Feminism and Gender Studies In Archaeological Perspective. (Women, sexuality, and representation of gender in so called classical art and archaeology)


While the academic term “feminism” within archaeology can indicate simply the study of women’s roles in society and women’s relationships with others, obviously including men, it usually connotes as well a strong desire to view the world from a new perspective. This new perspective is predominantly female, but also emphasizes the point of view of groups  regarded as marginal or outside the cultural mainstream. Its goal is
generally to challenge
a particular male-centred, usually white European or Anglo-American, point of view. This can be an uncomfortable experience for those whose ideas are being questioned. Linda Nochlin( 9), in her introduction to Women, Art, and Power, described feminist art history as “there to make trouble” and, at its strongest, “a transgressive and anti-establishment practice, meant to call many of the major precepts of the discipline into question.”As feminists attempt to see antiquity with new eyes, however, simple inversion of the status quo (women finally on top) has rarely been their goal. Rather, one of the aims of feminism has been to look at the “big picture” from the perspective of the many different people in it, and not just that of the (white, heterosexual) men. Archaeologists, especially within the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) – and classical archaeologists in particular – have only recently become aware of feminist issues. Preferring “gender studies,” many have shied away from the term “feminist” as an indicator of an unseemly and unnecessary critical stance; after all, women are highly visible within the organization, and research on Women in Antiquity has been carried out for a long time. “Gender studies” sounds safer, more inclusive of and friendly towards men. Although in practice it is sometimes the same enterprise as “feminist studies,” it is less likely to represent a perspective grounded in women’s experiences of “otherness,” or to be directed towards undermining
the status quo. Unlike archaeologists, many art historians, classicists, and anthropologists have confronted feminist issues for decades, and have long faced the problems associated with perceived or actual feminist
aggressiveness. Scholars in these fields lament the ways in which feminism has been prematurely subsumed into the more inclusive, supposedly (but usually not) neutral field of gender studies, which is often less judgmental and political.Both feminist studies and gender research have been cited by archaeologists in polarizing ways, as positive signs of an appropriate openmindedness or as symbols of negative trends in the field. An increasingly widespread acknowledgement of gender research seems to be related to archaeologists’ broader acceptance of multicultural and anticolonialist perspectives, reflected in other fields of social science and the humanities, and in society at large. As evidenced in several contexts, through the agendas of committees, the subjects of publications and public lectures at annual conventions, and the many recent communications on the Internet, increasing numbers of archaeologists agree that research on women and gender is not a sideline to the study of society. Ironically, through ignoring almost two decades of feminist debate, many archaeologists have skipped from a masculinist world-view directly into the new, supposedly genderneutral one, without having to experience the discomfort of confronting impolite feminist perspectives. Meanwhile, classical archaeologists in particular continue to avoid feminist theory, and indeed theoretical debates of all kinds. The reasons are illuminated by the history of interpreting ancient images of women and of attitudes towards engendering ancient material culture.

For more You can read..

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Betterton (ed.), looking On: Images of Femininity in the Visual Arts and Media,
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9.Nochlin, L., “Eroticism and Female Imagery in Nineteenth-Century Art,” in L.
Nochlin (ed.), Women, Art, and Power and Other Essays, New York, Harper
and Row, 1988, pp. 136–44. Reprinted from T. B. Hess and L. Nochlin (eds),
Woman as Sex-object: Studies in Erotic Art, 1730–1970, New York, Newsweek
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