An Artist’s Point of View
These prints were inspired by the serendipitous finding of a middle school science textbook printed in 1947: DISCOVERING OUR WORLD Book One, Science for the Middle Grades. Since encountering this book, I have researched many other sources: science textbooks, children’s encyclopedias, psychology texts. In the books from this era (1940’s -1970’s), I have found examples of pictorial sexist propaganda that are too blatant to be called subliminal and are shocking in the context of our era. In these books, there is a very clear message in many of the illustrations … Boys do; girls watch. The boys were the ones handling the instruments, they were the ones conducting the experiments, they were active and innovative. The girls were portrayed as observers, only occasionally allowed to participate, never to be trusted with fire or sharp objects. When they did participate, they were either assisting the boys or they were alone. In YOUNG PEOPLES SCIENCE ENCYCLOPEDIA, Children’s Press, Inc., reissued in 1966, even Madame Curie (the only woman scientist mentioned) is pictured with her hands at her sides looking at her husband who is holding the radium several paces away. Later texts, in this spirit, show women as lab technicians, but rarely as scientists. In this series of monotypes I use copies of the illustrations in collages satirizing attitudes found in these texts. For example, in the print “Watch This,” it is not clear what the boy is so very seriously doing with the globe of the world, but it is very clear that it is serious enough for the girl to have to observe from a distance. Below them is a boy with a piece of wood braced against his bare leg and foot, chopping at it with an ax, while a squadron of warplanes fly overhead. Science has been the servant of war, a reckless scourge, a waste of life, and another almost exclusively male domain. The element of gender and class-based hierarchy embodied in the historic sexist exclusivity of the sciences is hard to overlook in textbooks from the 1940’s to the 70’s. Today, there is a lot of encouragement for women to enter the sciences. I acknowledge this metamorphosis of attitudes. However, it is important to understand the recent history of sexism that precedes today’s conditions. It is also extremely important to understand the historical direction of science. Why has it devoted so much energy to war? How has male dominance affected the direction of research? How is the lack of balance of male and female energy reflected in our society?
These works are a sardonic look at our recent history. The collection gives a thought-provoking look at our progress, celebrates metamorphic changes in attitude, and it is meant to be a challenge for women to use their influence in a positive way.