Thursday, October 30, 2014

Moving Towards Equality

"I believe that gender is a cultural fiction, not a biological given. But while there have been many achievements in the last 20 years, racism and sexism are still rife. . . . Those things have to become detached. But until we are able to detach gender from the ways we are in the world, it’s important for us to move towards equality. Moving towards equality is what the word feminism means. Until we’ve achieved that, we can’t give up the word. Feminist design is an effort to bring the values of the domestic sphere into the public sphere; feminist design is about letting diverse voices be heard through caring, relational strategies of working and designing. Until social and economic inequalities are changed, I am going to call good design feminist design."  ~Sheila Levrant de Bretteville (in an interview with Ellen Lupton, Eye Magazine, Issue 8, 1992)
I agree with Sheila Levrant de Bretteville that gender is a cultural fiction.  A short way of saying that treating someone differently because of their gender has been invented by culture.
Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Pink, 1973, installation photo by Brian Forrest
the at WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
Geffen Contemporary MOCA March 4-July 16, 2007
Just as treating anyone differently because of any perceived deviation from the "norm" is an invention of culture.  There is no normal, there's just us.  Why all the fuss?
©Sheila Levrant de Bretteville-Biddy Mason Wall in LA
Here is another quote from that interview:
"I will never, never, never forget to include people of colour, people of different points of view, people of both genders, people of different sexual preferences. It’s just not possible any more to move without remembering. That is something that Modernism didn’t account for; it didn’t want to recognise regional and personal differences.  People who have given their whole lives of supporting the classicising aesthetic of Modernism feel invalidated when we talk about the necessary inclusiveness, but diversity and inclusiveness are our only hope. It is not possible any more to plaster over everything with clean elegance. Dirty architecture, fuzzy theory and dirty design must be there."
©Sheila Levrant de Bretteville-NY Subway
Here is another quote I really liked from the interview with Ellen Lupton:
"There is a prevalent notion in the professional world that only if you have eight or more uninterrupted hours per day can you do significant work. But if you respond to other human beings – if you are a relational person – you never really have eight uninterrupted hours in a row.   Relational existence is not only attached to gender by history – not by genes, not be biology, not by some essential ‘femaleness’. A relational person thinks about other human beings and their needs during the day. A relational person allows notions about other people to interrupt the trajectory of thinking or designing . . . . The kinds of work habits that are part of this public sphere – that deny relational experience – are precisely the ones I want to challenge. Feminism has allowed me to challenge them; thinking about myself as a woman has allowed me to challenge them. When women are in the workplace, women do as the workplace demands it. Part of feminism is about bringing public, professional values closer to private, domestic values, to break the boundaries of this binary system."
There is a lot to know about Sheila Levrant de Bretteville - much more than I have time to write about here.  I had fun researching her art and philosophy and life today.

Here is another transcribed interview in a Yale magazine that is really good too.

Hope you are enjoying this last Thursday before daylight savings goes to winter on Sunday.

'Til Tomorrow!