But to me, it just screams that same message: We are nothing without our female sexorgans it seems. So I am looking for a better message, one that isn't about our bodies, but about equality. Because that is what feminism is about, equality, not the difference in our bodies.
In my research I found some hate on Georgia O'Keeffe, a woman painter who is famous for her abstract flower paintings. People see what they want to see, and most people see flowers as vaginas. Exactly what Georgia was trying not to paint. She is an example of a feminist artist who tries to paint something else, but people still see all of her work as vulvas and if they are not seeing that it must be her frustrated uterus working because she never had babies. (see above)
I can tell you one thing, uterusses are not creative at all.
The only example that comes to mind of art that is not perceived as some kind of making of the female body is that by the Guerilla Girls, a group of anonymous women trying to point out some flaws in the system. (see above, by Guerilla Girls, 1985-1990)
Their work points out the inequality women artists experience, this time it is not about the biological differences between men and women, and that makes me quite happy. But the fact that no one ever knows who they were might explain why nobody tried to point their art to some kind of childless frustration or whatnot.
This poster seen above makes us think, why are there so little female artists, but so many nudes?
Art history is dominated by the white, western man is the answer basically. Keep in mind, next time you visit a museum, whose view is being painted. You will see, it is mostly that of the white man, gazing onto the female body. ( The same goes for Orientalism, in which the exotic "East" is perceived as the opposite of what the white western man has known. This might look like it is the reality of that time, but is it really?).
The more we go forward in the history of art, the less vaginas are being seen. The '60s and '70s were obviously dominated by the vaginas, but we see more and more women artists from non-western countries now who show us different inequalities.
The best known example of this is the in Iran born artist Sherin Neshat, who make beautiful photos of Iranian women, using symbolism to tell what they can't, see slideshow at the top of the screen. (Neshat did have a western upbringing, giving her a position to see the things going on in the Middle-East with a double perspective). She now also makes films, like 'Women without men' which is a surreal fairytale about the Iranian revolution and the way it affected women ( I believe, I did not have the chance to see it yet).
So, this is an other perspective on feminism, looking at the role of women in different cultures. (This is basically what the third feminist wave is about right now.)
So long story short, I have to rearrange my view on feminist art and be more specific. I don't like how feminist artist in the '60s and '70s throw their vaginas in the face of the viewer, just to show how ridiculous the female stereotypes are. I think a lot of people don't see the irony in this and just assume women are indeed, just vaginas.
Pointing out the flaws in the system seems more effective, because that means it can change, once people are aware of the way the western man's gaze has had a lot of influence ( further reading: Foucault: it's all about the discours of the white man here in history, making it diffcult for women to get to the same level etc).
As soon as we are aware of this in (art) history, we can see where the flaws are in the system and changes can be made.