Grassroots contemporary art museums for gender equality
The 2018 International Women’s Day campaign began on March 8 and will continue all year. The campaign is action oriented, and appropriately named #PressforProgress.
But progress toward gender parity is not enough. The right question to ask is: How soon can we eliminate gender-based injustices completely?
According to a World Economic Forum 2017 forecast, the gender-based economic gap will not be closed for another 217 years. This prediction calls for innovative solutions to achieve gender parity much sooner.
What to do? First, let’s clarify that gender equality literally means just that: Equality of the genders. It is in men’s best interest to support gender equality if they are to liberate themselves from rigid and unquestioned gender norms. As Socrates said “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Both men and women should examine the concepts of gender, and support gender equality as a human right and practice of liberation from socially constructed and imposed rigid gender norms.
Second, social change depends on both external and internal levers. The external levers are measures such as new policies. Such external levers are important but may have limited effectiveness on people with closed inflexible minds. Like aggressive cancers that return after treatment, ill-conceived value systems underpinning gender-based disparities surface again once the opportunity for injustice presents itself to the offenders.
Third, the internal levers of lasting social change depend on understanding and shaping the values. The change should come from within peoples’ mindsets, and they should wholeheartedly embrace, not just tolerate, gender parity.
Fourth, the internal levers of gender parity require opening the closed minds to new ideas, and deconstruction of archaic ideas sustaining gender-based disparities. There is a large body of research supporting the idea that people make automatic judgments based on unquestioned mental models and stereotypes. Saying, “do not discriminate” is not always sufficient.
Contemporary art is a great antidote to closed mindsets. It cultivates openness to the world, and thus lets go views on gender inequality in polarized communities. The wonderfully ambiguous, fluid, eclectic, diverse nature of contemporary art defies black-and-white depictions of life, society and gender.
Installation art, a form of contemporary art, is particularly notable as it uses mixed media with the viewer immersed in the installation as part of the art itself. It can be in a museum or on the street and allow unification of art with society.
For contemporary art museums to open minds and hearts and pave the way for social change and gender parity, the public can (and should) contribute to their design and perhaps funding. Crowdfunding of museums is on the rise. With recent innovations in support of crowdfunding in Turkey, people can be part of the founding of grassroots contemporary art museums. Contributors to crowdfunding campaigns come from all backgrounds and thus offer the opportunity to challenge preconceived mental models and gender stereotypes.
Innovation in museum projects that are conceived, designed and funded collectively help to build communities. Gender parity can be rapidly achieved and sustained in such settings.