Sunday, 16 March 2008

Investigating ‘The Feminine.’

Saturday March 15th 2008.
‘The feminine’ has been lurking in the long grass of the artist statement for some years now. I happened upon it again on Thursday night, at the opening night of 'Myths and Legends' at Contemporary Applied Bonnets and Silk Scarves in Percy St, London. (Oh yes. I get around.)
Clustered together there, like so many little Easter bunnies, was a cell of 'the Feminine.' I decided to chase them out and see what could be made of them.
I’ve used this expression, and I’ve found it used a few times by makers talking about their work, but what do we mean by it?
I use a very simple definition which is ‘characteristic of woman.’ This means pretty much anything from blistering fury or ‘well ‘ard,’ to any of those gentle nurturing characteristics which are supposed to be found in abundance among females. Thing is, you can’t nurture without getting into a state of blistering rage or being well ‘ard as well. They’re part of each other’s territory.
‘Feminine’ can also mean that peculiarly sanitised, diminished, bleached, washed out, enfeebled version of woman – the sort that never gets angry, doesn’t smell of anything except soap, doesn’t bleed, except her heart of course, and the reason you’ve never met her is because she doesn’t exist, and never has. She is, of course, just a construct. So we can discard her for now. Actually how about forever?
A third use of the word seems to be creeping slowly into accepted-use status. ‘Concerned with "the feminine"’ seems to be – SHUDDER- the acceptable face of feminism. Feminism was never meant to have an acceptable face. THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT. But it does appear to be used by women, mostly, whose work or activities are obviously influenced or in some way shaped by feminist thinking, but who for some inexplicable reason, don’t want to say so and instead opt for something which is, apparently, more acceptable. Nicer. Problem is, if you return to the simple linguistic definition, ‘characteristic of woman,’ it isn’t any ‘nicer,’ just womanly.

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