Feminist aesthetics

Feminist aesthetics first emerged in the 1970's[1] and refers not to a particular aesthetic or style but to perspectives that question assumptions in art and aesthetics concerning sex-role stereotypes, or gender.[2] In particular, feminists argue that despite seeming neutral or inclusive, the way people think about art and aesthetics is influenced by sex roles.[2] Feminist aesthetics is a tool for analyzing how art is understood using gendered issues.[3] A person's gender identity affects the ways in which they perceive art and aesthetics because of their subject position and the fact that perception is influenced by power.[4] The ways in which people see art is also influenced by social values such as class and race.[5] One's subject position in life changes the way art is perceived because of people's different knowledge's about life and experiences.[4] In the way that feminist history unsettles traditional history, feminist aesthetics challenge philosophies of beauty, the arts and sensory experience.[6]

Starting in the 18th century, ideas of aesthetic pleasure have tried to define "taste". Kant and Hume both argued that there was universal good taste, which made aesthetic pleasure. A feminist line of logic about these attempts is that, because fine art was a leisure activity at this time, those who could afford to make art or produce supposed universal truths about how it is enjoyed would do so in a way that creates class and sex division.[2] Even when those universal aesthetes did address gender, they categorized aesthetics into two categories: beauty and sublimity; with beauty being small and delicate (feminine) and sublimity being large and awe-inspiring (masculine).[2] Feminist aesthetics analyzes why "feminine" traits are subservient compared to "masculine" traits in art and aesthetics.[7]

Another explanation for the male-domination of forming aesthetic theory is that feminists express their aesthetic pleasure differently than non-feminist aesthetes for "whom the pleasure of theorizing [...] is a form of jouissance". Instead, a feminist is less likely to view the object as a disinterested interpreter, and intellectualize the sensation (Hilde Hein).[6] Critics of feminist art argue that politics have no place in art, however, many art forms contain politics, but because of their subject position, the critics are unable to perceive it. [8]

The idea of the creative genius is inspected in feminist aesthetics. In particular, women artists are often excluded from being creative or artistic geniuses.[encycl 1] This exclusion in part stems from the traditional masculine definitions of genius.[encycl 1] Christine Battersby has critiqued the fact that women are excluded from being known as geniuses because female artists will be separated from their art, and instead their art will be called genius, instead of the artist.[9] However, women were also excluded because they lacked the opportunities for artistic education required to be recognized as artists and geniuses.[10] In addition, the idea of the creative genius itself celebrates individualism – which Battersby calls "a kind of masculine heroism" – and overlooks the work of joint collaborations.[9]

Aesthetic theories that make a distinction between "arts" and "crafts" can be viewed as anti-feminist.[11] Here, art usually refers to fine art and crafts refers to everything else which has everyday aesthetics.[4] Art forms traditionally used by women, such as embroidery or sewing, are perceived as crafts and not art, because of their domestic uses.[4] Feminist aesthetics focuses on all objects created by women, whether or not they are seen as "art".[8] Since those craft practices occur in the home where many women continue to work, their creativity is overlooked by the perception of "art", because their domain is marginalized.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Feminist Aesthetics: Art and Artists: Historical Background". The Feminist eZine.
  2. ^ a b c d "Feminist Aesthetics". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  3. ^ Lyudmyla Fedorivna, Bulanova-Duvalko. "Philosophical Aspects of Understanding the Trend of Feminist Aesthetics". Studia Humanitatis. 3.
  4. ^ a b c d Korsmeyer, Carolyn (2002). Code, Lorraine (ed.). Feminist Aesthetics. Encyclopedia of Feminist Theories. Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN 9780203195598.
  5. ^ Stubs, Roberta; Teixeira-Filho, Fernando Silva; Lessa, Patricia. "Artivismo, estetica feminista e producao de sobjetividade". Revista Estudos Feministas. 26. doi:10.1590/1806-9584-2018v26n238901.
  6. ^ a b Hein, Hilde (Autumn 1990). "The Role of Feminist Aesthetics in Feminist Theory". The America Society for Aesthetics. 48 (4). JSTOR 431566.
  7. ^ Korsmeyer, Carolyn (2004). Gender and Aesthetics: An Introduction. Routledge. ISBN 9780415266581.
  8. ^ a b Hein, Hilde; Korsmeyer, Carolyn (1993). Aesthetics in Feminist Perspective. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  9. ^ a b Battersby, Christine (1989). Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetics. The Women's Press Ltd. ISBN 978-0704343009.
  10. ^ Korsmeyer, Carolyn (2004). "Amateurs and Professionals". Gender and Aesthetics: An Introduction. Understanding Feminist Philosophy. London: Taylor and Francis. p. 59. ISBN 9780203646632.
  11. ^ Pollock, Griselda (1999). "Differencing: Feminism's encounter with the canon". Differencing the Canon: Feminism and the Writing of Art's Histories. New York: Routledge. p. 25. ISBN 9780415066990.
  12. ^ Leddy, Thomas (2012). The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The aesthetics of everyday life. Broadview Press.
  1. ^ a b Battersby, Christine (1998). "Genius and Feminism". In Kelly, Michael (ed.). Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195113075.