Did that get your attention?
I thought it might.
What I’m talking about this week is something that raises temperatures, emotions and voices.
Why is it that the small proportion of men in textiles seem to get lots of attention and publicly lauded?
This question was raised at a group of textile people I was at recently, and the discussions were, in turn, calm, heated, curious, annoyed, dismayed and, at times, hostile.
It’s something I’ve been curious about for a while, noting that there are lots of women involved in textiles, but of those women, only a comparative few really become well known, whereas there are comparatively few men involved in textiles, but of those, a far larger proportion become well known.
It’s a worthwhile topic of discussion, and it leads to some interesting viewpoints – not least the role that women practitioners play in the elevation of their male counterparts. The discussion mostly hinged around the roles that men and women have traditionally played in society throughout the ages, and that, for many, these deeply rooted roles are still in place today. Women’s role was very much a supportive role ‘behind their men’ and to some extent, this is still observable in how women behave around the men in textiles.
One of the character traits that men display more overtly perhaps is confidence. A bold approach, an assertiveness and an inner belief that what they do is valuable and worth consideration seems to be an enviable male characteristic that can be observed in most workspaces. Compare that to women’s more conservative characteristic of doubting themselves and the validity of their work, and the dichotomy is obvious.
Another possible factor is confrontation. Hard-wired from early human days, men are largely much more capable of dealing with confrontation, and challenges, and even relish the opportunity. It’s interesting to note that in philosophy, a topic noted for its argumentative and confrontation nature, the overwhelming number of practitioners are men, and they are beginning to realise that it’s because of this confrontational aspect that women, whilst interested in the topics and discussions, are not entering the profession.
I know that even though I am a confident person, I personally shrink away from confrontation, sometimes almost childlike in my attempts to avoid dealing with a confrontational situation. I know too, that there are women who are excellent in confrontational situations, but ironically, they are often seen as ‘hard-nosed’ or ‘bullish’ and therefore not very feminine by both men and women!! How two-faced are we as a society?!!
Getting back to the famous men in textiles, I posed the devil’s advocate question – is it the women in textiles who are actually creating the imbalance, by fawning over the men who are there, and elevating them to a higher level than they actually deserve, in comparison to some of the female practitioners? Are women themselves dissing their female colleagues?
I’m not saying here that the men who are rated in the upper echelons of the textile world don’t deserve to be there (here I go, avoiding confrontation again!!). In my opinion, some do, some don’t. But that is based on their abilities, their art and how their work appeals to me, a subjective viewer, not because they are male. And I sometimes wonder why the artwork I’m looking at is there at all, apart from the fact that it was made by a man…
What I am raising here is that it is women’s own attitudes that allow the imbalance to exist, and their own characteristics that keep them away from the limelight. Watching how some women can react when someone else gets favourable press/sales/comments has been a real eye-opener, with bitchy comments, snide expressions and subtle (or not so subtle) digs. I myself know that I have been guilty of a jealous thought or two on hearing of someone else’s success, even though I am pleased for them. That, I think, comes from an insecurity in how you see yourself. It’s ironic when you know consider how supportive women are of each other in general.
Here comes my pacifist, smoothing over confrontation character. This article is meant to make you reflect and think deeper on this subject. I’ll try not to take personally any comments that you make shooting me down in flames! But what do you think? It would be interesting to get some male opinions on this!!
PS The group of people who were discussing this were happy for me to write about it in my blog, but didn’t want to be identified. We were all women. What does that say……… ?