Women 2000 are hoping to be so successful in their encouragement of women in the arts that they eventually do themselves out of a job, while Women in Profile, money permitting, would like to be a permanent fixture. As both groups get ready for the Glasgow Women’s Festival, Miranda France talks to BARBARA LITTLEWOOD and ADELE PATRICK about the sort of artistic support women need, and the best way of making sure they get it.
can’t help it. In my mind I carry an endless list
of facts and figures about women — our
misfortunes and achievements — grim
reminders of how far we still have to go. The
year we got the vote ( 1918). the number ofus
representing our country in the Ilouse of Commons (43 out of 650 MPs) — it gets to be an obsession. Well, you know what they say, Hell hath no fury. . .
Glasgow—based Arts group Women In Profile may not be furious. but they are hardly over-.the-moon about what spokesperson Adele Patrick describes as the ‘huge masculinization‘ of the Culture City. She and I bandied facts and figures around for a while and it turned out she has a few statistics up her sleeve to rival mine. In Glasgow School of Art‘s class of 1990. for example. nearly 70 per cent of the pupils were female, but only 13 per cent of the lecturers were women. And Glasgow’s galleries seem manifestly to favour male artists. In the first halfofthis year there were 71 one-man shows and 23 one-woman shows. It seems that when women artists do get a chance to have their work exhibited. they are often relegated to smaller galleries. or the foyers ofbig ones. And this in spite of the fact that there are more female than male artists living and working in Glasgow.
Ifanything can help redress the balance, it might be the Glasgow Women‘s Festival, which takes place in September under the joint auspices of Women in Profile and Women 2000, It is an event that promises to shake the city with an eclectic and colourful celebration of women‘s work in the arts and media. Women 2000. the more Establishment and academic of the two groups. has arranged a programme of theatre. book-readings and music — they even managed to dig up a 17th century French female composer. Women in Profile. on the other hand. are concentrating more on art exhibitions. their most ambitious project being the (‘astlemilk Womanhouse. a four-storey art centre which will eventually boast a kitchen. a creche and a ' laundry. as well as an exhibition space and all sorts ofartistic amenities. There will bean International Women‘s Film Festival. and the pivotal point of September‘s events is a three-day conference with the title Women: Setting Agendas for Change in the Arts. covering such issues as women’s role in publishing. broadcasting. philosophy. fiction and the performing arts.
So far. so good. But I am instinctively wary of organisations or events which purport to represent our neglected interests. They so often turn out to be dismissive ofanyone who doesn‘t toe their line. Anyway, are we right to closet ourselves in all-women back-patting sessions? Should women's misgivings not be taken out of murky discussion rooms and addressed in a wider context, as a problem which affects both women and men?
It comes as a relief to hear that Women in Profile and Women 2000 have broad horizons. Both are keen to cater for those women who have felt frustrated and alienated by other women’s organisations and events. Some men have also
been involved in behind-the-scenes preparations, and they will be welcome to attend most ofthe events. Sadly, this is a point not picked up by the Scottish Arts Council. who turned down the Festival‘s application for a grant on the grounds that an all-woman festival was an infringement of the Equal Opportunities Act.
Adele Patrick is organising the Women‘s ()wn Annual -— an open exhibition of work by women from Sam Ainsley to first time exhibitors. She is sympathetic to the suggestion that, by making the Festival an all-woman event. they may be giving people an opportunity to dismiss it out of hand: ‘I can see what you mean. and I can see that we make ourselves vulnerable. but it‘s either that or not exhibiting. I suppose we should be lobbying the galleries. but personally I‘d rather have the work up and get the feedback. ()ur aims are to promote and encourage women’s work. Around 40 women are exhibiting in Women‘s ()wn Annual. and they haven‘t got any problem with showing their work in an all-woman show. I don‘t think it should be shocking the knickers off anybody. but I can see that it does pose problems‘
Barbara I.ittlewood. of Women 2000. is willing to extend a welcome to anyone interested in the event. regardless of political persuasions or social stand-points: ‘I certainly hope that men will come. although I think there are times and places when women need to meet by themselves. to discuss certain problems. So many women have sympathies with feminism. whether they call themselv es feminists or not. There‘s room for everyone. from someone like the MP Maria File. to separatists and radical feminists. And I think that that diversity. although it might look like disorganisation. can in fact be a strength.‘
What about men? (‘an they be feminists? Would they not also stand to benefit from a more egalitarian society?
‘I think they might describe themselves as anti-sexist. but not as feminist. because they are not on the receiving end. In certain ways they might benefit. but in other ways not. I do think that it would mean their having to give up sortie of the power. When it comes to job applications — I‘m in the university and l have seen this happen time and time again —« there is an unspoken favouritism towards men. They tend to get better jobs while women end up doing research with men (lirei'ting their research! It‘s not because they are pushy. no doubt they do the job very well. but whether they like it or not. they benefit by the present set-up.‘
Whatey er their differences. Women 2000 and Women in Profile do have in common a great sense ofoptimism. Rather than bewailing women’s disadvantages. both emphasise their commitment to celebrating women‘s work in the arts and encouraging them to develop their skills and push for recognition.
The Glasgow Women '5 Festival runs from I» 30 Sept 1990. Further details from Barbara Littlewood, Women 2000 office. ()3 I l ill/read Street, Glasgow G 12. ()41 339 8855 e.rt()248, orthe Women in Profile office, 5 Dal/ious‘ie Lane. Glasgow, 04] 332 7377. -
The List 3| August ~ l3 September I‘M)"