Recently a set of images began circulating around the web where students held up the words “I need feminism because…” The three dots allowed space for the hands that clasped the paper to scribble an ending to the sentence. I’ve thought for awhile about what I would have attached to my three dots, and the answer came to me yesterday when I read this article. I need feminism because… of people like Georg Baselitz.
Baselitz, honored by the Royal Academy as one of the greatest living artists, said that the biggest problem with women artists is that none of them can actually paint, that they simply don’t pass the market test. It would be easy at this point to enter into a spluttering, gesticulating frenzy, wafting around names like Morisot and Kahlo, or like jackass and bastard, depending on which route of anger or defense you choose to go down. But its okay, because we can all relax and breath, even chuckle at the thought of this ridiculous man and his inane statements, because we have feminism.
We have women like Griselda Pollock and Linda Nochlin, women who provide us with the tools to combat morons like this. Pollock is there, on scene to call the whole thing boring, and self-evidently nonsense. She goes on, “Baselitz says women don’t paint very well, with a few exceptions. Men don’t paint very well either, with a few exceptions.” Instantly the whole thing is rather funny, and the shock factor slowly drains from Baselitz’s veiny face.
Pollock has done the groundwork for us, she enables us to peel off the layer of indignation and calmly think through his claim without palpitating hearts and trembling fists. After praising a few female exceptions, Baselitz said “she is no Picasso, no Modigliani, no Gauguin.” This phrase could have been lifted out of Linda Nochlin’s text ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists.’ In the article she completely agrees with him. There have been no great female artists, he’s right, no Picasso, no Modigliani, no Gauguin. However, Nochlin argues this is not because of some innate genius, or as Baselitz puts it some ‘basic character,’ but rather it is the institutions and the structure of society that have blocked women from accessing the tools to reach the greatness achieved by men.
Therefore, between Pollock and Nochlin, Baselitz’s argument is obliterated; or rather, free to slowly deflate, emitting the mildly embarrassing farting noise that must surely accompany it. This is why I need feminism, so that people like Georg Baselitz do not have the power to rile me into a red-faced, incoherent fluster. I need feminism so that I too can dissect what has been said, clearly and rationally address it, and come to the same conclusion as Pollock: this is boring.
Reader submission by Alice Wroe