One of my biggest peeves in life are mainstream magazines for women. They are just so awful that I cannot bear to look at most of them, and when I inadvertently lay eyes on one and can’t help but read a few sentences, a small part inside of me always dies a little and I end up regretting it. I think it is pretty obvious that they represent everything that is wrong with the world and they are the epitome of patriarchal ideology: gender roles and oppression galore! Recently I decided to go on a hunt for women’s magazines that actually aren’t terrible and that don’t make me want to rip my eyes out. I came across this article on autostraddle.com : 15 Women’s Magazines That Don’t Suck, Are Awesome. Some of the magazines mentioned were real gems that I will definitely be looking at regularly. I think women deserve media that isn’t weirdly obsessed with weight loss, doesn’t teach women that they are judged on and defined by the way they look, and that they have to buy countless products to try and change all the things that are ‘naturally wrong’ with their bodies. Generally, I think women deserve magazines that don’t tell you what to want and what to buy, as dictated by the patriarchy.
There are a bunch of magazines and websites out there that empower women, providing articles and news stories about a wide range of topics that include politics, art, movies, books, activism, culture . Having these media outlets is also really helpful in finding information and opinion outside of dominant mainstream sources like the BBC or The Times, for personal or research purposes. One of mine and many other people’s favourites is Bitch Magazine (http://bitchmedia.org) , which is a ‘non-profit, feminist independent media organisation’. The reason I love this magazine/website is because it represents a voice that we don’t usually see in popular culture, it opens up a dialogue and it welcomes any readers that are open to considering that feminism is not just for ‘women who don’t want to shave their legs’. They have been criticised for the name of their magazine before, but they explain that they took a word which was used to shut down women that expressed sentiments that ‘differentiated [them] from a doormat’ and reclaimed it, because being an outspoken woman is a great thing.
The Photographer’s Gallery, located in a small lane just off Oxford Street, has three exhibitions on at the moment including one called ‘Feminist Avant Garde of the 1970s’, which immediately grabbed my attention and made me decide to go and see it. The exhibition is a collection of photographs, videos, collages and performances which were all made by pioneering feminist female artists in the 1970s. As I walked into the first room I was immediately absorbed by what I saw, and then went from piece to piece and room to room without ever getting bored, having quite a selection of different mediums to look at.
A lot of the work was about condemning misogyny and sexism through images that show the ways in which women are belittled, objectified and sexualised by patriarchy. In that sense, one could feel how dated second wave feminism is compared to today’s era of post-feminism. I think today an exhibition about feminist art would have been more focused on spitting on the patriarchy and empowering women rather than simply demonstrating that women are slaves to society, full stop. It was interesting to go back in time through this exhibition and be able to see how feminists responded to American/western society in the 70s, although quite frustrating because I was expecting to see a part of the exhibition that would show women overthrowing the government and liberating themselves from society’s oppressive expectations, but was left a little disappointed.
Also a very important point to raise was that the great majority of the exhibition showed no evidence of inclusion of women of colour or LGBTQ women in their definition of ‘feminism’. I think The Photographer’s Gallery should have been aware that they were obscuring the work of many women when they decided to only expose the work of white women. The names of Adrian Piper and Betye Saar (whose mixed media work includes collage) could be added to the list of artists who have produced work in the 70s that is closely linked to feminism and to fighting racial stereotypes, which is an integrant part of feminism. I believe there should have been a space in the exhibition for them. The Gay Liberation movement was also happening at the same time as the Feminist movement in the 1970s, which is no coincidence as the feminist movement created more visibility for gay women and gave them more freedom to be open about their sexuality, it would’ve therefore made sense to include some of their work in the collection, like Cathy Cade’s work for example. I think FeministAvant Garde of the 1970s is an important exhibition to go and see to anyone who wants to learn about the history of feminism but they should keep in mind that the history of women of colour and of LGBTQ women is part of that history.
Pizzo, J. (2014) 20 Important African-American Female Artists of the 20th century. Available at: http://uk.complex.com/style/2014/02/african-american-female-artists/ (Accessed: 03/12/16)
Spence, R. (2010) How women artists fought back in the ’70s. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/c181e85e-27e0-11df-9598-00144feabdc0 (Accessed: 03/12/16)