‘Wack!’ Through Fe­male Eyes

The Washington Post Sunday - - Arts -

Aman can try to be a fem­i­nist, and even think he is. But when it comes to truly feel­ing what it is to be a wo­man in the world, and all the predica­ments that presents, he might as well give up. That’s why I asked my sis­ter Alison Gop­nik to go through the “Wack!” ex­hi­bi­tion with me. She’s 50, a pro­fes­sor of child psy­chol­ogy at Berke­ley and a long­time fem­i­nist. Alison was thrilled by what she saw, but also some­times trou­bled. Here are a few of her con­cerns. Too many sexy bod­ies. One of fem­i­nism’s cru­cial points has been that, in our cul­ture, men get to just be peo­ple, whereas women are al­ways also — even first and fore­most — bod­ies. And prefer­ably young and gor­geous ones. Yet the fem­i­nist artists in “Wack!,” of­ten young and, as it hap­pens, gor­geous, were keen to ap­pear nude in much of their art. In­stead of fight­ing the idea that be­ing a wo­man is all about the kind of flesh you wear, they some­times seem to buy into it. For women in our so­ci­ety, once you strip in pub­lic — or in art — you risk be­com­ing cheese­cake.

Does art-world in­jus­tice mat­ter? The first fem­i­nist artists were deeply con­cerned with sex­ism in art and the art world. But how much does that touch most women?

Where’s most of what most women do? On top of hold­ing down the same jobs as men, many women also raise the kids, tend the home and nur­ture friends and rel­a­tives. Yet house­keep­ing, and es­pe­cially child-rear­ing, got scant at­ten­tion from the young fem­i­nists who made the art in “Wack!” When their art did fea­ture homes and kids, it was of­ten with a neg­a­tive spin, as pris­ons for women.

— Blake Gop­nik


Judy Chicago’s “Through the Flower,” 1973.

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