Re: [WAVE_LIST@UNT.EDU] another stat for women artists

Subject: Re: [WAVE_LIST@UNT.EDU] another stat for women artists
From: Kevin Austin (
Date: Sat Jan 08 2005 - 00:42:48 EST

At 12:10 -0500 2005/01/07, William Osborne

>Regarding the 3% representation of women among the top 100 most
>exhibited artists, Kevin writes:
>>Numbers can be made to do many things. It is, in my view, about
>'context', and to abstract one aspect is a disservice to the entire
>I don't think it is a disservice at all.

We can agree to disagree. To me, the citation of a simple statistic
is a disservice because it 'narrows the issue', and for my 'analytic
mind', I would like to have a sense of the context and 'implication'.

If I were to say that 5% of nurses were men, or 3% of kindergarten
teachers, or 15% of Art Education faculty members were men, what is
being said? What is being implied?

>The three percent representation of women is a very clear indication
>of the status quo, and it is essential that we realize this dismal
>state exists.

I understand. I have lived in music technology for 35 years and have
seen that about 15 - 20% of undergraduate and graduate classes in
electroacoustics are women. And the point is ....

If I understand you correctly, this is a dismal state of affairs. Are
women being blocked from access to the facilities? Are arts juries
dividing applicants by gender and setting quotas?

I sit on a gender equity employment committee, and representation of
under-represented minorities is a main focus. The committee notes
that more than 90% of Art Education positions are held by women. Is
this inequitable?

And the partial answer we receive is that more than 85% of graduate
students in art education are women, so it is 'expected' that an Art
Education department will have more women faculty.

(There is an idea that fields need to have homogeneity to be fair and
equitable. An examination of the historical (20th C) American music
scene might yield some interesting statistics based upon: gender
(male), race (white), religious background (Jewish), and sexual
orientation (gay)). (It is possibly notable that an epitome of the
Black American experience of a female mistreating a handicapped male,
was written by a man of east-european jewish descent.)

>Most people have hardly thought about this situation, nor do they
>have a clear idea of just how low the representation of women often

Not knowing, or having spoken with "most people", I am not in a
position to comment on this assertion. (This is a so-called
"psycho-linguistic bomb" that appears to be true, because it seems to
be 'common sense' -- which is neither common, nor sensical.)

>We can then "contextualise" this number to better understand what is
>happening, and to help us seek solutions, but that hardly means that
>acknowledging the number is a disservice.

"You" may be able to do many things, but the use of the "we" in here
is the disservice to which I previously made comment. The inclusion
of an undefined "we" is, in my view, a weakening in the point being

>Kevin, of course, is just trying to understand things better and suggest a
>process of analysis, but so often when the old "numbers-can-say-anything"
>argument comes up, it is employed by people discomforted at the indictment
>they provide, and by the obvious conclusion that improvements need to be

A semantic parsing of this statement could read as follows:

>Kevin, is, of course, just [one of 'those' (un-sic)] people
>discomforted at the indictment they provide and by the obvious
>conclusion that improvements need to be made.

 From this, IMV, one of two conclusion can be drawn: (1) you were
unaware of this parsing, (2) you were aware of this parsing.

Sadly, I have been drawn and quartered (and eighthed and sixteenthed,
sliced, diced, bashed, mashed, shaken and bacon) on this issue many
times, and in my experience, the common thread has been to cite _me_
... which is a way (in my experience) of not addressing the issues at
hand, but rather making "me" the target.

The not-so-subtle irony of this statement is, of course, that it is
just self-servingly self-referential. <<<8-()>>>>>

The matter as I see it is both intellectual and emotional. At the
emotional level, it cannot be resolved as it will not yield to
rational (sic) discussion. The response drawn from the Judaic -
Christian - Islamic tradition is quite clear in the sacred
scriptures. From outside the United States one does not need to
comment further on the re-election of GWB -- and the power of the
proud Christian right.

>They would tell us, "Nevermind that percent ladies, it doesn't mean
>a thing.

And once again, the "they". My position is not this at all. My
position is much closer to:

"Facts all come with a point of view."
--David Byrne

>Now just go back to the kitchen."

At home, I spend my time with the computer or cooking. (I also do
most of the washing and cleaning ... and I sew and used to knit.),
but as one should be careful to draw individual conclusions from a
generalization, one needs to be careful not to generalize from the

I am not really any longer interested in simple (possibly glib)
comments. (sic) There are serious matters at stake here, and the
place of women in the arts cannot be isolated from women in the
larger community, and this, in my experience, relates quite directly
to poverty and the distribution of resources.

>How often do you hear the argument that we no longer even need feminism?

I haven't. My mother's favorite expression was: "The best man for the
job is a woman."

>I also wanted to add that number to the discussion, since it seems to
>contradict my general impression that women represent about a third of the
>works presented in the digital visual arts.

I think that it is not possible to compare the vertical access
structure of the 19th / 20th centuries to the web-like dissemination
of digital arts from the 1990s and 21st century.

Why did Alma Mahler agree to give up composition? Why are most solo
jazz singers women?

>Or is this newly evolving genre less burdened by sexism than the
>work of the 20th century as a whole?

In my experience, the visual and sonic arts are not easily comparable
in terms of "gender" and "message".

Is it possible to identify a body of visual art as being by a woman? How?

Is it possible to identify a body of sonic art as being by a woman? How?

Is algorithmic composition the (almost exclusive) domain of men?

The topic has (from my reading) drifted around a number of (poorly
defined?) areas. I would examine the field of electroacoustics (not
computer "music"), but the use of the loudspeaker as a sonic

Are there significantly fewer women using the loudspeaker as a tool
for their creativity and communication, or is it more that women use
the loudspeaker in contexts which do not show up as 'concerts' and
'(music) radio programs'.



This archive was generated by hypermail 2b27 : Sat Dec 22 2007 - 01:46:05 EST