Erasure of women in the arts

I’ve been quiet here on my blog for a little while. Amongst other things, my attention has been diverted to some really scary and serious issues facing females around the world, such as the banning of women in Afghanistan from public spaces and from attending University. They are also not allowed to receive health care from men, but without education women can’t become doctors themselves so females are left without health care at all. You have to wonder what that will do to the rates of female death in child-birth.

Closer to home, before Christmas women suffered a massive blow to their rights to privacy, dignity, safety and autonomy when Scotland gave the legal right for any man to call himself a woman for the princely sum of £5. Nice to know that women’s bodies are so cheap. Also important to know that women were barely consulted and that only 20% of the Scottish electorate supported the change. “Gender” identity, which doesn’t even have a definition in law and seems to change from week to week, was given precedence over the reality of biological sex. What’s more, the lie that biological sex can somehow be “changed” was perpetuated.

We are already seeing a sharp increase in men convicted of sexual crimes against women declaring that they are female and demanding to be housed in women’s prisons. We are also seeing many high street retailers such as Primark, much favoured by teenage girls, abolishing single sex changing rooms in favour of “gender neutral”. No surprise when this results in sexual crimes against women and girls, particularly up-skirting, voyeurism and flashing (the “person” referred to in the flashing article, btw, was a man in a skirt flashing his penis in various locations within House of Fraser). Toilets are also routinely being made unisex, even in schools, with similar results.

What does this have to do with photography I hear you ask? I’ve already written about misogyny in photography in this post. And I’ve written about the silent but insidious erasing of sex in photography competitions and replacing biological reality with some vague notion of “gender” identity in this post. The creative arts in general are being hugely affected by the abolition of female only categories, the latest casualty of which is the Brit awards. Sex categories have been ditched in favour of “gender neutrality”, the result of which is that in this year’s Awards women have disappeared and we have a men only shortlist for best artist. There are now calls for the Oscars to also be “gender neutral” – I wonder which man made that decision. Not withstanding the fact that there is no such thing as neutral sex, we are all biologically male or female whether we like it or not, I think we can hazard a guess at the results of next year’s best actor (actress? act-person?!) nominee list.

There is a reason we differentiate between the sexes in not only the arts but in all walks of life, some of which are outlined here. We live in a world still dominated by men and their needs, views, temperament, physical attributes and life experiences. For example males don’t get pregnant or give birth necessitating time out of their careers, and they don’t do most of the housework, cooking or shopping, or routinely take on caring duties on top of their jobs. When we fail to separate males from females and fail to acknowledge the barriers to success faced by females, the losers are always women and girls.

If you care about the women and girls in your life, or you’re female, please do something about the situation. Signing this petition, which calls for clarification in the Equality Act for the protected characteristic of sex to mean biological sex, only takes a minute. After signing, please share on your social media platforms – with another 30,000 signatures the government are duty bound to debate the issue in Parliament.

In the past 5 years women’s rights have regressed 5 decades. We now have biological men calling themselves women and running rape crisis centres (100% of rapes are by men predominantly of women), being housed in female domestic abuse shelters (85% of domestic abuse is of women by men) and being locked up with female prisoners (97% of sexual crimes are by men predominantly on women). We have some rapes being logged by the police as a crime committed by a female, despite the fact the legal definition of rape is “penetration by a penis”. Just take a minute to process that.

As soon as they start school, children are being indoctrinated that there is no such thing as males and females and that biological sex exists on some kind of imaginary spectrum. We now have men dressed as bizarre, sexualized parodies of women reading to young children in Drag Queen story hour often performing erotic dance routines in the process. And we are permanently affecting the fertility of some girls by giving them puberty blocking hormones before the age of 12. These are not isolated incidents but increasingly common place.

Females are being erased in all walks of life and this includes the Arts. We need to act now to protect the rights of women and girls before it’s too late.

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