Sunday, April 5, 2015
CSW Reflection: Paintings and Traditions- Liv
While sitting in a local restaurant this week I noticed a mural on the wall above the bar. I had seen this mural every time that I had frequented this restaurant, however this time the images in the painting struck me differently. There were smiling men in suits sitting at the bar in the restaurant. One of them had a bottle in his hand, another had a newspaper that read “Prohibition ends!” and on the far left side of the painting sat a young boy wearing sailor dress blues. The only women pictured in this painting were two waitresses behind the bar serving the men and the third, wearing a lovely polka dotted dress which spoke of her affluence, was to the far right of the mural and accompanied by yet another man. Her face could not be seen. Now what struck me about this painting was the lack of women in it. The three who “made the cut” reflected a completely different perspective on the otherwise lively atmosphere of the picture.
I sat there for quite some time before asking my server about the painting. He informed me that it was of the founder of the restaurant and that over the years the restaurant has become a place for politicians to come and dine and conduct business. After receiving this bit of information I continued over to ponder over the image. The newspaper held by the man indicated that they would be in there celebrating the end of prohibition, however the attire of everyone in the painting was that of twenty years later (to include the little boy’s dress blues). As I looked at the image and reflected on what the server had told me, it struck me that this image is of the “good ol’ boys club.” A club that celebrates the success and conquests of affluent men and limits access to its resources to others who do not fall within their social or gendered sphere of influence.
I leaned over and asked the women next to me if she noticed anything about the painting being top-heavy with men. “It’s about tradition. I don’t care if there are more women patrons to the bar now and that the painting doesn’t represent women.” She responded. “It’s about tradition. That man founded this place. And that’s all that matters.” Her answer struck me just as offsetting as the painting did. How could she not see it? How could she not care? Why was she happy to accept her position as a women as seen through the eyes of the “good ol’ boys club?” She actually seemed angry that I would ask such a question. She was probably thinking: “How could I question my place or the place of other women in society?”
After the feeling of discomfort faded I began to self-reflect on why I would have such a reaction to a painting that is clearly reflecting the good times over a span of history. I kept coming back to the same: there are not women having a good time in this painting. Why? If it is a painting encapsulating various decades, then were are the women? We clearly are more than servers and arm candy. The answer lies within the women’s reaction to my question. “It’s tradition.” Regardless of how we have progressed as women, there is still the stigma of the dominance of the “good ol’ boys club” in society. Men and women accept this as normal and what we should not question its influence or marks in history. This is the problem. At CSW 59 there was a heavy focus on youth involvement in the future of women’s rights and advocacy. In order to rewrite and repaint tradition, we need more youth involved and educated as to what we as women are capable of and deserve. To answer my own question of why this painting bothered me so much, it is because I am now educated. I am empowered. I will question, challenge and defend the rights that I was born with. Had it not been for CSW my awareness would not have been heightened and passions would not have been ignited. We as women need to stand up, educate ourselves and our youth to question the traditions that leave us out of the painting.