Not often is the tension of the two sexes put that bluntly, but in 1995 the Städtische Galerie in Munich presented an exhibition bravely titled “The Battle of the Sexes” and published a book along with it. If you believe there is no such thing as the battle of the sexes, you suffer from a pacifist prejudice. The exhibition catalogue includes no less than five paintings on the biblical story by which Salome’s dance caused (via Herod) the death of John the Baptist.
However, I believe the pacifist perspective also has some relevance. This battle cannot be won by one sex. It can in my opinion only be won by both sexes or lost by both.
A more subtle kind of battle you find in this image. Denying normal human contact can be just as cruel as an open attack. Seclusion is known as additional punishment against inmates in a prison.
Nothing like it
There is no human feature like your sex. In many other contexts of life, you will experience one side first and then the other. You are first a child and then perhaps a parent. You are first lead, and later you can become a leader – a student and a teacher. But regarding sex you get to see the world from one perspective only.
In the world of art women appear in various ways. Sometimes soft and beautiful, sometimes like a deadly amazon.
The former is mostly seen as historical or even discriminatory, whereas the latter mostly as not discriminatory.
To the right, however, an ingenious combination of the two, in my opinion. But consider wearing an armour if you want to embrace.
In the first image the man is struggling. It is a lonely undertaking. In the second image the man has company. There is harmony and yet motion – within limits.
The two sculptures you find juxtaposed on each side of a little bridge in a park in Oslo.
And the winner is?
A writer and feminist named Kat Rosenfield recently suggested that women are winning the battle, pointing to higher education, investment etc. (Unherd, January, 22nd). Some share her view – hard to say how many. However, in my opinion, in this game the prize for the winner is the opposite sex. So what’s the point of winning if you by winning have turned the prize into something inferior? Moreover, the two sexes not only relate, but also define each other. By defeating the other sex you not only lose your partner, you also lose yourself. If men cease to exist (as men) women also cease to exist (as women).
Artwork of the fortnight
The “artwork” this time is a symbol. How important are symbols in art? Quite important, I would, say, but what is a symbol anyway? A symbol carries meaning beyond its immediate reference. For instance, we have the symbol for copper ♀ and the symbol for iron ♂ Those are metals, but the symbols also have a connotation to the female and the male. The symbol beneath is well known as yin and yang – black and white in harmony but also in motion – right?
Fight for your life as a man or as a woman! If you don’t, you risk ending up in a sad grey, or even worse: empty. As long as your love is greater than your annoyance, it is good.
PS: The exhibition by Städtische Galerie, Munich in 1995 was kind of historical. It focused on an idea (the battle of the sexes) that prevailed among artists, writers and philosophers about 1850-1930.