Response to the Article, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”
During the height of the feminist movement, Linda Nochlin confronted her audience with a bold question: Why have there been no great women artists? On the surface, it is a tongue-in-cheek arrangement of words, purely facetious, but I do not think Nochlin meant them that way. I think the question was genuine and melancholy. Nochlin is one woman looking at the past with sad eyes, begging to understand why her sisters were denied the opportunity to become great.
One of Nochlin’s theories is the renunciation of the concept of artistic genius. I had not considered this before. Some are born great, and if it happens to be more men than women, who will be the one to question the spontaneity of the universe? According to Nochlin, it is all about what passion is planted and nurtured from the earliest of ages, and that can be misinterpreted as innate talent. This led me to ask myself, if not the gift of genius, what produced so many male Greats? I suppose that the injustice was not whom fate favored, but the societal norm of raising girls to be nothing but housewives. Without being allowed to learn and practice the same things with the same level of encouragement as their male counterparts, women were locked out of the artistic community. Women fortunate enough to be close to a man already in the artistic community were the ones most likely to become members.
Nochlin also handles a matter on the other end of the spectrum. She speaks about women who have rebelliously broken free from the shackles of their wombs before entering into the respectable world—what we understand to be the men’s world. On the other hand, if a man wanted to do something considered feminine, he could slip right into the position any time he pleased, even mastering it with no social stigma. Nochlin’s example of the ease with which a man can become a professional chef was an eye-opener for me, and I was put off by how this...
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