Last year Women’s Collective held our first women’s performance night ‘KNIGHTESS’, showcasing the musical, poetic and zine-making talents of women on and off campus in Sydney, and we are currently in planning mode to make this year even bigger and better!
At first glance, women’s representation in the arts seems reasonable; most people can name a few famous women in music, in art and in literature (Beyonce, Frida Kahlo, JK Rowling) – but as Gemma Rolls-Bentley (an independent art curator) explains: ‘figures like Tracey Emin have defied the statistics, [and] their rare success misleads people into thinking women get an equal shot’.
In 1989 feminist group ‘Guerilla Girls’ distributed a poster featuring a female nude and the words ‘Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum? Less than 5% of the artists in the modern art section are women, but 85% of the nudes are female’. And what has changed in the 2 decades since? In 2010, 83% of artists in the Tate Modern were men. In more promising (though still inadequate) news, 31% of artists featured in 134 commercial galleries in London were women. However, feminist artist Judy Chicago warns against being ‘deceived by the many women showing at entry level’ and reminds us that only 2.7% of art books concern female artists. Women may be getting some coverage, but they are rarely considered with the ‘greats’ – in 2012, the top 100 auction sales ranked by price featured not one woman artist.
The organization VIDA (women in literary arts) measures the proportional representation of women in many esteemed literary publications each year. Only 20% of the authors reviewed in the New York Times Literary Supplement are women, with negligible increase over the last 3 years; and only 15% of reviewers in the New York Review of Books are women. In poetry, women fare slightly better with 40% representation and a small increase over previous years.
Gender discrepancies are mirrored in different ways in music, acting and other performing arts. We have made significant progress over time, but there is still a noticeable difference in representation. It is visible not only on a worldwide and historical level but in our own backyards; when was the last time you saw live music performed by women at your local pub? If you’re lucky enough to live in a progressive area and have a relatively recent answer – what is the proportion of female to male artists performing?
KNIGHTESS aims to remind us all that women can be incredible performers, creative writers, artists and more. This year we hope to diversify and include poetry, visual arts and dramatic arts. If you are woman-identifying and interested in performing or being involved in the organization of KNIGHTESS, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org, pop along to one of our meetings at 1pm Wednesdays in the Women’s Room (Manning House) or join our Facebook group: ‘Usyd Women’s Collective’ – we’d love to have you on board!
Emily Rayers tells you about KNIGHTESS, and it sounds awesome