Women having a chance to speak up and be heard goes far deeper than media representation; it runs as intimately as our classrooms.
I didn’t get too public with this story but I feel like this is an appropriate analog to offer in the context of this video compiled by the Miss Representation team.
Monday I presented a paper I did for my Renaissance class which examined imagery that was popular for wedding related gifts (panel paintings and chests to store clothing, etc in). Part of contextualizing the popularity of these objects (that were typically commissioned by the groom or his male relatives) was to examine the gender dynamics of the time which led into the discussion of the existence of rape culture in the Renaissance (though I didn’t call it that explicitly as it is a contemporary term).
After my presentation there was a student who insisted on reminding me that not all men are bad (which I never claimed to argue in my presentation) and to reassure me that HE was a gentleman.
While his concerns are not unfounded, they felt to be out of context for the nature of my presentation. I was very clear in contextualizing it and very clear to not make sweeping generalizations (there was an example I stumbled upon in my research in which the male member of a painting couple gave up his career to encourage the development of his wife’s so it’s not like there weren’t great men even then despite heavy emphasis in moralist texts/behavioral guides for men/women).
When I expounded on my thoughts and tried to address his concerns, I was met with a, “Well, I’m still confused,” or “I don’t understand.”
Granted, maybe I wasn’t explaining it correctly but I had the sneaking suspicion that he just refused to hear what I was saying.
This brings me to my point: in my field, I’ve been presented with numerous images of women depicted in a myriad of situations. And the percentage of images produced BY women OF women is a relatively NEW concept in the time line of art, so when it comes to the criticism of images of women commissioned and financed by men from the past, you better believe I’m going to “go there” and address the absurd imbalance of power between the sexes.
Furthermore, when I present FACTS that can be checked and proved from OTHER primary, academic sources (I’m not just ‘making up things’ because I hate men or some other absurd accusation . . . which by the way why is it SO EASY to assume I hate men but it’s next to impossible to hear that men have the capacity to hate women), why do you feel it’s necessary to come to the defense? Can we agree that the Renaissance was a time when some women were merely property to be exchanged and bartered in economic ventures between some male citizens? Furthermore, can you accept that just because some men of the past fucked up, this in no way is an attempt to hold YOU responsible. I’m merely asking you to listen and hear the context. It’s not the time for you to reassure me (and the class) that you’re ‘one of the good guys.’
If you are, great! Then be as upset by the information as I am and realize that there contemporary manifestations and work WITH ME to eliminate them! Don’t look for moments to find a ‘silver lining’ or ‘explain away’ the problem because you’re ‘confused’. Just because you don’t experience the problem being described doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That’s like telling people of color that racial profiling isn’t a ‘thing’ because you, as a white person, haven’t experienced it in your life. Give me a break.