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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 30, 2009 @ 10:28 am

    Dear Ms Greer

    Fiona McCann

    Why, asks Germaine Greer in the Guardian today, didn’t more women paint back in the olden days? The answer posited by la Greer goes thusly: “Women, being generally more rational than men, are aware that life is more important than art.” Ahem. And there was I thinking that such gender reductionism was what we’d all been fighting against. Well. She goes on: “This is simple logic: art is a part of life, therefore art cannot be greater than life.” Simple, yes – verily, it trips off the tongue. Logic? Not quite.  Still, she makes a good point about art spilling out of the frame of late “because the museum is not where it’s at” (Tell that to the Taoiseach). “There are plenty of dyspeptic critics who see, in the fading away of the picture frame and the spilling of the artwork into real life, the end of art itself. It seems more likely that art is being transformed from an antisocial preoccupation into something more conscious and committed. In a threatened world, the eternal monument looks increasingly pathetic and ridiculous.” All good stuff, but does that answer the question to anyone’s satisfaction? Why haven’t women been painting for years (or were they drawing, but not being recognised), and why are more women artists emerging now (if Greer’s role call of contemporary female artists – Marina Abramovic´, Silvie Bélanger, Mona Hatoum, Annette Messager, Cornelia Parker – means anything)?

    • Sinéad says:

      The Guardian/Observer seem to trot this argument out regularly (they did in Feb last year as part of a bigger Arts survey article). I posted about it at the time and a few people gave plenty of decent reasons as well as suggestions of several great female artists.


    • Helen says:

      Just as well the Guerrilla Girls are in Ireland this week


    • Peter white says:

      Wasnt the reason,that art used to be a higher vocation reserved for men and women the living symbol of beauty etc You might as well ask why werent there more great women poets or composers or novelists?, except those who statrted under assumed names etc .Up until the twentieth century women were socially discouraged and art and literature were still seen as a vocation for men in terms of high cultural status.Its interesting to see how things have changed in the last few decades.Literature but more especially the ARTS in general have become emancipated for women,But more than this sociologically feminised ,socialised within a feminine social framework, of discussion, therapy groups and creative writing groups etc.The percentage of female participation in such groups vastly exceeds men,who for decades have been socially conditioned to pursue more so called masculine, pursuits, etc Look around at our society, Ireland in particular,The poet is a woman ,the artist is a woman, in general where as before she was restricted and venerated into the muse? The So called ARTS SCENE is feminised towards an inclusive discourse on one hand but exclusive on another feminine vision of artistic discourse.This inclusive meaning groups,etc on the other hand alienate a portion of the male population who are not addressed by such a framework

    • John Self says:

      Similar to Peter’s point is the one argued by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own, ie the case of “Shakespeare’s sister.”


    • Fred says:

      So Germaine Greer thinks that women didn’t become painters in the past because they have always been more rational than men?
      I’m sticking with the Dirty Dancing explanation: that they were kept in the corner by their stuffy, old-fashioned fathers.

    • jake eolowsky says:

      Greer is a crazy old witch,occasionly she throws this kind of rubbish out to try to be still controversial.SAD

    • Women also weren’t allowed into art colleges until relatively late in the game. And where they were, they weren’t allowed paint from the nude.
      So apart from general at-home discouragement, combined with rearing families, they were excluded from schools of art.

      Is Greer a failed painter, I wonder? She regularly has a go at women artists. Another article of hers condemned women for using themselves as models for their work. Why wouldn’t they? It’s cheap! And v few artists of any kind can make a living from art, let’s face it.

    • Clare says:

      Well said. Greer should know better than to be spouting out such sexist rubbish.

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