The Art of Attempting to be a Female in a Male Dominated Industry

The silent no is the worst kind of no. My sent folder mourns the lack of responses to the meticulously filled out application forms and tailored cover letters.

I spend hours most nights filling these forms out while knowing it’s unlikely I’ll get any response. At the age of 23, physician dosage I have two degrees and experience in several non-paid roles in the area I want to work in and my applications are not responded to even with a generic rejection letter. This stings the most. All I can think is – “I spent an hour filling in your tedious application form, view the least you can do is be polite and send me a letter of rejection.” Even that statement is something I didn’t think I’d ever have to worry about.

Coming from a working class background, medical I’ve worked hard to get to this point and I’ll have to work even harder to pay off the debt I have amassed during my education. I know there are many, many others in my situation and a lot of them are women. It feels like females in the art world are still tapping on the glass ceiling and sometimes are being held back from being given the chance to smash it.

While there is now an ever-growing amount of women becoming the leaders and initiators of art institutions and concepts, do we feel like female representation in the art world is now equal to male? Is the structure of who is employed in directorships and the highest earning roles showing gender equality? When asked 20 women “Is the Art World Biased?”  the overall answer was yes.

The Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous, feminist group of artists formed in the 1980s, focus was and still is to highlight the issue of the lack of female artists in well-known galleries and to promote social and political change within the art world. The fact that they are still an active group shows there is still work to do.

© 2015 Guerrilla Girls

While I don’t feel like I’m being discriminated against because I am female while at university or applying for jobs, I still experience sexism due to my choice of studies and profession. I remember once during my undergrad explaining to a taxi driver what I was studying and was told by him that women can’t be artists. I can’t remember his reasoning for this statement, and frankly it doesn’t matter as no explanation for this idea would justify it. While this isn’t the only example of sexism I have experienced in regards to my choice of profession, it is the only one that I feel comfortable enough to mention.

© 2015 Guerrilla Girls

I curate exhibitions and when emailing artists or other professionals in the art world I often feel like I’m nagging. In reality, I’m just doing what needs to be done but I always feel I come across highly strung and flustered which feeds into this stereotype that so many people associate with women in charge. I have to push this to the back of my mind and assure myself that if I need to send three emails in seven days it is simply me being organised and not coming off as controlling or emotional and stressed. These ideas have been fed to me from somewhere and I remind myself daily when the anxiety kicks in that this is not how I truly view myself, but I never know if others are kind enough to look past the cliché or indulge in it. Whatever the case, I’m sure if I was male and acting in the same way I wouldn’t experience any kind of negative feeling at all.

 Written by Emily Perry

Instagram @undertheart

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