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10.1: Introduction

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    The advancements in social media, mobile phones, and the internet have opened up a world of opportunities for women today. With the ability to connect with others from all corners of the globe, women are now able to inspire and support each other like never before. While significant progress has been made in challenging gender stereotypes, much must be done to combat sexism in online spaces and advertisements. However, countless individuals and groups are dedicated to this cause, such as the thousands of women in Northern India who have dressed in pink and fought against abuses towards women. In the Arabian Peninsula, women are advocating for land rights, gender equality, and changes to rape laws, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to positive change. Despite the challenges that still remain, women are empowered and continue to create new avenues for progress and advancement. In Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai continues to fight for girls' education, while in the United States, hundreds of thousands of women marched for more women's rights. In Nigeria, women organized a march to protest the kidnapping of schoolgirls. In this age of digital activism, “The hashtags say it all: Women and girls want a life free of violence and a gender equal world.”[1]

    several women protesting in the streets
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Women’s Day March in Istanbul ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    Despite the improvements made in the art industry worldwide to promote gender equality, female artists still face significant challenges that limit their opportunities. These challenges are diverse and include geographical, societal, and religious factors, as well as access to education. Unfortunately, these obstacles often act as barriers to women's artistic pursuits and hinder their ability to make informed choices about their careers. A study conducted by Clare McAndrew in 2019 [2] examined the median prices of artwork created by male and female artists, revealing that men continue to earn more than women for their artwork on a global scale. Additionally, disparities persist when analyzing pay discrepancies between genders by region, underscoring the ongoing battle for gender equality in the art industry.

    Chart of median prices for female versus male artists work
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Median Prices for Female Versus Male Artists' Work (Gustlin 2023)

    The issue of gender inequality in the art world is a pressing matter that cannot be ignored. Recent research has shed light on the fact that female artists are not receiving the same level of compensation as their male counterparts. This trend is particularly evident in major art collections across Europe and North America, where women are grossly underrepresented. Shockingly, only two women made it onto the list of top 100 auction sales for paintings, indicating a serious lack of recognition for the contributions of female artists. Although some progress is being made, there are still significant barriers to gender equality in art. Cultural biases, ageism towards older women, and the stereotype that male artists with unconventional approaches are more talented are all contributing factors. Additionally, women often face unique challenges associated with parenthood that can impede their ability to pursue their artistic passions.

    It is worth noting, however, that women are the subject matter in half of the top 25 art collections, indicating a growing recognition of the importance of women's contributions to the art world. Nonetheless, much work still needs to be done to ensure women are given equal opportunities to succeed in art. These findings are the result of a comprehensive worldwide survey of art created in the twenty-first century conducted by Artsy:[3]

    Share of females versus males
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Share of Females versus Males (Gustlin 2023)

    The field of art sales has long been plagued by a troubling disparity in compensation between male and female artists, particularly in certain areas of expertise. This discrepancy in pay is heavily influenced by the type and style of artwork being sold, with textile-based and drawing works consistently fetching similar prices regardless of the artist's gender. However, recent data collected by Artsy [4] through a comprehensive survey has shed light on the persistence of a significant pay gap between men and women in certain disciplines. These findings serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to promote gender equality in the arts industry and to ensure that all artists receive the fair and equitable compensation that they deserve for their valuable contributions to the field.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Median Prices for Female Versus Male Artists' Work by Medium (Gustlin 2023)

    It is a well-established fact that there is a notable disparity in the compensation received by male and female workers across the globe. In fields that are predominantly male-dominated, female employees are often subjected to unjust treatment and biased decisions by their superiors. That being said, it remains unclear whether gender bias also plays a role in the selection of art, which could lead to male artists being favored over their female counterparts due to societal norms established in the past. Further exploration and analysis are required to determine whether this is indeed the case.

    Throughout history, the role of women in the art industry has been a topic of great controversy. In the past, societal norms dictated that women were not expected to pursue a career in art and were often discouraged from doing so. Even in the 19th century, female artists were not allowed to draw or paint nude models, making it incredibly difficult to create anatomically correct images. As a result, female artists were often excluded from art history textbooks, and their contributions to the field were overlooked. However, there has been a significant shift in attitudes towards female artists in recent years. Women from all corners of the globe are now creating and selling their art, and despite the fact that men still dominate the industry, female artists are making significant strides forward. This progress is a testament to the determination and perseverance of female artists, who prove they have just as much to offer as their male counterparts. Despite female artists' challenges throughout history, the future looks bright. With more opportunities than ever before, women are poised to make a significant impact on the art world and are well-positioned to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in their craft. With each passing day, female artists are proving that they are more than capable of making their mark in the industry. Although they still are not as successful as men, women will continue to push forward with their art “For the times they are a-changin.”[5]

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    This page titled 10.1: Introduction is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Deborah Gustlin & Zoe Gustlin (Open Educational Resource Initiative at Evergreen Valley College) .

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