ARTNews Calls Out Rampant Sexism in the Art World: Everything You Need to Know

ARTnews June 2015

Where are all the great women artists? The gender gap in the industry may have reduced in size over the years, but as ARTnews’s June 2015 issue points out, there’s still rampant sexism in the art world.

Curator Maura Reilly begins by breaking it down numerically and structurally in her article “TAKING THE MEASURE OF SEXISM: FACTS, FIGURES, AND FIXES”, from the amount of press women artists get to museum representation statistics. For example, since 2007 only 29% of solo shows at the Whitney Museum went to women. She continues,

It’s not looking much better at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2004, when the museum opened its new building, with a reinstallation of the permanent collection spanning the years 1880 to 1970, of the 410 works on display in the fourth- and fifth-floor galleries, only 16 were by women. That’s 4 percent. Even fewer works were by artists of color. At my most recent count, in April 2015, 7 percent of the works on display were by women.

Guerrilla Girls

Feminist collective The Guerrilla Girls’ “Report Card” from 1986 takes galleries to task over how many women they represented. Pussy Galore’s 2015 version show how much (and how little) has changed in 29 years.


Theorist Amelia Jones argues that women (as well as artists of color and queer artists) are allowed into the hegemony of the art world so long as they ape the identities and roles of straight white male artists; the purported archetype of the “artist genius”. It may behoove those on the fringes to eschew this institutional authority and develop spaces outside to foster a new kind of art world. Jones says,

While not disregarding the potential importance of large museum exhibitions and programming in foregrounding feminist goals, artists, and movements, I find […] more modest venues more creatively vital at this moment for achieving feminist goals.

She cites the Blk Grrrl Book Fair, an LA-based event this past March which combined artworks, poetry, performance and more from anti-racist, radical feminists, as “the art world I want.”

Linda Nochlin, in many regards the progenitor of the feminist art movement, spoke with Maura Reilly for the issue, touching on everything from her hatred of Tinker Bell to the landscape of feminism in the arts today:

It is undeniable that both institutions and education have changed a great deal. M.F.A. programs are now comprised of 60 percent women students. There are courses on women artists, feminism and art, contemporary women artists, etc., at major institutions of learning. This would have been unheard of in my day.

Check out all of the art world feminist goodness in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews.

Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer Slam Hollywood’s Sexism Problem, and It Gets Pretty Nasty

Lena Dunham

Photo via The Hollywood Reporter

The Hollywood Reporter gathered this year’s crop of Emmy-contending comedic actresses for a roundtable discussion and, sad to say, the conversation highlighted how sexism still permeates the industry.

“The way women are spoken to in social media is truly shocking. It’s how you imagine people screaming at prisoners in Guantanamo.” Lena Dunham said as she and Amy Schumer, Gina Rodriguez and more talked about the amount of rape threats and death threats they receive on Twitter.

Someone even wished Amy Schumer would get ovarian cancer.

Moving beyond the terror of internet trolls, the women touched upon the institutionalized discrimination faced in the industry. Dunham recalled how one man who worked on Girls made fun of her weight and said he hated his job because a man was not in charge. Tracee Ellis Ross, star of Black-ish, said working on a show run by four women (Girlfriends) set up false expectations of the industry.

There are hardly substantial roles for women in Hollywood, let alone roles for women of color. Michelle Rodriguez echoed this, and explained why she would never play a role to reinforce negative stereotypes. “When you compromise, you don’t do your best work.”

Feminism has emerged as a strong force in the entertainment industry as of late. Shonda Rhimes has created an incredibly successful television empire where straight, white, and male is not the default. But that doesn’t mean the struggle’s over by any means.

As comedic actors, lots of these women weaponize irony and humor in the fight (Schumer wrote a whole sketch of men arguing whether she was attractive enough to be on TV), but there are still long strides to be made with women in Hollywood.

Schumer ended with a sound resolution: “Let’s never apologize for anything.”

Check out the full interview at  The Hollywood Reporter.

Breaking News: Nerds Are Still Sexist

Between the pervert-dungeons of Reddit and the free-floating bigotry that is any Facebook feed, you’d think we would have quit being surprised by the sexism baked into the internet. It’s still offensive, naturally, but this New York Times op-ed about Wikipedia relegating our country’s notable female authors to an “American Women Novelists” subcategory has such a hopelessly narrow focus it’s almost funny.

Once again, let me reiterate: the Wiki nerds’ move to shorten the unwieldy “American Novelists” list by ghettoizing the writers without a penis is galling and wrong and more than a little stupid, organizationally speaking.

But you know what? My cousin was a Wikipedia editor when he was eleven years old. I don’t expect great things from that bunch.

I mean, take this accidentally hilarious (and humblebraggy) paragraph from the op-ed:

"I belong to an e-mail group of published female writers called WOM (it stands for Word of Mouth). Some of the members are extremely well known. On Tuesday morning, when I made my discovery of this sexism on Wikipedia, I sent them an e-mail about it."

The discovery of sexism on Wikipedia? That’s like saying Christopher Columbus discovered … eh, you know. I hate to say that nerds will be nerds, but I have a sinking feeling they will.

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These Woman Directors Have Been Overlooked By The Academy

Tomorrow night is the Academy Awards and yet again, no women have been nominated for Best Director. In 85 years, only four women have received a Best Director nomination and only one — Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker — has won. Bigelow was overlooked this year for her film Zero Dark Thirty, along with numerous other women directors. The blog Women & Hollywood put together a video to highlight ladies in the director’s chair who have been ignored.

  • Brenda Chapman (with Mark Andrews) for Brave
  • Lana Wachowski (with Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer) for Cloud Atlas
  • Jennifer Westfeldt for Friends With Kids
  • Ava DuVernay for Middle Of Nowhere
  • Aurora Guerrero for Mosquita Y Mari 
  • Valerie Faris (with Jonathan Dayton) for Ruby Sparks
  • Sarah Polley for Take This Waltz
  • Lynne Shelton for Your Sister’s Sister

According to the 2012 statistics from the Center for the Study of Women in Television, women only directed 9% of the top 250 domestic grossing films. Clearly, the problem of women’s representation as directors is two-fold: they need to be hired to direct in the first place, then they need to be acknowledged and encouraged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for their work. Otherwise the Oscars’ Best Director category will be the same sausagefest, year after year.  

Watch Women In Hollwyood’s video "To The Academy: Consider The Women" below: 

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Jodi Picoult Talks Franzengate, Chick Lit

New York Times Magazine interviewer Andrew Goldman appears to have learned his lesson after chastisement for his repeated sexist blunders in interviews with Tippi Hedren of The Birds and Whitney Cummings of Whitney. In this week’s magazine, Goldman interviews My Sister’s Keeper author Jodi Picoult — another human being with a vagina between her legs  — and manages not to make an ass of himself. 

Picoult touches on several gender-related issues, including her 2010 criticism of the New York Times after it reviewed Jonathan Franzen’s book Freedom twice in one week, once in the Review of Books and again in the paper:

Just one week later, conducted an old-fashioned byline count and confirmed what both Picoult and her writer pal Jennifer Weiner had publicly stated: men get more books reviewed than women. 

Goldman asked Picoult about Franzengate in his interview this weekend, asking:

In 2010, you were critical of this paper because it reviewed Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” twice in one week, which you found unsurprising because he is a “white male literary darling.”

It took me by surprise when that blew up. I didn’t feel like I was saying something that everyone didn’t already know, that women are reviewed less frequently and differently than men and there are fewer female reviewers.  

Goldman then nailed his followup question, asking the author who she thought deserved more attention instead:

A woman who writes genre commercial fiction would be great, even better if it’s a woman of color. I don’t have anyone in mind.

Picoult also touched up on the characterization of her books (which often feature female protagonistis in domestic settings) as "chick lit." She seems to acknowledge that "chick lit" is a valid descriptor for a category of books, yet doesn’t explain why it is that she believes she doesn’t write it — insinuating that it is because men read her books, too:

I don’t mind the term “chick lit.” I don’t happen to write it, so I think it’s funny when people assume I do just because I happen to have a vagina. It would be news to the 47 percent of people who write me fan mail who happen to be men to find out that I write chick lit.  

Forty-seven percent of her fan mail is from dudes? That’s a hell of a lot more than I would have expected. Anyway, Picoult also doesn’t deny that her book covers are marketed towards women (oftentimes with pictures of young women or girls looking solemn) and says she trusts that the marketing departments know what they’re doing. Which I find to be kind of a half-assed answer: it certainly works for Picoult’s book sales but there are a hell of a lot of female authors who are less willing to have their book covers marketed in such gendered ways. Anyway, it’s a good interview and worth reading in full.  

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Rex Reed, ‘NY Observer’ Reviewer, Slammed For Sexist Snark On Melissa McCarthy

Justifying it for God only knows what reason, flailing New York City newspaper the New York Observer published a movie review of the comedy Identify Thief which called its Oscar-nominated star Melissa McCarthy a "hippo," "tractor-sized" and said she’s made her career on being "obese." In the days since, reviewer Rex Reed has taken an absolute pounding in the press.  

Bridesmaids director Paul Feig minced no words, informing Reed he could go fuck himself:

Modern Family star Eric Stonestreet, himself an actor who is on the husky side, also singed the reviewer:

A bunch of other Hollywood types came to Melissa McCarthy’s side, which the Hollywood Reporter has rounded up here. Frankly, I still this this McCarthy/Jason Batemen flick looks hilarious:


The question remainds why the Observer — felt it was the proper editorial decision to publish these sexist, fat-shaming comments. Do they actually believe that calling one of America’s most beloved actresses a "hippo" would spur ad sales? Increase subscriptions? Is the paper’s web site that badly in need of pageviews that they allowed this offensive trash to be published? Is this what the Observer is going to be like under new editor Ken Kurson, described by WWD as  a personal friend of Kushner’s who has more recently been involved in political consulting."

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Congressman Snarks On Nancy Pelosi’s ‘Facelift’ On Dennis Miller Show

A Republcain (of course) from Texas (of course) snarked on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s appearance (of course) on the conservative-leaning Dennis Miller Show (of course).

Rep. Louie Gohmert was grousing about Speaker Of The House John Boehner with guest host Larry O’Connor, then threw Boehner a compliment by way of a sexist, ageist jab at Pelosi’s looks: "Well, let’s give [Boehner] credit. There’s no facelift with John Boehner. He is who he is."

Male politicians aren’t immune to  jokes about their appearance — think of the jokes about the size of President Obama’s ears or Governor Chris Christie’s girth. But this snark manages to be a one-two punch of both sexist and ageist, by accusing Pelosi of being a fancypants fake just because of perceived plastic surgery because she’s an older woman. By way of comparison, "pretty" male politicians like John Edwards might get teased about their good looks, but don’t get "facelift" jabs.  

Frankly, there many more important reasons to criticize Rep. Pelosi, as either a fake or a limosine liberal, than the way her face looks — but that default snark is the laziest one in the book.

Think Progress has audio of the Rep. Gohmert’s clip if you care to listen. 

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Helen Mirren Blasts Hollywood For Being Sexist

When Dame Helen Mirren speaks, you should listen, Hollywood.

Some nincompoop asked Mirren about her "sudden" popularity.  Mirren handled the question with characteristic grace and managed a pot shot at Hollywood at the same time: 

"Well, that’s how it looks from the outside. My success grew slowly but constantly. I’ve been working every year since I started acting and I got many awards before I won the Oscar for The Queen. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been interested in big Hollywood flicks and I’ve only been in a few recently. I’ve always sensed a misogynist and sexist attitude, even in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Can I say that [1970 movie] Five Easy Pieces sucks? … You need to be a feminist. It’s about equality and rights.

I should think she would sense a sexist and misogynist attitude in Hollywood, especially in the ’60s and ’70s.

I wonder if Mirren’s career is skyrocketing now because she’s at the "Driving Miss Daisy" age for women actors. Isn’t there some quote about how there are three roles in Hollywood for women — ingenue, Mom, or Driving Miss Daisy?

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CNN Plays Pink’s ‘Stupid Girls’ Before Sarah Palin Chick-Fil-A Story

Oh, hai, CNN. What’s up? Just a friendly reminder that sexism is still sexism even if it is against a woman that we all hate. When you played Pink’s song Stupid Girls before a segement on CNN Sunday Morning about Sarah Palin visiting a Chick-fil-A to support their bigoted company? Yeah, not cool.

There are plenty ofsubstantive critiques to be made about Palin’s bigotry, pandering to the religious right, and yes, even her stupidity. But CNN’s use of the song wasn’t a substantive critique on anything specific other than just calling her a stupid girl — not even just stupid, but a stupid girl — for shopping at Chick-fil-A.

And the truly stupid thing about using that particular song is that Stupid Girls is actually very pro-feminist: the song is all about Pink refusing to dumb herself down to get male attention. CNN just used the refrain that goes "Stupid girls, stupid girls, stupid girls."


This isn’t the first time Palin has been treated in a sexist way. 30 Rock‘s Tracy Morgan called her "great masturbation material"; a creepy Arizona sheriff gifted her a pair of pink panties. And who could forget the time News Corps head honcho Roger Ailes said he hired her as a political commentator on Fox News because "she was hot and got ratings"? Likewise, Rep. Michele Bachmann made waves when she appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and house band The Roots played the song Lyin’ Ass Bitch.

Obviously both have said some dumb things and both are awful human beings. But they’re not awful because they are women. The focus of criticism should not be on their gender. Sexism against any person, regardless of her or his political party wrong, even if they aren’t women’s rights supporters.

And more to the point? The last these these two (or their party) need are legitimate reasons to continue playing the victim. Shame on you, CNN.