I’m writing in response to a letter published in issue 120, titled ImagineFX Inequality. Part of me is deeply disappointed in Claire’s response to this letter. But I also think I understand what influenced that response.
I believe Claire wanted to be the voice of neutrality and the issue of gender imbalance in the magazine is entirely unintentional. However, the statement, “Perhaps men are simply better at promoting themselves online,” is troubling. It carries the same underlying subtext as the argument used to justify the continuing pay gaps between men and women. It both points to and ignores the structural issues of a culture that makes it harder for talented women to get the same opportunities for advancement as talented men.
Men do tend to be better at promoting themselves, online and offline, because psychologically men tend to be more comfortable directing attention to things they think they’ve done well. Women, meanwhile, through a complex web of cultural cues and conditioning are taught to be modest, quiet and unassertive. (How often is the word “bitch” just a synonym for an assertive woman?) So really, it becomes a situation where “neutrality” tends be biased toward favouring men.
It’s sort of like putting one colour next to another: you might have had a perfect blue to start with, but now it’s next to something else, it’s starting to look more like green. Since you want to keep a true blue, you fiddle with the balance until the colour next to your green looks like true blue – but outside of that context, the blue isn’t true at all. Similarly, in trying to stay neutral, you have inadvertently shortchanged female artists. K Moore, via email Claire replies Thanks for your email, K. I am all-too aware of the issues women face in work and life. Also, as a team we have thought long and hard about Charlotte’s letters. In the short space I had to reply, I wasn’t trying to be neutral, or indeed state that I’m happy with this (how could I be?). Rather, the simple fact is that when I look for artists, there are far many more men than women. This is clearly an important issue for our industry and we’re going to examine the topic of women in art and the differences they face compared to men in our next edition. I’m sure it’s going to be an interesting debate and an informative read.
A letter from issue 120 on gender imbalance has provoked a welcome debate on women in art.