Art Beyond Gender

My husband does most of the baking in our house and has for the 29 years of our marriage. It’s one of his favorite pastimes. Yet after all these years, it’s still not unusual to show up at our friends’ dinner party with one of his delicious strawberry rhubarb pies or orange chocolate cakes and have our hosts thank me instead of him. I remind them again that Roger is the artist in this case, not me.

I’ve actually had a few people criticize me over the years for “making” my poor husband do most of the cooking and baking. It’s odd to think in the 21st century such an activity could still be considered “women’s work.”

For most of history, women’s crafts, things like needlework, sewing, or china painting, have not been considered “high art.” Women’s art has also traditionally sold for less, been displayed less often, and been presented with fewer awards. All of this is fact. Men, too, have been relegated mostly to certain types of art, although they’ve had more freedom to wander among the styles.

When a football player admits he likes knitting or a female artist takes up chainsaw sculpture it makes national news. Why? Why are we still so hung up on putting gender to art? If it’s true that art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,” then shouldn’t anyone be able to create any art using any tools or mediums they choose?

So here we are in the holiday season and the “traditional” divisions of labor are taking place. Many of my female friends are posting on social media about the cookies they made and the homemade gifts they’ve created. Some of my male friends are showing off their outdoor Christmas light displays or the wooden ornaments they cut out for their wives to paint. And that’s all perfect if that’s what you enjoy doing! But I’ll tell you right now, no one wrapped a more beautiful present than my cousin Geoff and some of my female friends have concocted some the most original cocktails you could imagine.

It’s been a long year. We’re all exhausted. So, there’s never been a better time to cast aside all the outdated “rules” about which art is macho and which is ladylike. Pick up a needle, gentlemen. Fire up the table saw, ladies. Art is about owning who we are, not who we’re “supposed” to be.

Please share and credit Teresa R. Funke and Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life blog


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