A Question of Equity - April 1990

Submitted by root on Mon, 08/07/2017 - 17:44

Women in the Arts : A Question of Equity


Post feminism according to the media is an established fact It is now argued that although there is still the odd outstanding bastion of male chauvinism (such as the directors' room during football matches) within civilised society the rights of women are recognised and indeed protected by law. There is no longer the same need to mount the barricades or chain oneself to the railings; rampant feminism is no longer fashionable or necessary.

And, if one surveys the changes achieved during the last two decades, there is an element of truth in this diagnosis. Women are now present in all aspects of public life, from business and politics, to medicine and the law. They have infiltrated what were once exclusively male preserves (the Stock Exchange, horse training, etc.). Women not only go out to work but the money they earn is recognised as an essential part of a family's income (women's earnings are taken into account by building societies, the new tax laws recognise all women as independent individuals). And apparently even demographic trends are beneficial to women - as the number of young people in society decreases, employers in need of the skills are beginning to entice women back into work through flexible working hours, provision (monetary or otherwise) for child care, etc. As any woman over the age of 40 would confirm, times have indeed changed.

However it is mistaken to believe that these changes are as wide ranging as we are led to believe (for instance from the publicity one might think that employers were falling over themselves to attract women back into work whereas in fact a recent survey by the Institute of Manpower Studies shows that fewer than 14% of employers have addressed the needs of returning mothers); or that they necessarily reflect a basic change in the role of women within society. Beneath the changes there still exists the web of patriarchal values and masculine power which shaped our society. And it is this web which still allocates to women the roles they can play and they way in which they can play them.

This, despite the fact that the arts are regarded as an area where liberal thought prevails, is as true in the arts as it is in all other aspects of life. This report therefore looks at the ways in which women are allowed to participate in the arts and, just as importantly, the ways in which they are not.