Service & Colour

Since my recent brief hiatus I have been busy catching up on writing a thesis proposal (draft due Thursday), adding my voice to the current course forum, and working on an upcoming critique (no date confirmed yet). Yesterday, I spent most of the day working in the studio. I finished the series of black and white paintings for which I will post photos after I do a couple of retakes. I’ll also have thoughts on those when I post them. In the evening I worked on my Skin Tags project. It’s amazing how long it takes to glue down a few little circles!

In the meantime, I want to share a couple of thoughts on my recent holiday (putting aside the obvious criticisms on not going on an eco or volunteer holiday instead of an all-inclusive resort in Mexico).

On our tour to Chichen Itza (Mayan temple ruins) our guide (Mexican-Mayan) talked about how “anybody” could play in the sport arena, which often ended in death for the captain of the losing team. Anybody! I asked him if when he used the word “anybody” if that included women. Oh, he says, the sport was played by warriors (inferring that women were not warriors of course), but there were some cities that were ruled by a woman… sigh…

Sure, the fact that I spent money in Mexico gives job opportunities to local people, that is true, but I left with the feeling that this kind of travel still entrenches whiteness. Almost all of the patrons were what I would call “white.” I saw maybe three or four non-white patrons the entire week of our stay. (See Richard Dyer’s White (1997) for an excellent discussion on the use of the terms “white” etc.) While many Mexicans have European (Spanish) heritage, I doubt that they would be counted as “whites” anywhere in North America or Europe. Many of the employees were also indigenous Mayan.

Whenever and wherever I looked, I saw non-whites serving whites. Does a place where the opposite is true exist anywhere?

From Life Picture Cook Book, 1958
From Life Picture Cook Book, 1958

Women & Autonomy

This weeks reading comes from The Wealth of Networks, by Yochai Benkler. I have to confess that sometimes I feel that I am taking in more information than my brain can actually digest. It might have something to do with taking 18 credits, but maybe not, maybe I am just getting older, but then I am told that is crazy.

There are some very interesting concepts in this reading. For example, Benkler describes autonomy (as I understand it) as an individual having the options before him and deciding for himself which to choose. Benkler points out that this is only possible if the person is presented with all the options in the first place. Kind of like being in a bar and the waiter looks at my clothes and decides to tell me that they only have Lucky beer on tap. When meanwhile they also have Anchor Steam beer in bottles. I may want Lucky beer, but the waiter is not giving me the option, reducing my autonomy, thereby exerting a kind of control over my decision. Benkler writes that “a law that systematically gives some people the power to control the options perceived by, or the preferences of, other, is a law [or rule, standard, usual way of operating] that harms autonomy.”

Now, I always take things to the realm of women, The realm I live in (I live in other ones too, but there are too many to discuss here). I try to apply these principles to this realm. The high school I went to had a process where each student would take an employment aptitude test and then would be counseled as to what types of jobs they should consider for their future. Exciting I thought, now I will know what I will be best at. What do you think the counselor told me? You guessed it, it is 1976, and I am being told that I should be a nurse, or a frikin secretary! Where was police officer, or pilot, or prime minister, lawyer, or urologist? Why, when I look at the school I currently go to, is the president of the school a male and his secretary a female? I know it is possible that the people in those jobs are genuinely suited to and love their work, but I also wonder why most of the jobs with big control are held by men and the supporting jobs to those men are held by women.

I don’t have daughters, so I don’t know what young women are being told these days. Are they being given the option to be what they want and more importantly encouraged to do so? If I as a woman am encouraged to choose to be a stay at home mother and/or to be an engineer equally, and I choose the first, then I made that choice with all the options in front of me and keep my autonomy. If I gauge it by what I see in the media then things do not look good at all. If the dominant option placed in front of a woman is to cut herself in order to get and keep a man, then she is certainly not autonomous.

All that said, I do acknowledge that I may not have thought all this through well enough. Am I missing something? Or did I get it?

PS 5 billion people don’t have computers.


Monsignior (self-portrait), Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 76.2 cm (30 x 30 in), 2007
Monsignior (self-portrait), Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 76.2 cm (30 x 30 in), 2007

This is a reinterpretation of Monseigneur Rémi Gaulin (1838) by Quebec painter Jean-Baptiste Roy-Audy (1778-1848).