Artist and Feminist

September 10, 2014

Until the last year or so I wouldn’t have labelled myself any of the above. First of all I didn’t truly understand what feminism was (isn’t that the hairy activist group of women who hate men?). Secondly, how could I be classed as an artist when I really only ever produce work because I have to, because my deadlines are coming up and I have an assignment due. I felt I was (I still am) too lazy of a student to be classed as an artist. Aren’t artists these extremely passionate human beings that ooze art, their creativity just follows them round like a lost pup? That isn’t me. But here I am now going into my second year proudly as an artist and feminist. How did I change my mind?


Well, I was always a feminist; I just didn’t know I was. You might be too; do you believe women and men are both equal? Then boom I guess you’re a feminist too. Once I realised this, social issues I’ve dismissed became so much more apparent to me and consequently has influenced me more as an artist. I’m incredibly interested in other people’s views of feminism, women and the drink/rape culture we live in. The internet is an easy place to find these many diverse (and some ignorant) comments which fuel my art ideas.


Well, I guess I was always an artist; I just didn’t know I was. I’ve always drawn/sketched and painted but never actually created something I felt anything for. After finally finding my own voice I found my art self. I realised that context is what means more (to me) than the actual piece itself. Simplicity can be more than the complex. I feel that I don’t need to see art as an assignment anymore but a project, and maybe now that is why I am more confident to declare myself an artist.    


Brookes Fine Art 'First'  Exhibition


I’ve used feminism and art to create MASTERPIECES! Muahahaha. Ok, well maybe just art pieces. My exhibition for my first year art show at Oxford Brookes Headington Hill Campus –First- was initially my first ‘go’ at drawing my thoughts and ideas in such contextual ways. One of the factors we were looking at in our tutorials was site-specific art. This is where the environment of the art is a part of the art -the artist has taking into account the location of the art piece. This was a big factor of my work; I placed my piece in the boy’s toilets. Sneaky, I know. Was more than amusing watching the confusion on unfortunate boy’s faces (who needed the bathroom at that time ) who entered and seen a lady (me) sticking up half female/half scissors drawings and prints on to the walls, and then THEY apologised for THEM being there. Girl power rules!


It’s safe to say my piece was controversial and caused conversation on our exhibition night. Many asked why haven’t you done reversed drawings in the girl’s toilets, ‘how is this gender equality if it’s one sided’. And I shall break this down for you, hopefully in the most easy to understand way. We, humans, men and women, should recognise that men are more privileged than women. This shouldn’t be seen as an opinion. And this shouldn’t be seen as ‘women hate men’. Women’s bodies don’t seem to be their own; apparently if we show too much then it’s an invitation for rape or violence or both. If we breastfeed in public it is unreserved, and downright disrespectful for others. If we have unprotected sex it is the woman’s fault for getting pregnant. If you are pregnant and decide you want an abortion, many may judge. In fact, women’s bodies are something that passing comments can be made about and when we feel to speak up we’re reminded that it’s ‘just a joke’. My piece, like many feminist arts, is bold. It’s the literal and metaphorical idea of women as objects. How society see women, and when I say society I don’t imply just men, a lot of women objectify women and it is incredibly sad to see. By me changing the female form into scissors it’s considers both the objectifying of women and the focus on the object. Why scissors? Well, pretty dangerous -don’t run with them, I also used fabric scissors which can relate to fashion -being possibly one of the biggest culprits in marketing women as objects. But scissors can ultimately be a weapon and that’s one of the reasons I was fond of using this as the object of objectifying, also because the functionality of scissors can mirror the opening and closing of legs. But the biggest threat of scissors to a man is the snip-snip.


So I guess what I’m trying to say is if we switched it round to represent men as objects it wouldn’t have the same impact because men are privileged. They have the privilage of their own body being theirs.    


Margaret Atwood, the Canadian novelist, once asked a group of women at a university why they felt threatened by men. The women said they were afraid of being beaten, raped, or killed by men. She then asked a group of men why they felt threatened by women. They said they were afraid women would laugh at them.

― Molly Ivins, Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?


Feminism is something we need to help overcome these barriers. We need to stop pretending there isn't a problem because, as a woman, I know I’ve fell victim to many sexual harassment comments and even invading of personal boundaries within work and social environments. Or maybe I just can’t take a joke?


Art is something I need to help me overcome my barriers. 




Margie Houlston

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