Art of Woman

By Any Means

The other evening (7 January 2014) I snuggled up with my husband and watched TV. We watched a BBC crime show, By Any Means. You can follow it on ABC iview here. The show follows a crime fighting team who chase ‘the bad guys’ and use techniques that are not strictly ‘proper procedure’ rather in the style of Hustle. So the team members are not strictly police, although, several are ex police — “it is a grey area” the team leader, Jack says (Jack Quinn played by Warren Brown).

By Any Means is a light crime show suitable for families. The dialog is full of banter and there is little violence, just a few punches. It is easy to follow and fun. It doesn’t become bogged down with the horror of crime, stays focused on catching the bad guys, a bit reminiscent of Charlie’s Angels.

There are plenty of Blogs on the web talking about the strategy, plot and believability of the show. I will not add to that noise. Instead, in theme with this site, I will discuss an incident during the first episode where women’s periods are mentioned.

Jack assumes that because he is team leader, he has the most sensible suggestions. While discussing the case, Jess (Jessica Jones played by Shelly Conn) expresses a desire to kill the criminal, Mason. It would be quick and simple, but killing is not an option. When she repeats her desire to kill the criminal, Jack questions Jess’s judgement by taking a cheep shot at her womanhood, by saying “time of the month?”

Alpha males have been known to try to dominate women by reminding women that they will never be men. The implication is that men are the rightful leaders — you are not a man, so stop trying to be my equal. For many men, being a woman is an insult. The comment “time of the month?” highlights Jess’s womanhood inappropriately. It is designed to be an insult by implying that women are unreliable because of their periods. The implication is that women are ruled by their hormones and become irritable or moody and lack rational thinking as a result. This is an easy way for men to disregard and trivialise what a woman says without actually dealing with the issues she raises.

In this case, all of the team want to get rid of the criminal Mason. Why was Jess’s desire to kill Mason singled out and treated as inappropriate? Tom Tom (Thomas Hawkins played by Andrew-Lee Potts) cringes. He doesn’t want to get involved in this conversation, which is a typical bystander response — or lack of response. Tom Tom could have said that the comment was sexist and irrelevant to Jess’s capacity to work, but he stayed silent.

Jess defended herself by rejecting Jack’s sexist assumption as an unsubstantiated myth. He throws pseudo science back at her. Then Jess does an amazing thing. She boldly expresses her joy, power and deep spirituality in being a woman stating clearly that Jack wouldn’t ‘get it’ because he is a man. This is the first time I have seen such a bold retort to this common sexist stereotype. She takes back her power by embracing womanhood and celebrating her vibrant experience in being a woman. It is a really good comeback, even though it came across as a bit corny. I praise By Any Means because it gives women some powerful words to defend themselves in this common sexist situation.

I am proud to be a woman too.

View a preview clip.

View By Any Means - Episode 1

Women Under-represented in the Arts

Guest writer Jennifer Amos writes about the participation and recognition of women in art. Many of the points Ms Amos raises applies to other fields. An Australian example is a recent study that found that women are under-represented in Architecture in Australia. According to the University of Melbourne, there are approximately equal male / female student numbers in Architecture faculties around Australia, yet, only 20.6% of the women registered for practice after graduation. There may be many reasons for this. Dr Niomi Stead has built a website forum to encourage debate about this issue. The site is called Parlour. Is there a similar site for artists?
Yes, women still have work to do to claim equality.

Margaret Kalms

No Going Back – There’s Still a Long Way to Go
Since 1960 I have been concerned with the creation of formal imagery that is specifically female, a new language that fuses mind and body into erotic objects that are namable and at the same time quite abstract. Its content has always related to my own body and feelings, reflecting pleasure as well as pain, the ambiguity and complexity of emotions." From Hannah Wilke, A Retrospective, University of Missouri Press, 1989
Two recent art exhibitions have brought forward this question of a specifically female “formal imagery”, but perhaps most importantly, have sought to re-examine the history of art through the work of female artists. These are
 WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution and  Elles: SAM - Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists. Read More...

Men and women equality

On a recent trip to New Zealand, I read the Dominion Post newspaper. 19 July, had a story on its front page about a sexist backlash. New Zealand has a woman Prime Minister and Chief Justice. This gives the impression that women are equal to men right up to the top levels of society. Unfortunately recent figures show that women's pay parity has lost ground in recent years. More disturbing is the figure that shows an increase in domestic violence and violence against women by men.

What does this mean? Have women lost power and some men are taking advantage of that? Are some men angry with women for making progress and desiring parity with them? Do some men feel that the only way they will have a woman as a companion is by exerting power over her?

Surely relationships are more rewarding when both the man and woman know they are both happy to be in the relationship, that both parties are willingly staying and enjoying the relationship. A true friendship and meeting of minds, spirit, and emotions creates an intimacy that is extremely rewarding for both the man and woman. A bond built on trust, love and free will is more joyous than one built on coercion and power struggles.

It would be good if men could back off on the domination and power games with women. Women also could put more effort into articulating their affection and appreciation of their favourite man, noticing the efforts he does and appreciating the resources that he shares.

Men and women have the potential to bring out the best in each other. Unfortunately, when fear of pain or rejection sets in, then men and women can hurt each other very badly indeed. Both men and women loose out on the potential joys of the partnership.

Work relationships are not the same as personal relationships. And women, all people, deserve equal pay for equal work. Pay parity is a justice issue. To pay any group in society less than any other for the same work, is exploitation. In Australia, the jobs where women tend to dominate, also tend to have lower pay structures. Most notable is Motherhood, where there is no pay at all for many women, and, for many women, no maternity leave, so no security. A close second lowest is baby-sitting, then child care workers. Yet rearing the next generation of children is one of the most responsible tasks that builds a strong and caring society.

There is still plenty of work to do to before women truly have equal opportunity within the workplace or their careers.