Nearly 50 years after the women’s liberation movement stormed onto the scene opening a floodgate of discourse about women’s rights, it’s déjà vu all over again.
Once again women are rising up, speaking up, and empowered. Once again they are taking action.
Having come of age during the second wave of feminism, it feels as though we are riding the third wave right now.
It began with the Women’s March which opened the way for the #MeToo Movement allowing so many women to finally give voice in a public way to often decades old sexual harassment and assaults. While the second wave feminists helped open the door for women in the workplace, sexism and sexual harassment at the office was hidden behind closed doors for decades.
Despite some opposition, they are being heard.
[/caption]For all the advances that had been gained by the women’s movement in the 1970’s it’s hard to believe that systemic gender inequality still exists today and women are still being moved around like so many pawns in a political game that seems to be played by men only. The denial of reproductive rights, wage inequality, sexual violence and domestic abuse are still very much a part of our current dialogue.
Why are women’s lives still so difficult even now in the 21th century?
Ironically because feminist ideas are so taken for granted, for years few women thought of themselves as “feminists.” The persistent stereotype of 2nd wave feminists as male bashing, make-up-less, angry and non domestic was the same stereotype perpetrated by the media at the time.
It is worth remembering not only their struggles, but how they opened the door to how women can empower themselves and change the culture through action.
Rise Empower, Change and Action!
[/caption]I am honored to be a part of a very timely exhibition RISE: Empower,Change and Action at the Whitney Modern Gallery in Los Gatos, CA.
Whitney Modern Gallery in collaboration with Gutfreund Cornett Art present an exhibition featuring the art of 36 artists advocating for gender equality, women’s rights and social justice, these expressions provoke, and challenge assumptions about women’s lives in today’s global society in hopes of seeking a more empowering future.
[/caption]My collage “Women Lib: A Storms Approaching” takes a look at a time pivotal time period when women became conscious not only of the inequality but how our identities had become fragmented by a media insistent on dictating ever-changing standards.
When women grapple with gender inequality they often find themselves turning to a rich 10 year period of modern history – the 1970s. Before the 1970’s a woman could not keep her job if she were pregnant, get a credit card, report cases of sexual harassment or have a legal abortion.
The piece, part of a series called “Media Made Women” is a pastiche of postwar American imagery, a time when confining and conflicting images of media stereotypes of women littered the pop culture landscape that was erupting in a women’s liberation movement.
These images helped shape the female psyche in setting standards of how women should imagine their lives, think of fulfillment and arrange their priorities.
Collage as Expression
[/caption]Collage becomes the perfect vehicle to deconstruct these fragmented messages.
Like most Americans, I have consumed vast amounts of pop culture imagery over the decades; as an artist and a collector I have amassed a formidable collection.
Like a toxic overspill, fragments of these countless mass media images remain imprinted in all of us.
Using collage as a means of deconstructing myths and examining social fictions, the piece is composed of hundreds of images appropriated from vintage advertising, periodicals, newspapers, vintage school books, old illustrations, comic books, pulp fiction and all sorts of ephemera.
Media Matters- Media Made Women
[/caption]Like most women growing up in the 1960’s I was fed a generous serving of sugar-coated media stereotypes of happy homemakers who were as frozen and neatly packaged as the processed foods they served their Cold war families
Within a decades time these same images would be thawed out under the hot glare of a woman’s movement only to be joined by a heaping helping of new conflicting media representations of how a girl’s life should proceed.
What did it mean to be a woman in the wake of the woman’s movement; what kind of woman should we be? How assertive and ambitious should we be, and how accommodating to men.
[/caption]This ideological warfare about women’s proper place was the prevailing subtext of American popular culture in the 1970’s.
Just as the right has demonized liberalism, so the backlash convinced the public that woman’s liberation was the true American scourge.
The back lash against feminism was filled with cautionary tales about what happens to women who are too angry or outspoken, and get too much freedom and attempted to push women back into acceptable retro roles .
The result was we were ambivalent toward femininity on the one hand and feminism on the other.
The media’s stereotypes about feminism turned the images into caricatures. They certainly played a central role in turning feminism into a dirty word and stereotyping the feminist as a karate chopping, Nair-rejecting bitch, with bad clothes, a perpetual snarl and a larger than life chip on her shoulder.
The media has long presented conflicting contradicting images of women and we have had to navigate the plethora of images offered up to young girls and young women suggesting what a desirable worthwhile woman should be.
Contrary to Popular Belief
[/caption]The irony is 45 years later the contradictions still exist and the media continue to provide us with images and rationalizations that shape how we make sense of the roles we assume in our families, our workplace and our society.
The media continues to be relentless in their assault on the imperfections of the female face and body while our bodies continue to be a battleground in the political arenas.
The current backlash against women and their reproductive rights still inform our dialogues and re-markets old myths about women as new facts.
RISE: Empower, Change, and Action! Art Opening
If you are near Los Gatos CA please stop by the Whitney Modern Gallery Gallery to view the show.
VENUE: Whitney Modern Gallery, 24 N. Santa Cruz Avenue, 2nd floor (no elevator), Los Gatos, CA
DATE: Saturday, July 21st, 2018
TIME: 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. Artist talk to begin at 2:30 p.m.
Exhibition opens July 19 to August 31st, 2018
Whitney Modern, in collaboration with Gutfreund Cornett Art, presents Rise: Empower, Change, Action!
This juried exhibition features selected works in the gallery by thirty-six artists from locations around the country and additional twenty-five artists on a looping slideshow on a monitor in the gallery.
RISE: Empower, Change and Action! brings artists into dialogue and brings forth what is important to self, community, our nation and the world at large through art that reflects on, addresses and seeks solutions for a more positive, empowering future, particularly for self-identified women and girls as well as their families. It is underpinned by the feminist principle that believes in political, economic and social equality for all. RISE emphasizes the commonalities of our human experience.
Join the conversation and see paintings, sculpture, printmaking, photography, collage and installations that speak for equality, independence and human rights while offering insight, healing and transformation.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.