The male form dominates the visual and cultural landscape of Australia; you don’t have to look too hard to see that. The arts, the media, politics, business and in most structures of society, men and their representation cover this country.
Is that the problem with Australia?
If we focus on the arts, it does not matter which art form you look at, the presence of not just men overriding the conversation, but masculinity as its central subject seems to represent our way of life and our thinking.
That famous photo which Max Dupain took of his friend resting on a beach, is held up as the quintessential view of Australianness. How different would the view of Australia be if that “iconic” image by Dupain had been a woman? Like this one of Dupain’s. Untitled (woman on beach) Why doesn’t this image represent Australianness?
Why are men still central to our perception of ourselves?
Women don’t need to be the centre of how our arts and society is structured. Neither do men: but men are.
If we think it’s only a matter of time before the imbalance between male and female representation is equaled out, when is that time going to come? And, why aren’t we progressing towards that change? Unfortunately, the answer is all too clear — men are holding equality back.
Is it all just cultural?
Yes, it is. And, we have built our culture, no one else has. Australians did not adopt our culture; we developed into the patriarchal society we are. It flows on to everything, especially in the arts.
If you think about the artworks that represent Australia, what are they? Are they the images of Tom Roberts, Shearing the Rams, Frederick McCubbin, Down on His Luck, or any of the Sidney Nolan paintings of Ned Kelly?
And Australian music, what are the images that represent Australian music? Men at Work, Down Under, Slim Dusty, A Pub with no Beer or AC/DC, It’s a Long Way to the Top?
The list of the artists and the art that represents Australia is a long list of masculine images created by males.
Is it changing?
By the looks of some many young men sporting their Ned Kelly beards, and the lack of female representation in the Federal Liberal Government, you’d think we are becoming more masculine.
Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and a few others are making inroads into creating awareness and fixing the gender imbalance in Australia. Don’t be bullied into not calling sexism out. But, someone needs to be standing up to the arts industry to address this problem. People in the arts are doing little to change the perception and presentation of our male dominated culture.
We need a strong male voice saying what Gillard and others are saying. We need more male figures of authority standing up to help lead the change. Who will it be?