Art After Modernism-Fall Semester 2013

Gender Neutrality is Not the “New Black”

      If I understand Whitney Davis correctly, he views the scope of gender depiction in art as divided into four areas: gender in and of representation and gender in practice and of practice, and these are always interrelated, very often ambiguous, and entirely given to subjective interpretation throughout time.

First and foremost, in my mind, all art (each piece in turn) should be considered from the viewpoint of its reason for existing…inside the piece itself as from its source of origination…the artist’s intention, which comes from the entirety of experience and investigated knowledge focused into a piece of art. While it is probably true (if one thinks it is important to understand) that all representational art is gendered, I came to Davis’ writing from the stance of a person who thinks it is not important outside of the realm of what the artist intended, and from the stance that I respect all of what an artist thinks is vital and conveys as important through their work or about their work elsewhere, even if I do not agree with it. I am referencing here art that is the sum of the higher standards a person holds close in their own life and the lives of others.

Gender difference and gender agreement can be tiring theses to me although I understand the need for academician’s of gender studies and culture studies to delve into them and more. Perhaps I am responding to yet another writing (Davis’) that takes a ridiculously long road to get to the point, and arguments that include must as a directive are a fast way to get me unseated with rebellion even though I understand it is a form of convincing writing. I chastised myself during both readings through of Davis to settle down and work it, work it. But honestly, here I am being the one of my fellow graduate students who says, “So what?”   However, I do not write that from the perspective of someone who does not care about all that people have gone through for me to be able to think all of the things I thought while reading about gender perceptions for this week’s studies. I feel fortunate to be able to accept an artist’s viewpoints from whatever position they come from. How lucky I am to be able to say, “So what?”  It is because I have learned, long before Davis what it can mean to have an open mind.

Friends of mine fight a fight everyday, but for Equality and a Socialist government not for the fact that they decided to get married after one of them decided to have medical operations to change his sex from male to female. Gender and sex are complicated. I read an article on NPR’s website titled “The End of Gender?” wherein the writer questioned the possibility of gender neutrality offering examples of young Storm, the child being raised genderless in Toronto, and Andrej Pejic who is an Australian model of both male and female fashions.[1] He also cited J. Crew as depicting in a catalog a young male model with pink painted toenails, gender-neutral proms and dorms, passports that state Parent 1 and Parent 2 instead of mother or father. Included on the left sidebar is a list of why gender matters according to one Dr. Leonard Sax, so there will always be some kind of unfortunate counter-argument. In spite of knowing issues surrounding gender will most likely never go away, I will always call for gender neutrality because I believe that much could be solved for individuals if their was a world perspective in agreement that gender does not matter. I do not want it to be the “new black”. Through practicing gender neutrality we can learn to embrace the beauty of our gender spectrum.


[1] Linton Weeks. “The End of Gender?” National Public Radio. June 23, 2011. http://www.npr.org/2011/06/27/137342682/the-end-of-gender. Web.

Reading List

  • Whitney Davis.”Gender”. Critical Terms for Art History, 2nd. Edition. Robert S. Nelson and Richard Schiff, Eds. 2003. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pp, 330-344. Print.
  • Laura Meyer. “Power and Pleasure: Feminist Art Practice and Theory in the United States and Britain”. A Companion to Contemporary Art Since 1945. Amelia Jones, Editor. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. 2006. Pp. 317-342. Print.
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