Femininity Vs Feminism
Several respondents spoke up to express concern about a type of overly feminine net art that’s grown increasingly popular over the last four or five years.
This can include the glossy skinned, 3-D rendered self-portraits; the sentimental teenage girl selfies and webcam vids; the cutesy anime girl posturing; and the color pink, all which seem devoid of a critical position—or a stance of any kind—just replicating what we already see and know around the web.
This “online-feminine” can be found just about all over the web, and in some male and female artists’ practice. Based on the popularity of this genre, it is no surprise that galleries have taken notice; Martos Gallery opened up its fall season with an all-women show called “Lonely Girl,” which predominantly focused on this type of “feminine” work.
Ché Zara Blomfield wonders if “young female artists, or perhaps young girls on the internet, believe feminism means being ‘openly’ feminine.” Jennifer Chan, too, echoed a concern about overall “misconceptions of feminism.” What’s feminine isn’t exactly feminist, surely, but more worrisome about the net-feminine trend is that it’s not historically grounded. “There’s a lack of dialogue [right now] around the historical female position, i.e. the role of the mother, the caretaker,” Blomfield mentioned.
This lack of historicity isn’t just a problem common to this overly feminine art; dude art suffers from the same short-sighted-ness. Typical dude art stereotypes like pizza screengrabs, crying tweens, squirting penises in MS Paint, and Axe body spray may very well have a relationship to more than just the present, but most times, it’s hard to tell if these works, or their artists have a position. It’s become so easy to reappropriate and reblog images, that indifference seems to be the norm. The problem with both forms, is that they present an image without reference—an image only about itself.
All this points to a problem larger than what constitutes good or bad art. Digital artists, or artists taking the Internet as a reference point, end up merely reflecting on what’s online. And since so much of what’s online is about women and women’s bodies, this content has naturally created a touchstone for many digital artists.
In her own work, Ann Hirsch explores her self-created online persona, in all its problematized sexual versions. She, too, says there’s a difficulty in feeling the need to present sexualized work, but without falling into the trap of online stereotype:
People love consuming female imagery online. Porn is so dominant. So I think a lot of women want to just hide themselves, to not deal with having their bodies be scrutinized. While on the other hand, other women play to this romanticized online version of themselves to get attention and often find themselves giving off this stereotypical sexy female vibe in order to do so. So it is just tricky figuring out how you, as a female artist, fit into that landscape. I’m constantly battling with that.
“Annie,” Hirsch’s online character, references an Internet with a history of AOL chat rooms, and the complexities of communication with your peers, strangers, and others. It’s smart work, proving that web-based about female sexuality can be done, and it can be grounded in larger concerns.