Over the last few days there has been a furore rising on Twitter over some comments made by a (white) man about the pretension of using the (earned) academic title Doctor. As in, Dr Mackin Roberts (which I am), rather that Ms or Mrs Mackin Roberts (which I am not). This furore culminated in the hashtag #immodestwoman. To which I added:
The use of titles in academia is fraught with bias (unconscious and conscious), and the anec-data suggests that women have a much harder time being recognised for their own expertise than men (read though the tweets on the #immodestwoman hashtag and you will see what I mean). Men who insist that they should be called by their first name and, therefore, everyone else should too, can actually perpetuate the struggle of women to be recognised.
Mistitling has, of course, happened many times to me, but the one that stands out is an instance in which a male colleague and I were both mistitled: my 'Dr' became 'Ms' and his 'Mr' became 'Dr'. This came from a student some ten minutes after we had been introduced as Dr Mackin and Mr Lastname.
This all came as I was thinking about my first assignment for Practice of Painting, feminist art, and female self-portraiture. Because I thinking about painting a series of self-portraits for the assignment (and perhaps continuing). Then I picked up Frances Borzello's Seeing Ourselves: Women's Self-Portraits, and have been devouring it: seeing women's faces and decoding the subtle ways that women artists have used themselves for their own betterment and promotion.
One of my favourite paintings has always been Artemisia Gentileschi's Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting:
I really started to look at this painting with fresh eyes, by being able to place it in an historical line of enquiry that later female artists were looking back into, through, and at. Part One of Practice of Painting also includes examination into ground colour, so for the first time I have also really paid attention to the mid-brown ground, and how that plays against Artemisia's deep green dress and brown apron, her creamy skin and dark hair. The darker ground makes it possible for her skin - and therefore herself - to shine out of the painting in a way that is expected in Baroque art, but here is softer and more calm than in most Baroque work (including Gentileschi's own work).
In the reading of Borzello's book I have really started to dive into the history of women's self-portraiture and am starting to think about how I can integrate myself and my own practice into this long history. (I will write more about Borzello's book in the Reading blog once I have finished it.)
There is much more thinking to be done about self-portraiture and representing who I am, and how this fits into my own struggles of identity (both related to the struggles I face with expertise and my doctorate, and the struggles of innate-self I rise against as a woman with BPD). I wonder how I can explore my own voice and feelings and emotive expression though self-portraiture. I have written elsewhere on the use of selfies as self-care, and want to explore ways I can pull this out into my painting practice, as a painter who makes predominantly abstract works.