Sunday, November 24, 2013

Urban artists, suburban moms

-Saw the Léger exhibit in Philadelphia. OK, not before a great deal of hemming and hawing ($25 a person!), and a fair amount of panicked driving (the whole bit between exiting the highway and parking near the museum), but still. Glad to have seen it! I like how many/most of the works look (as you can see, I was trained as an art historian), but I also enjoyed the whole rah-rah-cities mood, of the exhibit, but also, it seems, of Léger himself. When I think of the interwar years, I usually think of fear of modernity, with all the sinister things that often implied in those days.

As usually happens when I go to this sort of exhibit, I end up far too drawn to the works of some artist other than the one the show is actually about. In this case, El Lissitzky.

(One day, I'll be able to go to Philadelphia without including a trip to Artisan Boulanger Patissier. Or not. Could a branch maybe open in Princeton? I'd settle for New York. Lucky, lucky Philadelphians.)

-I know I should read the book reviewed here, and I suspect I'll have a different take than the reviewer.

-Arne Duncan's now-notorious "white suburban moms" observation is the latest entry into what I had called "feminism's 'white lady' problem," although it extends beyond feminism. What happens is, remarks/reactions that would otherwise read as straightforwardly misogynist are somehow cleared of that charge once "white" is brought in as a modifier. Then all of a sudden, bashing women seems progressive. It's not women who are vapid and entitled, just white women. As if society's most privileged aren't white men, but their female counterparts.

Because there's a strong case to be made that anti-white "racism" isn't even a thing, given society's power structures, it's easy enough to see nothing wrong with "white lady"-talk. After all, it's not a marginalized group being demeaned, is it? When in fact the problem with "white lady" comments isn't 'anti-white racism', but rather the way that 'white' functions in this context as a cover for anti-woman bigotry. That whole thing where women aren't assertive enough? This ends up being assertiveness-shaming. Not good for white women, but also not good for women generally.


caryatis said...

I don't understand what's wrong with Duncan's comment. Isn't he using "white" to mean rich and plugged-in? And it's just a fact that mothers pay more attention to their children ('s education) than do fathers.

Phoebe said...

I'm not sure about this being a "fact" - fathers are sometimes plenty concerned. Yes, some fathers are altogether absent, but not generally in the demographic Duncan is talking about.

And that's a dubious use of "white." It's an unnecessary racialization of what he was trying to get at. Had he phrased it otherwise, there'd have been nothing wrong with his point - it's absolutely true that (as you say) "rich and plugged-in" parents do this thing where they imagine their children must be gifted. (Esp. their male children, I've found, but that's its own post.) But non-white parents also do this, as do male parents, as do urban ones. Using race and gender as a proxy for a certain "type" is generally best avoided.

But mainly, it's just the phrasing - "white suburban moms" - is sort of dismissive. It's saying that this set of people can't possibly see beyond the petty interests of their own families. Had he said "white suburban parents" and left gender out of it, I'd have been more sympathetic, if still not 100%.

Sigivald said...

Ah, people live in different worlds.

I saw "Leger", and thought Fusil Automatique Leger, and I would definitely go see a traveling exhibition of the history of the FAL.

Fernande Leger, well... early works, I suppose.