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April, 2009

"Sexism in Art"

by Webmaster

March flew by. I really don't know where it went.

I spent a lot of it driving back and forth between my place in the country and the metro Denver area. I teach part-time, I have a part-time job and I build web pages for clients. I spent a lot of time taking care of those aspects of my business. I spent a lot of time playing music on- and off-stage. And, I'm learning new skills that might be profitable. I have my first commission for a music video. That's exciting.

I ended a long-term relationship and spent a lot of time mulling over things and writing in my journal. I even wrote a song from the experience.

I'm doing some emotional house cleaning and making room in my life for new things. I have a milestone birthday in 2 weeks. I'm practicing gratitude.

I'm connecting to friends on different levels. Someone from my distant past came back into my life recently. And, I've been writing a book about things I've learned about life, mostly the hard way.

Recently. I was talking with a woman friend about a mutual friend's seeming dislike for women. I mentioned that I was a Literature major in college and had a professor who said that books and poetry about men represent universal issues and truths. They are enduring literature. He went on to say that books and poetry about women do not represent universal issues and truths. They are simply about women and, because of that, they are limited in scope.

Well, that was back in the late 60's. We could attribute that to pre-Women's Lib thinking.

But, I find that some men still think that way today. There are movies and chick-flicks. There are songs "everybody" loves and songs "for women."

Less than ten years ago, I met a man who is an accomplished songwriter. He offered to listen to my original songs and give me feedback. His feedback was, "They're songs about women. You need to try to write some songs that have universal appeal."

Why is art (literature, songs, etc.) about men more universal than literature about women?

I don't believe that literature about men reflects higher or more important truths than literature about women. I don't believe that books and poems about men are written better than books and poems about women. I don't believe that songs and stories about men are more enduring than songs and stories about women.

I believe that Madame Bovary, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Little Women and The French Lieutenant's Woman (to name a few) support my side of the argument and that their authors—Gustave Flaubert, Thomas Hardy, Louisa May Alcott, John Fowles—would agree with me.

Perhaps literature about childbirth might be geared toward women, the same way literature about being a soldier 100 years ago might be geared toward men. But, take literature about faithfulness, finding one's path in life, surmounting disappointment,overcoming cowardice, building a career, finding love, being loyal to one's friends. Those are themes that should appeal to both sexes. The importance is the theme and the literary presentation. The themes themselves aren't more important when the protagonist is male and they aren't less important when the protagonist is female.

Many years ago, I commented to a friend on something he did and asked him how he would feel if he were the recipient of treatment like that. He stared at me blankly and then asked me, "How do you do that?"

"How do I do what?" I asked back.

"How do you put yourself in someone else's position and understand how they would feel?"

The words sympathy and empathy come to mind. They have no gender denotation or connotation.

Is it really that easy for women to put themselve in a man's position and understand how he would feel? Apparently so.

Is it really that hard for men to put themselves in a woman's position and understand how she would feel? Apparently so.

Then, does literature about men become universal because it expresses higher truths or does it become universal because it appeals to a group whose vision and capacity for empathy is limited?

It wouldn't be the first time that the scope of a group was limited by the group's weakest link.

Interestingly enough, the same argument could be made for any ethnic- or minority-based literature. So the concept of universal issues or universal appeal changes when one crosses any country's border. At that point, the minority might just become the majority and what was universal is now just ethnic-based literature.

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