Do Kids Hold Women Artists Back?

According to the artist, Marina Abramović, if a female artist has kids, she is not free and her career will be stunted. That is, she will be a failure and not succeed in the art world.

Uhm… calling all successful female artists with children to stand up, please! (There are a LOT. If you are one, feel free to comment on this post as it’d be great to get some feedback from you on this.)

Here’s what she said in her interview with Tagesspiegel:

“The artist explained to the newspaper that she never wanted children, even at an early age. “I had three abortions because I was certain that it would be a disaster for my work. One only has limited energy in the body, and I would have had to divide it,” she said. “In my opinion that’s the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There’s plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children—a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that.””

My emphasis in italics.

Ok. First of all, let’s get something clear:

“Kids don’t hold back female artists: patriarchy does.” – The Girl God (Facebook post, 29 July 2016)

Thanks to The Girl God, I discovered this article. And thanks to this article, you get this post. Lol

We can begin by considering Abramović’s assertion that “One only has limited energy in the body, and I would have to divide it [to do art and maintain career success].” This is not untrue. However, literally everyone has limited energy in the body, and literally everyone has to divide it in different ways for different reasons. We ALL do this. We have no choice. It’s part of being human. It is literally part of our human daily survival. According to her, this maintenance of energy expenditure is the reason why women aren’t as successful as men. Because men don’t have to divide their energy ever. For any reason. Ever. Apparently. So.

Using Abramović’s argument, we are unique in our womanness in that we divide our energy between tasks to make our life work. This is supposedly what holds us back. This is also why our careers falter. That, and because ‘Love, family, and children.’ Because men, conversely and according to Abramović, do want to sacrifice all of that. Hm. Ok. This is not untrue either. But It’s also not true all of the time. Social conditioning and toxic masculinity are to blame for some of this (which doesn’t excuse it by any means, just making a point here). Basically, using her logic, if female artists are to enjoy career success, they must mute their empathy, deny their emotions (love), detach from social units (family), and not become mothers (children). And we must, if we have any or all three of these things – love, family, or children – we must be willing to sacrifice them all for our career.

Abramović’s argument, in a nutshell, basically tells us that we are to be more like men if we are to succeed and maintain our success. This argument, steeped in patriarchy, assumes that men are emotionless, robotic, and able to sacrifice family, love, and relationships with their children because they are stoic career machines (this is actually a form of toxic masculinity). Abramović’s view is an antiquated form of feminism and is damaging to our cause as women working toward total liberation from misogyny and patriarchy. Total liberation for women means a lot of things; being a mother who loves herself and her children AND her career are all part of that liberation. How can we get free if we continue to use men and, specifically, toxic masculinity as the standard mark by which we measure ourselves and our own existence? Hell to the naw.

In an (feminist) ideal world, men would be empathetic, loving, kind, interested in being fathers and partners, prioritising their family and partner over their work and other selfish material pursuits. We do not live in a feminist ideal world. The amount of males who abandon women and children to live said kind of misogynistic lives are legion, and this kind of feminism – Abramović’s anti-maternal/anti-child feminism is part of the divisive problem and it is definitely not helping our cause.


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