Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"I Should Have Been A Girl"

I work in a public place with a lot of families and kids, and I've noticed that in recent times, the great majority of the little girls are dressed in pink. When they are asked to choose something in a color (like a balloon or a candy) they choose a pink one. The relentless pinkness of little girls and some grown women inspired this picture. Is it something the parents do deliberately? Is it a marketing thing which reaches across-the-board for all American children? Even very young girl babies are carried in pink carriers and wrapped in pink blankets. The males do not have these color restraints.

I am not supposed to talk about these things, since I don't have a clear statistical presentation to back it up. Obviously, some little girls aren't wearing pink. But the gender constraints and programming continue to alert me to the continuing presence of gender stereotyping even in our ostensibly free society.

I am always looking at new popular art such as appears in individual artists' sites or collective groups like DeviantART or CGSociety or ConceptArt.org. Almost always, I can tell which pictures were done by females, and which were done by males. The gender divide is sometimes painful for me to see. For females: fairies, doll-like figures, angels, flowers, unicorns for ghod's sake. For males: heavily armored figures, robots, vehicles, weapons, monsters, apocalyptic cities, and scantily clad babes with boobs, boobs, boobs. And they don't cross over! At least not often. I have never seen (ok, disclaimer, I haven't seen YET) vehicles, warriors, and industrial apocalypse done by a woman fantasy artist. It's like being in fifth grade art class all over again.

Now I know where all the straight male artists have gone. They're in "concept art," working or wanting to work illustrating games, movies, book covers, gaming cards, mainstream comics, entertainment venues, etc. I am constantly looking at this kind of stuff wondering whether I could do it, and I find that the artists are overwhelmingly male. (OK, disclaimer, there are a few female artists in that business.)

There is doubtless some deep-seated anthropology at work which explains why the guy artists do monster mechas (battle robots) and the girl artists do fairies (gossamer wings). There are probably even evolutionary adaptation reasons why males choose some subject matter and females another. I am not an anthropologist, just an artist and I shouldn't even be talking about this. But I am wondering why someone else doesn't. There is a fairly clear gender structure to art making and aesthetics which should have attracted some attention, but I haven't found anything written about it.

Interestingly, after centuries of sexist restriction, the upper levels of "fine" arts have evened out gender-wise, so you are more likely to find female artists in trendy New York galleries than you are in a game development company.

Therefore, I'm pink today! Shall I do fairies with fox ears and angel wings next?

Or perhaps a huge pink doll-faced battle robot?!

"I Should Have Been a Girl" is acrylic (with iridescent and glitter paint) on purple paper, 9" x 8 3/8", April 2010.


Mike said...

You're not alone in your thoughts.

Tristan Alexander said...

Eww! And while I agree about the gender bias forced on Girls AND boys, I can think of many well known modern artists who break those molds. Brian Froud does gossimer Faeries and Rowena does boobs! Well There are many male artist (not sure they are all straight of course) who do NOT do the typical male stuff as stated in your comments. And there are females who do the darker, more "masculine" things. I have found with the advent of digital art, the female artists are doing more of the Tech stuff with more steriotypical masculine themes.

Rae Trigg said...

Pink ... yecchhh. Another way in which I am weird: I hate pink. Always have.

I have also run across a female artist or two who do darker stuff; I'll have to see if I can find the links.

Pyracantha said...

Mike, thank you for that article on pink from BBC. I didn't know it was going on in other countries.
Tristan and Rachel:
The point is not that some female or male artists do "darker" or gender crossover things. The point is, how many of these people (women) are professionals and successful in the field.
Mike, how does one play the elaborate video games with cinema-like sequences and lavish scenarios, like "Halo" or "Gears of War?"

regine735 said...

Pink battle robots do exist -- google the anime series "Godannar" for visuals.

One hopes that many little girls eventually outgrow the pink phase.