What happens when we experience the world through male artists?

Animator and I are in a debate which I just blogged about, and in response, he sent me a link to to a post about Joanna Quinn, one of the top animators in Europe.


Here’s Quinn’s quote in response to DiSalvo’s comment:

It’s not at all hard to draw women showing emotions. The only challenge is the notion of beauty. It’s really hard to inject lots of emotion because you’re always trying to keep them [as] this sort of shiny, lovely character. I am looking for strong female characters that are not always gorgeous.


So there’s yet another established artist referring to the need for female characters to be pretty.


As I so often do on this blog, I ask again: What is “pretty”? For a male protagonist, his attractiveness is often determined in a narrative by his actions. Rescuing someone, risking pursuing a dream, brilliance, talent, excelling at a sport or at a skill, is all attractive. While for a female character, her “attractiveness” is usually primarily determined by how well her appearance fits into a limited definition of physical beauty.


Animator directed me to Joanna Quinn’s site, writing that I would enjoy her work. I do! Please check it out, and think about what our world would look like if female artists dominated our cultural imaginary the way male artists do. How differently would we see women and how differently would we see men? For thousands of years, females have been limited to supporting roles in stories that star men. Don’t you think it’s about time for that to change? At least, for our kids?

3 thoughts on “What happens when we experience the world through male artists?

  1. Hmn. I will use Disney movies as a reference because the company identifies so strongly with the princess brand and this topic was launched from a discussion of Tangled. I think you’re setting up a false structure. Aladdin, Hercules, and Tarzan are three Disney movies that were produced during the same Disney Renaissance that produced some of the more iconic Disney princesses. I’m discounting Hunchback and B&B as the male protagonist’s appearance played a role in the plot. I would say that in those three movies, animators may have been similarly hampered in showing emotion by the need to keep the lead male protagonists “pretty”. Maybe, maybe you could find one or two scenes in Hercules or Tarzan where the way the character is drawn isn’t “attractive” but even then, I think it’s doubtful there would be that much of a stretch.

    Also, typo. “Please check it out, and think about what our world would look like if female artists dominated our cultural imaginary the way male artists do.”

    When you say artists, I take that to mean all creators… screenwriters and authors, in addition to animators. And I think we need to look at people as people. Female artists are just as capable of playing into negative gender stereotypes and images as male artists.

    • Indeed. Can we start saying ‘if the world were dominated by feminists’ instead of ‘females’? Pity that word is so loaded for so many people. What we need are people who believe in equality of all kinds running the show.

    • I agree re women artists (and writers) being capable of playing into negative gender stereotypes. Even feminist artists, often in unexpected and subtle ways. We’ve all been conditioned and it’s very hard to get beyond it, consistently. I’m very happy to be introduced to Joanna Quinn’s work. Maybe it’s time for a hot-and-cold woman artist file, like hot-and-cold doctors & lawyers files. In fact I think I might start a new ‘hot woman artist’ file on PInterest, reclaim the word ‘hot’!

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