Why is the “male” perspective the default in art Part II

This post is the second part of the story, I would recommend going back one post and reading in order!

After a huge adventure in moving the dollhouse across campus it was time for critique. We were supposed to partner up with someone we hadn’t worked with before and tell the class what we thought of their design, technique, and what we thought the idea behind their work was. I partnered with a classmate I had yet to work with, after all, he seemed nice enough.

I critiqued his work, which was a piece about how people outside of the US might view the US military. He depicted three soldiers silhouetted against a blurry background with red lights shining through their helmets. It was a little eerie, and almost video game-esque. I gave my commentary on the piece and described what I thought the concept might be to my best effort (at first I thought it was meant to be about how the video game industry depicts war and how it affects our perception of the real military. His concept became clear once he said what it was however).

When it came time to critique my work however, he gave a half-hearted review of the design elements and when it came time to talk about concept merely said, “I don’t know. It think it might hold meaning for girls”.


I worked very hard on this piece, I commented on your piece thoroughly, although many could argue that the military is primarily a “male” subject. You couldn’t even try to relate to my piece? Because it’s a dollhouse it holds no meaning or value for you?

The dollhouse. Apparently too “girly” to relate to.

More after the jump!

This is just another example of how the experiences of men are the norm and the experiences of women are “other”. Despite the fact that this piece was about more than women and gender (although people should make an effort to relate to this. It could help with so many of the misconceptions and prejudices we hold today) my partner had dismissed it as something for women, and therefore not for him.

Needless to say, I glared daggers. Before I could say anything, my teacher (a wonderful woman who does not put up with this sort of thing) said, “Melissa critiqued and related to yours, you can try to relate to hers”.

At the end of class I was prepared to talk to him about how what he had said had been offensive. I was ready to ask why he didn’t try to relate to things he thought were for women and why he thought that wasn’t unfair. Before I could do these things however, he approached me and said, “I clearly didn’t understand your project. Could you explain?”

So I did. I also explained how his statement had made being a man the norm and made being a woman something “other”. And he agreed and apologized.

I came out of that experience a little more aware of how it’s often the little things that create a negative environment for women. How even in progressive and accepting environments you can encounter people who don’t understand that what they’re saying and doing can be offensive. I’m just glad that people who say or do things like this can be open to learning. Because when even one more person changes their perspective it can make things better.

And before I go, once again, stand with Planned Parenthood! They’re providing lifesaving care for many women who could otherwise not afford it. The least we can do is sign their letter to the house of representatives and congress.

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