From Isolated Troubadour to Discounted Hag; ageism's effects on Women in the Arts.

Arts Report for November Riverview Park Review. Dec. 2016

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I have chosen to re-visit the issue of women in the arts, which I first investigated for a magazine dedicated to women in the arts, once also published in Ottawa, but now defunct. I discovered that this issue was not only salient, but had not been openly investigated, and the statistics not published in popular media. When, in 2005, the furor over the firing of a female BBC broadcaster resulting in a court case much broadcasted, would have brought more imminent attention., the issue of ageism died. Why do we talented middle aged and senior women still have struggles getting published, exhibitions, gigs, concerts, roles, and more. I am also questioning why we have not tried to become more actively open in our fight for recognition and fame, when it is our inalienable human right. From my quick preliminary survey, we seem to choose to fume within ourselves, rather than reach out to many others via social media and other strategies. It is obvious that ageism is integrally tied to sexism. We must fight this as much as those once aristocratic Medieval artistic women boldly fought their families, and left their comfortable castles to live like gypsies.

At the dawn of the Middle ages, these Trobairitz courageously conquered male, cultural and family domination to live their own diverse artistic lives; even travelling to distant countries. They defied laws of the time. (see Salic Law), that stated that women were prevented from inheriting except where males were unavailable. In such cases, their property became their husband's when they married, along with the right to pass it on.

To date, there are only about twenty or so Trobairitz whose names and works we know .There must have been many more. I've performed songs written by Trobairitz who defiantly proclaim freedom from cultural and legal tyranny.

Although all Trobairitz wrote about romantic love, their languages and perspective, are very different from that of their male colleagues. Their language is much more direct, and many songs are simple, with a refined and quietly expressed passion. In songs written by trobairitz, men are not worshipped, but loved and accepted for who they are as persons. These women do not wish to be adored either. Why is there much more information on male troubadours but not on female ones? They performed and lived in every type of dwelling, from castle to hut, convent to cairne, performing not only for the nobility, but also for any group who might listen, feed, and shelter After the Trobairitz, there is merely a trace of information about women in the arts.

After women were declared legally persons in most parts of the world by the mid-20th century, most women still did not consider themselves free enough or worthy enough to create freely in any artistic discipline. In the 60's Feminism reborn, rejuvenated explosions of female creativity However, when these women reached middle age, they were not heard from or publicized nearly as much, as their male counterparts. I have approached several media organizations about this issue since 2005. I've also approached Canada Council for Arts.

The questions I asked then, and ask now are: what structures of management are you still using, which enable antiquated and prejudicial policies to govern your decision making as to grants, bursaries and awards? How many awards, bursaries and /or grants have you awarded to female artists in any and all fields, to those over fifty? How many awards and other acknowledgements have you given to new artists who are fifty and over?

To research organizations which investigate, survey and study statistics in all the artistic fields, I have asked for statistics in surveys of mature female artists. I have not received any answers to any of these questions. They are determined to remain blind to this issue.

Why, when we are at the highest creative levels of our lives, we are not much more published, exhibited, filmed, casted, shown, employed, broadcast and more? Most of us have raised families, and put much time into our communities. It seems that our male counterparts, and even those men who've been politicians or diplomats, professional sports figures, high-tech gurus, who never wrote a book before, nor painted, photographed anything, suddenly get published by, and are on all the talk shows, while launching their biographies in every bookstore.

I could continue for many pages, but I really want to hear from you. If you are in any artistic field, or in a multi-media artistic discipline, and are now fifty or over, I would like you to write me, phone and/or e-mail me about your experiences, from when you first began being considered a 'professional' to the present. What battles are you facing now, to be or remain professionally recognized?

It is obvious to me that we have become the hag invisible, but present, in the hallowed halls within each and all of the arts. Many of us were born just before, during, or after World War 2, when women were to be housewives, or, if we wished to have a career outside, it would be typist, bookkeeper, a nurse, teacher or stewardess. Those of us who showed prodigious talent from toddlerhood, or revealed exceptional talent in our youth, became isolated women, often not thought marriageable. If we married, we were often persuaded to cease any artistic activity after creating children. We have struggled long and hard. Many of us are creating our greatest work, and are performing at our highest levels, but we are still isolated, and thought to be foolish to continue to seek public recognition.

We must conquer this prejudice! Women are the best models of stamina, courage and the future of the arts. We're evolving in new artistic creations, from new perspectives. Without recognition, female 'generation Xs' and female millenials will not have any enlightening models. Our communities need us.
Will you help me make this happen?

© Diane S. Schmolka, December 2016
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