Whilst over the centuries it’s a horrible, abhorrent fact that women have had to struggle to be seen and heard in virtually all professional arenas, we are very, very lucky that art can endure. We are lucky that many women (though not as many as might have) dared to push against societal pressures by training in and executing their gifts in various times and places – when it undoubtedly may have been easier (albeit unhappier) to quietly run the home and children, and little else. Likewise it seems to me a further product of patriarchal systems that many female-dominated ‘applied arts’ such as weaving, embroidery, etc. are viewed with considerably less social significance compared to the historically male dominated ‘fine arts’. Embarrassingly, many fans of fine art may find themselves unable to name more than a handful of female artists. In contemporary terms Tracy Emin and Yoko Ono spring to mind though are often callously dismissed as ‘mad’ or ‘talentless’. To go back further chronologically, could I even confidently declare Frieda Kahlo and Barbara Hepworth as household names with the same confidence as Van Gogh or Michaelangelo? I sadly doubt it. The following list of artists was selected to represent a cross-section across different times, cultures, and styles – I really hope you’ll Google these women, as the effort it will have taken to produce their works only heightens their deservedness of an audience.
Claricia (13th Century)
One of the few positions in life which provided the freedom for artistic expression in the middle ages was in monasteries and nunneries. Claricia was thought to be a lay student at an Abbey in Augsberg in Germany where she illustrated herself into a psalter – her body swinging as the tail to an ornate capital Q. Continue reading
Trigger warning: this article contains detailed discussion of the author’s personal experience of rape.
Until two days ago, I never saw myself as a rape victim. I could – to trusted friends – acknowledge and occasionally talk about the sexual assault that happened when I was an adolescent, and I was happy to make jokes about “that music teacher who locked himself in a cupboard with me…” without looking properly at the consequences of either of those events. I felt as though those two occasions were the limits of my negative sexual experience.
And then on Friday I found myself talking to a close friend about various relationships, and I described my relationship with the man to whom I lost my virginity. (As an aside, I really don’t like the terminology of ‘losing one’s virginity’ – it puts a really uncomfortable value on the whole thing, for me.) Having tried to explain what it was like, I ground to a halt. My friend looked at me, and said: “That was rape.” Continue reading
Snow spat against the window. It
Refused to let it in;
Though water was covering the inside pane.
Delving out mucus I threw it out
Opening the window
A wasp and snow flew in.
This article may contain triggers for survivors of sexual assault and rape.
Some passages of this article also imply a heteronormative model that I don’t mean to assume – consent is obviously an issue in homosexual relationships, but just isn’t the focus of this article.
I have had sexual encounters that were not consensual with many men in my life, and none of them have been strangers in an alley, and none of them have involved physical force. And though this article will skim over the details of some of those incidents, it will not be the focus. The focus will be why. The focus will be who can stop it. The focus will be how it can be stopped.
Where we all agree
The first incident was when I was ten. A family member sexually abused me, and that I suppose, is the most clear cut case, the incident(s) that can be described as sexual assault, as ‘wrong’, and as blameless, with widespread agreement by most of society. The fact that I was sometimes asleep when it began, or wouldn’t move when I woke up (due to biological fear/awareness of the impact of acknowledging what had happened) would not, I think, change that perspective. It is more prevalent than you would think: 65% of women that contact rape crisis centres are adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.