Can Women Artists Have It All?

Why Can’t Female Artists Have it All?

Many tv storyboard are hand-drawn, but some creators or animators choose to use storyboarding software to speed up the work. Some thoughts on Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in the June 2012 of The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”. The article has struck a chord in our society and has attracted the attention of talk-shows and, I am sure, many female readers. I hope, though, that this article gets male readers, employers, Human Resources officials to contemplate solutions to this problem of biology-driven inequality in the workplace.

The article deals with the difficulties women still face in balancing home and workplace. She addresses these difficulties in various demographics: women in positions of power, single mothers, very educated women, less educated women, etc. Flexible schedules and a more extensive use of technology are two of the solutions she offers, which would allow women to care for their families (children, parents, etc.) while still ethically and professionally discharging their obligations towards their employers.

This article struck a chord with me, too. Apart from being a dedicated, hard-working, ambitious Artist, I just need to BE an Artist. If I don’t paint, my inner colors fade. And although I do not have children (two-legged, that is), I do have a husband, pets, a house to care for and the myriad details that these entail.

It would probably be easy for anyone to assume that being an Artist involves keeping my own hours, having a very flexible schedule, hopping between the house and the studio while humming a song. The best of both worlds, right?

Well, not quite. Let’s talk about Creativity, for example. Creativity is a complex subject and as such it works differently for everyone. I assume it works differently for women as it does for men and I am sure it is different among women artists themselves. One thing, though, can be stated and it applies to all creative people: a great deal of the time creativity requires time-off from the left side of the brain activities such as doing your taxes, having the faucet repaired or cleaning up after a pet. Creativity requires stretches of “time out”, dream-time, disconnect-time.

Of course, artists’ processes and type of work differ widely. Some aspects of creating a piece of art are less demanding on the right side of the brain and, in fact, benefit from an active, on-its-toes left side. But I am talking about coming up with ideas, often ex-nihilo; how to develop them; composition, design, etc., based on a thin thread of inspiration or none at all. And the “competition” is always breathing down our necks, those of women artists, that is: the train of thought often goes like this: what color should I use on this shape, something that brightens the painting up and still does not obscure the shape on the lower left I wonder if my dog is feeling better today hmmm this color seems to be good here, I think I will try it but I haven’t yet planned what’s for dinner, what am I going to do? I like the results here, I think I’m on the right track; I wonder if so and so will call back, we do need to solve this problem. Etc., etc. Do men artists go through this process, too? Perhaps they replace the domestic digressions with another. We cannot possibly assume that men artists are 100% focused on the work at hand all the time. Perhaps the stereotypical view that men are unable to multitask does work in their favor; at the very least it would be interesting to conduct a study to learn how men’s focus on the task at hand works and if that biological trait is sharp enough to break all glass ceilings.

I propose, therefore, that women in the workplace, be they powerful or not, as well as women artists, do face the issue of balancing careers and homes. Women in the workplace need to focus on their jobs, their careers (power-driven or not), while keeping domestic/emotional concerns at bay. Instead of looking within, where their children require her attention and the husband is upset with their lack of personal time, they must look up and keep their eyes on the ceiling that is still made of glass despite societal progress in so many areas.

Having to balance home and careers may affect the quality of their work if women in any field do not learn to disconnect from the different demands placed upon them by both home and work. The lucky ones, such as Ms. Slaughter, can count on help either from husbands or others. How does this dichotomy affect women’s careers and the dream of having it all? Is this a biological constraint that will never be overcome as long as women place any importance at all in home-making, child-rearing, or is this a society-imposed constraint that should be abolished to accommodate a natural need of society itself (and not necessarily of women only) to have family structures with all that this implies?

Women artists also face a kind of glass ceiling in the marketplace. What’s the percentage of male artists who are granted more and easier access to the “limelight” as compared to that of women artists? I don’t have this information but all I have to do to get a feel for the answer is go through galleries, institutional websites, and other sources of information on and exposure of artists to see the discrepancy between the genders represented. Is this due to the fact that men are able to disconnect from the demands of home (should they have a family) and have laser-beam focus on their work that bears no distraction? I often think of Picasso who had his every need fulfilled by a series of women who dedicated themselves to his every whim and wish while he created without any concern for anything at all around him.

Would it, therefore, be fair to say that Anne Marie Slaughter’s point of view and personal experience spills over into the Art territory? Can women artists have it all?

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