Hey, Ladies

purses and a hammer

“Womanizer”    hammer, women’s purses   2013

This piece and incident, as described below, came to mind just yesterday as did an article from last spring, I think as a result of several things currently in the news: The WaPo’s Robin Givhan’s “Let’s talk about ‘Project Runway’ stars using ‘old lady’ to describe unflattering clothes” from April 23, 2019. Fashion, women who wear it and the men who get to decide…

This grad-school piece above was a ‘first draft’ attempt to express some degree of my lifelong rage at misogyny and the males who perpetuate it. When I presented it to my class, four young-ish men, the response was muted (these guys generally did not acknowledge the facts of sexism and they practically rejected the existence of ageism), but two of them did criticize my choice of purses. I had dug around in my own stuff and had rooted around a couple of thrift stores to find an array that suggested women of different ages, styles and incomes. These classmates told me with straight faces that the purses weren’t expensive or stylish enough, that they weren’t adequate; I could tell from their expressions that they were offended by the low-end items. In other words, these young men with limited experience in life and no experience as women, concluded my piece did not work because my materials were not expensive and designer-made, not because they did not communicate my intent. The instructor did not challenge my classmates; he pointed out a couple of confusing aspects of the piece, then hurried along, clearly not wishing to spend time talking about the world women exist in. It was a lost opportunity for all of us, I think.

So, this is what I was paying for, this is what ‘the academy’ allowed, rewarded and perpetuated. This was a few years ago; I look at today’s news and wonder how much has changed…

 

Jalopy, a self-portrait

 

This is the unfinished final project from my first semester at woodworking school; the assignment was to make a box of some sort with hinges. My classmates made large boxes for storage–some of them turned out beautifully–but I had run out of wood so I made a series of boxes with various elements (different angles, finishes, cuts, hinges, etc…) to try to cover the things we’d learned over the semester using the scraps I still had and pieces I could scrounge from the trash bins.

I really did learn some new things doing this piece, which was a bit too ‘arty’ for the class, frankly. A picture of it, still unfinished, with the roof (beautiful wood!) is below. I really should finish it and take a few pix before I disassemble it and put lids on the boxes for actual use. (I don’t think the instructor understood my approach, but, whatevs…I got a lot of practice in, which was the point, I thought.)  

House structure made of stack of handmade and finished wooden boxes
Jalopy, a self-portrait from later middle-age. Various techniques and materials.

the new old me

1/16/2020 Hey! There’s a good interview with Elinor Carucci on TheGuardian.com site about her photo work regarding late middle age. She and Ann Neumann discuss some of the (unsurprising) issues women encounter as they age and how her images examine her (rockin’!) aging body…I can totally relate to the picture of her lying in the snow–ha!–and to some of the other things she brings up, especially since I have had so much trouble getting people in the art world to even acknowledge how older women are marginalized.  A good read and some good art.

12/6/19  Hey! I just another article about ageism and sexism in the workplace: Washington Post article, “Administrative assistant jobs helped propel many women into the middle class. Now they’re disappearing” Yup, older women are effed in this culture and this economy.

10/29/19 Hey! I just heard a bit of a story on Marketplace.org about the intersection of ageism & sexism in the workplace and recommend the podcast:  A double whammy for older women in the workplace

Here’s work from a ‘foto album’ I’ve done recently about aging and the language people are starting to use towards and around me, cuz they’re not seeing me, lots. When someone does notice me, it is not in response to the persona I strive to project into the world, but rather, it is as a thing apart, “an old.” I do not recognize this “other,” this irrelevant shell. I keep looking for what so many others see: my new old identity.

 

museums as problematic

IMG_7003I often listen to podcasts while doing rote or simple tasks and this morning, while carving on a linoleum block, I listened to one of my favorites, CounterSpin from Fairness and Accountability in Reporting, or FAIR, @ https://fair.org/counterspin-radio/. The program interviews  a lot of sources that do not commonly get approached by corporate media reporters and talks about how corporate media often under- or mis- represent very important issues, policy or cultural trends to the detriment of citizens. The show I listened to today was an interview with Amin Husain, an organizer with the cultural activism group Decolonize This Place. The show’s host and interviewer, Janine Jackson, asks us to consider, “Cultural institutions are important sites of public conversation, but the public doesn’t have much say in who gets to lead that conversation, or the stories they tell. Activists are asking us to talk about what that means, and what it would mean to change it.” Her interview with Amin Husain discusses a lot of good points about colonization, ethnocentrism, wealth and equality. And it poses really important questions about the value of art, as culture, as manifest spirituality and as something that we assign monetary worth. It’s a really good listen, even if you’re not particularly interested in art and museums.

10/13/19   Here’s another interesting radio show about the role of museums in history and art: Fred Wilson Uses the Museum as His Palette on PRI.org

From the interview page: A New York-born conceptual artist and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, Wilson has spent a lot of his career examining the way art and artifacts are chosen and exhibited. He wants everybody — the curators and the visitors — to reconsider how and why artwork makes its way into museums.

 

Surveillance Capitalism

boots upright

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog entry about the internet re-writing my grandfather’s life history (and mine!) and how corrosive that process is to our lives, HERE. Today, on the radio program, Democracy Now, author Shoshana Zuboff discussed this very problem, the subject of her book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. She suggests that ‘surveillance capitalists’ are ‘poaching’ our lives to sell the information and that corrupts our agency and our fulfillment as human animals.

I can’t disagree; I’ll be looking for that book.

8/12/2019–Here’s another in-depth interview with Dr. Zuboff that I just came across:

How Tracking And Selling Our Data Became A Business Model

 

the footsteps of history and our newly invented lives…

I looked up my father online to find out who is using his decades-old research, done long before the world wide web existed for civilian use. I found lots of people referencing his works, and lots of listings for his publications,* but I also found information about my grandfather, a rancher, land owner and saddle and boot maker in Texas in the early 20th.

I met Granddad only a few times—we lived on the other side of the country—and knew very little about him, mostly that he’d owned land and horses, made some money on the stock market during the Depression and refused to pay for my father’s graduate education (when his WWII GI Bill ran out, I assume). Another thing I knew about him was that he had been a saddle and boot maker for cowboys in the region of Central Texas where he lived. I have handled and cleaned the saddle he made for my dad, worn the tooled belt he’d made for one of my brothers before I was born and now own the boots he made my grandmother to match the saddle (long gone) he’d made her for her 40th birthday. They’re a bit narrow for my feet, but I’m built like she was and can walk in them without discomfort.

Granddad had been the kind of person who’d rejected his first check when the government instituted the Social Security system (they never sent a second one); I was interested in seeing what the Internet could have to say about him.

What I found at first surprised me, then really pissed me off; the interwebs told me that he was not, in fact, a saddle maker or boot maker, rather, his only connection to saddles was, they said, working for a large ranch.

WTF? Nawp, that’s not right, I thought.

I took another look at my pictures of that saddle, inspected that belt, tried on those lovely boots and dug up the charming picture of my grandmother wearing them while sitting in her custom-made saddle. I thought about all the leather-working tools that we got from their garage when my grandmother died, the sturdy sewing machine, the specialized needles, the stamping tools—this was not a hobby, this is how he made the money he used to build a life.

What the nuts, Internet?

This is the crux of the issue: The commerce of the Internet has rewritten my family history. For a fee of $60, a website posing as antiques research re-wrote my granddad’s life. Using half-assed, paltry and easy research, this site told their curious customers that he did NOT make saddles and that the initials on the saddles were NOT his, but someone else’s, someone who also worked for that large ranch. Then, the website helpfully tells their customers when and where my father died.    (what? why?)

The customers were not satisfied, and no surprise; the site’s superficial, glib and inaccurate response is not worth the dial-up. This is one of the despicable things the current “connected” age is doing; by purporting to have all the answers, internet ‘authorities’ gather arbitrary info and present it for purchase as consumable reality.   This is deeply wrong and corrosive to our lives as individuals and as historians of our own experience.

This issue is too weird and important to just let go.

*Note: There are uses online of my father’s work (invaluable research that cataloged aspects of cultures that have rapidly changed, or even disappeared) in the last several decades that his estate was not conferred with about. Companies are using his work, without permission, to make money from scholarly material that is otherwise available to students and scholars, free.  This is another thing that makes me furious. My father did that work to contribute to historical knowledge, not to help make a packet for slimy igmos online.  gah.