Battle of the Sexes

For those who have been living under a rock for the past 30 years, the Guerrilla Girls are a feminist movement among the art society that combat discrimination through the means of art, humour, and activism. According to their research, 83% of the nudes in U.S. galleries are of women, however, only 3% of art is actually by women. This isn’t just a 60-40% difference that can be overlooked by nothing but mere coincidence, this is a 97-3% difference.

These findings made me curious as to whether or not statistics were similar among the curation aspect of art. Much to my surprise, it turned out that- within curatorial studies- there is a 5:1 ratio between genders… In favour of women! According to Johanna Burton (director, graduate program, center for curatorial studies, Bard College), gender ratios within curatorial studies are “famously imbalanced”. I went on to discover that this point has been validated by a number of other curation professionals. Personally, I am a feminist. This means that I believe in equality for both genders, so the 500% female to male domination also sparked a few alarm bells in my mind, and I continued in my research.

Plot twist!

Despite the mass proportion of curation students identifying as female, the statistics do their cliché again and flip themselves around so that- when studies are over and the time comes to finding a secure job- the number of males hired is “exceedingly high” in comparison to women, especially seeing as there were significantly more women partaking in the studies.

“…That said, and assuming—as I do—that men are not inherently better equipped than women, it is of note that female students outnumber male students by at least 500 percent in most instances, yet they often represent 50 percent or less of any given professional context.” Burton then goes on to explain that the cause of the difference between the number of male and female curators is as such: “The persistence of deeply held, if outmoded and even somewhat unconscious, beliefs that link the arts and extended discourses around the arts to those aspects of culture deemed nonessential. While curatorial practice has, in the last two decades, assumed a much more visible role, and with that a kind of tangible intellectual prowess, assumptions around the nature of certain modes of production still hold. The ratio under discussion is hardly unique to curatorial courses, as I begin to discuss above. The liberal arts, for all their visibility, are assumed to labor outside of immediate urgency (that ascribed to the sciences, for instance), and so are still coded as luxurious pursuits. Female students and practitioners (myself included) do not, for the most part, identify with such reductive bourgeois associations. Indeed, what I describe here does not explain the presence of so many female students—on the contrary, it explains the absence of more male students. That men often assume the most powerful institutional roles in cultural institutions simply affirms that within any eco-system (however it signifies more broadly) familiar gendered rules apply.”

So is the art world sexist? Or are the neurological differences between males and females what cause there to be a significantly inproportionate balance between genders in such professions?



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