As far as some people are concerned, feminism is getting boring now. You’ve pretty much got equality, can’t you just make do and shut up? And realistically, the majority of women do. Not out of resignation, but because in general, things are acceptable. We almost get paid the same, we can apply for and often obtain the male-dominated jobs, we generally receive respect as equivalent members of society. But there is certainly one cultural sphere in which this parity is far from met, and not just in terms of women.
Art is a realm which historically appears to pioneer change; there is an impression of fluidity, movement and acceptance. Yet even since the birth of the ‘museum’ as a concept, free and ‘accessible’ to everyone, it has been supported and initiated by invisible ideologies constructed by men, and particularly the bourgeoisie. Returning to post-revolution Napoleonic Paris, the Louvre was transformed from a royal palace into a vast museum which anyone was allowed to visit, as opposed to the previous system of an invitation-only viewing of the prince’s private art collection. It was celebrated as un-elitist, class-evading, everyone-welcoming. Yet this impression was devised by the bourgeois class; those who understood art. Though everyone could go and see it – few did. Because those who did could not grasp the concepts and essential referential meanings of the work hung there. The museum, far from bridging the pre-revolution fissure between the aristocracy and the lower classes, simply disguised the evolution of a different class divide. Only those with an education could fully appreciate the art – and that education was reserved for those who were worthy, or wealthy, enough to acquire it.
And then there was the Museum of Modern Art, New York – arguably an oxymoronic name for the institution. Many years on from the inception of the Louvre, three women conceived of a museum in which Modern art should and would be exhibited, ‘a place for Modern art to come and go’. These mamas then realised this dream, founding the most influential Museum collection of Modern art in the world; yet as feminist art historian Griselda Pollock claims, it is ‘the very contradiction between the undoubtedly influential role of certain women in founding and shaping MoMA and the vision of modern art that the Museum disseminated – which radically disappeared the equally vital and visible role of women in making that modernist art, as artists – that we have to explore and reframe.’ For why is it that this essentially new and modern movement as good as excluded the participation of women? And of course, there were token women exhibited. On the surface, on the record, officially, women were completely welcome in the realm of modern art. But as Carol Duncan understood back in the ‘80s, in the MoMA the number of women artists was carefully kept well below the point where they might effectively dilute its masculinity.
Perhaps things have changed, though? Sexual equality has been slow moving. And its inequality was deeply rooted. Unfair and unacceptable as this was, and arguably is, it is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect it to change overnight – for although you can change a law system, the attitudes still permeate; just as it becoming illegal to kill a black person in 1960s America did not eradicate racism. But it is ironic that at a time where Modernist consciousness was seeing a shift in the social roles, economic activity and public visibility of women, the ‘modern’ art movement maintained a subtly chauvinistic, masculinist vision of artistic perception. I don’t think we can just dismiss it as ‘the mere residue of older attitudes’ or a culturally entrenched sexism that will eventually wane with liberation. Because it is now 2012. And this system is still ultimately in place, whether consciously or otherwise. I don’t imagine the entire male affiliation of the art-world is intent on keeping women down; but there is irrefutably something defective in the underlying system which necessitates a radical overhaul and the conception of a new mode in order to place artists who are women – as opposed to ‘women artists’ – where they belong: level with men.
But people have thought of this. And I am delighted to promote one band of sisters thus: All Hail the Guerrilla Girls. Actively seeking to revolutionise the art world in favour of a renewed, remodelled, renovated modernism, these pioneering, gorilla-masked she-beasts campaign for equality with their acerbic and ironic messages of feminism. As illustrated by a variety of critics, ‘The Girls are quippy as well as lippy…waging what they call cultural warfare…where the main ammunition is wit, …they’re making the F-word fashionable again’. Calling themselves the ‘conscience of the art world’, they attack the male-centric environment of art politics, drawing public attention to the vast discrepancies between men and women artists the world over. And long may it continue. For until there is a fundamental demolition of the existing, ultimately sexist, ideology of art and a brand new design implemented, there is work to be done for ‘those rabid feminists’ – and for us, Gorilla Girls.
 Griselda Pollock ‘The Missing Future: MoMA and Modern Women’, p33.
 Pollock, p35.