Monday, October 12, 2015

The Unrelenting Audacity of Gender Bias and the Marginalization of the Arts

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on……………."

Reminder:  The Communications Survey - which seeks to compile preliminary data on the nonprofit arts field's communications habits, preferences, perceptions and behaviors will close this Friday, October 16th.    If you haven't yet taken the survey, please consider doing so today.  It's important that all sectors of our field are part of the sampling pool - including small organizations, multicultural organizations and leaders, all the disciplines - operas, orchestras, museums, theaters, dance companies, film groups, presenters, government agencies etc.  I very much appreciate your help in this effort.    

The survey is all check off questions with no narrative answers asked for.  It should take you about 15 minutes to complete, and you can enter your name in a random drawing for an Apple Watch, and/or a $500 cash payment to your organization.    
Click here to take the survey      

See this blog post describing the whole communications survey project.  Thank you.

And don't forget that the Arlene Goldbard originated project The United States Department of Arts and Culture's "Dare to Imagine" campaign has begun.  

After weeks of planning, Emissaries from the Future will start hosting Imagination Stations across the country as part of the USDAC’s latest National Action — #DareToImagine. Thank you for helping make this action a reality. 
Check out the newly launched site:
Whether or not your organization is hosting an Imagination Station this week, you’re invited to take part in this act of collective imagination by sharing your vision of a more just and vibrant world. 
Simply post on social media using the hashtag #DareToImagine and your post will automatically be pulled into a vibrant mosaic of images and texts from across the country. (Don’t worry, only your posts tagged #DareToImagine will be pulled in; the rest remain private.) We'll be adding new visions, partners, and dispatches throughout the week, so return often to watch the action unfold! We also ask that you share the invitation to your community. 
Democracy depends on a healthy civic imagination. Add yours.

The Unrelenting Audacity of Gender Bias:

Who is more creative - men or women?

Huh?  What idiocy lies behind such an inane rhetorical question that can't possibly be taken seriously?

Yet, research apparently shows that the widespread held perception is that men are more creative.  In an article in Pacific Standard by Tom Jacobs, the author notes that:

"The propensity to think creatively tends to be associated with independence and self-direction—qualities generally ascribed to men," Duke University researchers led by Devon Proudfoot argue in the journal Psychological Science. As a result, they write, "men are often perceived to be more creative than women."

In that Psychological Science article, the authors point to several studies which confirm this bias:

"In two experiments, we found that “outside the box” creativity is more strongly associated with stereotypically masculine characteristics (e.g., daring and self-reliance) than with stereotypically feminine characteristics (e.g., cooperativeness and supportiveness; Study 1) and that a man is ascribed more creativity than a woman when they produce identical output (Study 2). Analyzing archival data, we found that men’s ideas are evaluated as more ingenious than women’s ideas (Study 3) and that female executives are stereotyped as less innovative than their male counterparts when evaluated by their supervisors (Study 4). Finally, we observed that stereotypically masculine behavior enhances a man’s perceived creativity, whereas identical behavior does not enhance a woman’s perceived creativity (Study 5)." 

One might argue that the arts contribute to this perception as the dearth of women painters or sculptors represented in museum collections, the limited number of women conductors, or soloists, directors or in other of our discipline areas.   And while there are increasing numbers of women artists in theater, dance, film and other areas, and substantial numbers of women leaders in the arts administration field, still, we must confront the ongoing, and apparently widespread, societal perception that men are more creative.

The question is how does this perception impact us?  And what ought we be doing to counter it, and replace it with the idea that creativity knows no gender.  For a long time, the culture told little girls that certain work wasn't for them - that science and math, and medicine and even business was best left to the males who could excel in the field.  Did we somewhere along the line also send the message that men are more creative than women so little girls shouldn't get involved in that either?  OMG.

At the same time, one can make the argument that we may have sent little boys the opposite message - that the arts are fluff, and not the work for "real" men; that somehow being an artist isn't real work, and rather that it's -- horrors - effeminate.  We may have created another perception in the collective consciousness - that being an artist isn't a preferred vocation.

Doubt that this erroneous perception is perpetuated by the mainstream media?  Consider a recent ad campaign by Direct TV - featuring prominent athletes in two incarnations.  For example, the one featuring Superbowl Winner and future Hall of Fame quarterback Payton Manning:  In the television commercial there are two Payton Mannings - the normal looking one, living a good life, speaking with a normal voice, and the Direct TV subscriber. Then there is the other Peyton Manning - the one with a high voice (must not be a man I guess), who - are you ready - sings in a Barbershop Quartet.  This is the Peyton Manning you don't want to be - an artist of sorts (and a "Cable" subscriber).  That's the message.  Click on the link above and watch for yourself.  Offensive?  It was to me -- and I like football and Peyton Manning.  There are a couple of other athletes including Eli Manning - quarterback for the N.Y. Giants and Peyton's brother, as part of this ill considered campaign.

So it may be little wonder that the value of art and culture remains so marginalized in American society, as we continue to send out messages that we have little value for either of the sexes.

Two years ago, I wrote a blog suggesting the arts create an Anti-Defamation League to counter exactly these kinds of messages.  Virtually every marginalized and threatened community has done this - gays, jews, blacks etc.  And it has a positive effect. The arts need to seriously consider doing the same.  A high profile organization with tens of thousands of members (no dues, just sign up) that sends a letter to Direct TV pointing out how their ad campaign hurts the arts, and demands it be removed would have, I'll bet, an effect.  No company wants to piss off a huge bloc of the public.  And by stopping these kinds of negative images from constantly seeping into the public consciousness, we can eventually help to raise our own efforts for the value and contributions we know the arts make.  And, my guess is there are hundreds, if not thousands, of these messages in ad campaigns, television shows, movies, etc. every year. Think about it.

So I again call for the creation of an Arts Anti-Defamation League.  NEA, AFTA, NASAA, GIA - somebody please - you ought to get on this.  If you don't protect us, who will?

And I will debate anybody, any time, who doesn't think that all these messages add up over time and keep the arts marginalized and are, in part, at the root of our problems in increasing the public value for us.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit