Not much seems to have changed since 1985, when a group of radical feminists calling themselves the Guerrilla Girls demanded whether women had to be naked to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They pointed out that less than 5% of the modern artists there were women, but 85% of the nudes were female.
Research by activist organisation UK Feminista, brainchild of Kat Banyard, author of The Equality Illusion (and whose piece on the inadequacy of sex trafficking laws appeared in Prospect), confirms that in terms of culture, British women are still underrepresented across the board. UK Feminista’s statistics include:
- 71% of performances at Glastonbury this year were by all-male acts
- 83% of artists in the Tate Modern are men
- Three women have won the Turner Prize since it began in 1984
- 78% of the authors shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non Fiction in the past decade have been men, and men make up 70% of winners
- 70% of the winners and 68% of those shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year in the past decade have been men
- 7% of BAFTAs for best original or adapted screenplay went to women
- 7% of film directors are women
- 1.6% of conductors at the Proms are female
On the other hand, 17% of female artists in the Tate Modern is a significant improvement on the 5% the Guerrilla Girls found at the Met in 1985; the world’s wealthiest and most famous author is a woman; a thoroughly anti-patriarchal reading of Thomas Middleton’s Women Beware Women is the National Theatre’s summer blockbuster, and women wrote 12 out of 25 books in today’s Amazon fiction bestseller list.
It’s absurd to suggest that it matters to the public if a hit book, film or song is made by a woman or a man. So why don’t we see more women at the top?