Posts Tagged ‘C.B. Liddell’

“Sexual Equality” Causes Birth Dearth, Makes Unicorns Sad

 "To My Only Desire." The Lady and the Unicorn. Image copyright Musée national du Moyen Âge.

“To My Only Desire.” The Lady and the Unicorn. Image copyright Musée national du Moyen Âge.

I’m sure no one is surprised that C.B. Liddell, the art critic who tragically  just “can’t” understand women continues to fail at discussing women in art, or, to be perfectly honest, art itself. The National Art Center in Tokyo recently hosted an exhibition of medieval/Renaissance art, including the famous tapestries The Lady and the Unicorn. I knew the writer of “Making Sense of Medieval Avatars” was Liddell the moment I read the first paragraph:

The Western model of sexual equality — one that drives women to focus on careers but also contributes to lower birthrates — may not be an entirely unmixed blessing, but the roots of the West’s gender attitudes run deep and stem from some interesting places, as “The Lady and the Unicorn” exhibition at The National Art Center, Tokyo shows.

Yes, how horrible that women want to 1. have control over their bodies, including reproduction, and 2. enjoy fulfilling careers and/or financial independence! It must be the West’s fault for bringing the poison of what Liddell thinks is “sexual equality” to Japan. You know, because we women in “the West” are not all busy fighting for equal recognition on bank notes or to not be raped while serving their country or to have access to equal wages or anything like that.


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This piece also appeared in Feministe on 1 April 2013.

One of the most striking scenes in the 2012 miniseries version of Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End is one in which suffragette Valentine Wannop takes refuge in an art museum during a rally. While she is quietly admiring a painting of Venus, another woman enters and slashes the painting with a cleaver, shouting, “What are you all gawking at? Do you think that is all women are good for?”1

Parade's End, Episode 2: The Destruction of the Venus

Parade's End, Episode 2, damage

As someone with a deep love of art, I was alarmed as Valentine was. I do not believe in the destruction of art, but what the stand-in for Mary Richardson said stuck with me. Consider the status of women in the art world: often considered the “muse,” rarely the artist; lauded as the pinnacle of beauty but having no worth otherwise: the Venus forever looking in her mirror, the object of the (male) gaze, not the subject of her own agency. Should a gallery or museum try to strive for the inclusion of women artists (and artists of color, queer artists, and so on), there may be criticism of ignoring the masters, so-called “female privilege,” and the desire for a gender-blind meritocracy that simply does not exist at present. If you were wondering what such an article might look like, look no further than C.B. Liddell’s “The diverse works of Asian women artists,” a special to The Japan Times.


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