Toying with History: Conclusion and Works Cited

[This is the final part of a thesis paper about the series Toying with History.  Here is the master post.]


I began this artistic inquiry by asking whether or not the present is dependent on the past. After assessing sexism in contemporary politics and creative fields, I conclude that changing our traditions will only come at the cost of sustained effort, and it is far too early to be complacent about our progress.

The violent examples of social injustice during the summer of 2014 included in my introduction—such as policemen shooting unarmed black men—continued during fall 2014. The antagonism within the computer gaming industry has also escalated. “Gamergate” is the latest incarnation of this misogyny, though some make pathetic attempts to justify death threats as advocacy for journalistic ethics. I mentioned earlier that Anita Sarkeesian, one of the targets of these intimidation tactics, opted in March 2014 to accept a Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award despite a bomb threat. In October 2014, Sarkeesian canceled a speech at Utah State University. She reportedly decided to cancel when informed that—in spite of a threatened mass shooting—campus police would do nothing to prevent individuals with concealed carry permits from bringing guns to the event (McDonald 1). In cases like these, in which the right to bear arms trumps the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, the crux of the problem is one of balancing priorities.

Our priorities are of course heavily influenced by our empathy. The fundamental bias of The Christian Science Monitor illustrates this point. While explaining the newspaper’s 
motto—”To injure no man, but to bless all mankind”—one of the editors described global news as essential to mankind’s well-being, because “caring about our neighbors begins with knowing something about them–how they’re doing, what they need, what their challenges are” (Ingwerson).

Art, literature, and film are tools by which we can hope to accomplish this. I still struggle to truly change my own patterns of thinking. Even in the middle of creating a self-consciously feminist series, I sometimes catch myself believing the very stereotypes I wish to reject. Shifting paradigms is no easy task, and each incremental change reveals another opportunity for character building.

Intersectionality—which I briefly touched on in this paper’s introduction—is the most important direction in which I intend to develop my series. Researching this project has made me more confident in my feminism, but it has also forced me to be painfully aware of the privileges I enjoy as a cis, white woman. Our shared traditions affect all of us, but not in the same ways. The series is conceptual rather than autobiographical, so there is no reason to exclude women of color from a visual discussion of how art history and pop culture affect worldviews. My unintentional omission of racial diversity shames me even more when I consider the fact that Kara Walker, Janelle Monáe, and Kehinde Wiley are artists whose work I look to as examples of how beautiful absurdity can have rhetorical power.

Toying with History could also do more to challenge heteronormativity. My earliest artworks in this series included a sub-series that acknowledged drag as part of this overall fantasy of dressing up in order to challenge preconceptions. I contended in the introduction to this paper that countering rape culture requires a deeper fight against lingering sexism in our culture as a whole. Challenging gender stereotypes is important, but the conversation is much richer when the gender binary’s dualistic nature is also challenged.

As a society, the good news is that we are discussing intersectionality and social justice. The paradigm shifts requisite to bringing about equality have not yet been realized. Equality will continue to elude us until we conceptualize it deeply, universally, and intersectionally. Inequality will end when we make it inconceivable and unnatural. We cannot ignore the past, but we are not fated to repeat it.

Anon...was often a woman, watercolor, 45 x 66", 2014
Anon…was often a woman, watercolor, 45 x 66″, 2014


Works Cited

Alonso, Axel. “AXEL IN CHARGE: The Mixed Message of Manara’s ‘Spider-Woman’ Variant.” Comic Book Resources. 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.

Alpers, Svetlana. “Is Art History?” Daedalus. 106.3 (1977): 1-13. JSTOR. Web. 9 Feb. 2014.

Arnoldi, Oliver. “Marvel Cancels Two Upcoming Covers Following Uproar Over New Spider-Woman Character.” The Telegraph. 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 2 Oct. 2014.

Bartky, Sandra Lee. Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression.  New York: Routledge, 1990. E-book.

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Print.

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.

Brennan, Sarah Rees. “A Female Author Talks about Sexism and Self-Promotion.” The Toast. 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 9 Sept. 2014.

Bricken, Rob. “Check out Spider-Woman #1, Starring Spider-Woman’s Ass.” io9. 20 Sept. 2014. Web. 2 Oct. 2014.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 2008. Print.

Carter, Alice A. The Red Rose Girls:  An Uncommon Story of Art and Love. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000. Print.

Camille, Michael. “Rethinking the Canon: Prophets, Canons, and Promising Monsters.” College Art Association. Art Bulletin 78.2 (1998): 198-201. JSTOR. 19 Nov. 2013.

Collections Overview: William Adolphe Bouguereau Return of Spring.” n.d. Joslyn Art Museum. Omaha. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.

Couric, Katie. “Exclusive: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Hobby Lobby Dissent.” Yahoo! News. n.d. Web. 9 Sept. 2014.

Danto, Arthur C. After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997. Print.

Daugherty, Sandra. “Hook-Up Culture & History with Dr. Lisa Wade.” Sex Nerd Sandra. 16 July 2014. Web. 20 July 2014.

Diehl, Amanda and Holly Vaughn, eds. The Queen’s Readers: A Collection of Essays on the Words and Worlds of Tamora Pierce. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014. Print.

Dill, Karen E. How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Epub.

Dissanayake, Ellen. Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996. Print.

Fitzgerald, Jen. “About the VIDA Count.” VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. n.d. Web. 9 Sept. 2014.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. 2nd ed. Trans. Alan Sheridan.  New York: Vintage Books, 1995. Print.

Gillibrand, Kirsten. Interview by Jon Stewart. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. Television. 9 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Sept. 2014.

Heldman, Dr. Caroline and Dr. Lisa Wade. “Sexualizing Sarah Palin: The Social and Political Context of the Sexual Objectification of Female Candidates.” Sex Roles. 65.3-4 (2011): 156-164. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.

Ingwerson, Marshall. “Reporting the News with a Mission to Heal.” The Christian Science Monitor. 2 June 2014. Web. 4 June 2014.

Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press, 1962. Print.

McDonald, Soraya Nadia. “‘Gamergate’: Feminist Video Game Critic Anita Sarkeesian Cancels Utah Lecture After Threat.” The Washington Post. 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.

McEvilley, Thomas.  Art and Discontent: Theory at the Millennium. New York: McPherson and Company, 1991. Print.

McKeon, Nancy. “Women in the House Get a Restroom.” The Washington Post. 28 July 2011. Web. 9 Sept. 2014.

McLuhan, Marshall and Quentin Fiore. The Medium is the Massage. Berkeley: Gingko Press, 1967. Print.

Morris, Alex. “The Forsaken:  A Rising Number of Homeless Gay Teens Are Being Cast Out by Religious Families.” Rolling Stone Magazine. 3 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Sept. 2014.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP,1999: 833-44. PDF.

Nichols, Nichelle. “MAKERS Profile: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek Actress & NASA Recruiter.” Video clip. n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.

Nochlin, Linda. “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” Art and Sexual Politics. Hess, Thomas B. and Elizabeth C. Baker, eds. New York: Collier Books, 1972. Print.

Sarkeesian, Anita. “The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies.” Feminist Frequency. 7 Dec. 2009. Web. 9 Sept. 2014.

Sabartés, Jaume. Dans l’atelier de Picasso. 1957. Museum sign. Museu Picasso. Barcelona.

Sawyer, Diane. “A Chat with the First Women of the Supreme Court.” ABC World News. 26 Oct. 2010. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

Schwartz, Hillel.  The Culture of the Copy: Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles.  New York:  Zone Books, 1996. Print.

Sharp, Dr. Gwen and Dr. Lisa Wade. “Secrets of a Feminist Icon.” Contexts 2.2 (2011): 82-83. PDF.

Smith, Dr. Stacy L., March Choueiti, and Dr. Katherine Pieper. “Gender Bias Without Borders: An Investigation of Female Characters In Popular Films Across 11 Countries.” Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. 2014. PDF.

Steinem, Gloria. “Escaping Control: Linking Gender, Social Movements, and Democracy.” Bioneers. National Public Radio, 29 June 2012. MP3.

Stevenson, Noelle. The Hawkeye Initiative. Web. 2 Oct. 2014.

Stewart, Susan. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993. Print.

Stolberg, Sheryl Gay. “Women in Both Parties Are Disappointed by Their Modest Election Gains.” The New York Times. 5 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. Orlando: Harcourt Inc., 1929. Print.

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