Sunday, 29 January 2017

Gender Stereotypes

My art is about gender role reversal, including the reversal of power. Like everyone, I noticed from an early age that society expects different behaviours from people based upon their sex, and I became fascinated by a scenario in which women, not men, are the dominant sex. Not the S&M world of whips, dungeons and dominas, but a simple swap of everyday gender roles. It is extremely (and surprisingly) difficult to find this depicted, so I decided to try and create this world in art.

I used to use the moniker ‘Eve’s Rib’, but found that some people called me ‘Eve’, and assumed that I identified as female. So now I am Jamie Vesta and yes, I’m male and content to be. I’m critical of masculinity, but that’s a different thing.

I work within a few different scenarios. My usual is a situation where women, as a result of the so-called ‘genderquake’, have become the breadwinners and seized economic and political power from men. In this near-future world, it is women who wear the trousers and go to work, while the men have to stay at home, wear dresses and do the housework. This scenario offers a rationale for the pictures.

It takes certain trends in the real world – girls doing better in education, women moving into the workforce, etc – and extrapolates them into a female-run future. However, if you prefer to take the pictures as illustrations of a world that’s always been female-dominated, or as stand-alone satire, that’s fine too. I also paint scenarios set in an alternative past in which it’s the men and boys who wear the petticoats and bonnets, and I occasionally base pictures in the real world.

The pictures will serve the fantasy of a particular community, but I hope they will also provoke the viewer to question gender norms. Gender is a social construct. It is a product of history, not of genes or divine will, and can therefore be changed or ignored. Gender conventions should not prevent people from expressing themselves as they please.

The forward strides taken by women over the last hundred years might convince some people that women are really becoming dominant. But though it’s fun to pretend, we must know the difference between fantasy and reality. According to the top indicators of power, women are still behind men: just look at the proportion of women to men in our parliaments and boardrooms, and they are sometimes paid a third less than men for doing the same job.

This is why feminism – which argues that women and men are born equal, and should be treated equally by society – is still very important.
- Jamie Vesta