Everyone lives a gendered experience.
This is a neutral statement.
When I wrote the call for entries for this exhibition I was very intentional with the language I used. As I wrote there- our personal relationships to gender and identity are unique to every individual. I was conscious of the fact that my own language could be a limiting factor to the exhibition, and strived to avoid curating a show that only spoke to my experiences. In conversations I had about the exhibition a common thread emerged that often, someone felt their work “didn’t count”. There was this idea that simply the base concept of gender was a limited experience. Just the word “gender” carried an inherent association with queerness that I wasn’t sure how to navigate as everyone lives a gendered experience. Sure, some people are more in tune and intentional than others when it comes to their relationship with gender, but everyone, as a facet of existing in the world, experiences gender.
As a gallery located within a historically women’s college (HWC), I am sensitive to our language and daily interactions with gender. And as an alumnae of this college that does not identify as a woman, I am extra sensitive to the the limitations of language as it relates to our campus community. In the past few years as organizations have written their diversity and equity language, I have paid extra attention to those were organizations and institutions that historically have served women.
I think one of the more complex ideas that has been navigated by historically women’s institutions is the notion that they can honor the original intentions of the organization but also include gender identities beyond the binary.
I’m not speaking specifically on one organization here, but often in my experience, while written policies discuss gender inclusivity, organizations may not taken the time to reflect for themselves on what these new policies actively mean in their everyday functions. Language is important- but self-reflection is integral. You can say you are inclusive of gender identity, but unless the time has been taken to understand the policies as their intersect with your organization’s actions, nothing has been achieved.
I say this not as an attempt to shame these institutions, but to acknowledge an opportunity for growth. I believe we as humans are better and more whole people when we take the time to reflect on what we believe are universal experiences.
Personal relationships with gender and identity are unique to every individual. Frequently these identities and experiences transcend the limits of language and semantic meaning. This exhibition showcases visual work exploring artists’ personal relationships with gender. I hope this exhibition will provoke you to think critically about what it means to be gendered in the world today and to reflect on your own relationship with gender.
If you find yourself challenged or conflicted about any of the artwork in this exhibition I want to encourage you to take the time to stop and reflect on what specifically is challenging you and where those feelings are coming from. Conversations surrounding gender- while not new- are still difficult at times to parse out from our lived experiences and inherent assumptions. While it is easier to ignore what makes us uncomfortable it’s of the upmost importance to choose not to turn away, but to look inward.
- Anna Carnes