With a reputation for hosting modern (and sometimes controversial) art, The Tate walks a fine line between championing women artists while profiteering from the objectification of women. So you might find a postcard of art from the awesome feminist art group Guerilla Girls or a Leonora Carrington painting, but also a lot of naked women, a ‘trans rights’ pop up nail bar, or a deeply misogynistic film like, “What is a Woman?”
The Tate claims that “the film opens up space for reflection and dialogue,” but without any counterpoint, and in an event aimed at women, it really looked more like a dig at the gender critical movement.
There’s a lovely article about the showing of “What is a Woman?” here by Jo Bartosch: Lates at the Tate | Josephine Bartosch | The Critic Magazine
An interesting thing to emerge from the showing of the film was the formation of a new group, Art Not Propaganda (@ArtXPropaganda on Twitter) to highlight the way that gender ideology is promoted in the arts. Now the group is focused once again on The Tate, because of its recent decision to host Drag Queen Story Hour as part of its half term provision for children.
Imagine my surprise that the gallery that hosts this:
Alan Jones, “Woman as an Armchair,” 1969
Would also host this:
Sab Samuel, “Aida H Dee”
The Women’s Rights Network have written at length about the problems with Drag Queen Story Hour, and we sent the following letter to the Prime Minister, Ministers at the department of Digital, Culture, Media and sports and the Trustees of the Tate.
I am a member of my local Women’s Rights Network group and I want to make you aware that we are very concerned to see that Tate Britain will be hosting Drag Queen Story Hour sessions for children.
Many Drag events aimed at children are being advertised as “family friendly” with the claim that it will encourage children to read or engage with the arts or other cultural pursuits. In reality, it is part of the current push to “queer” education, entertainment and arts generally, to blur the boundaries between male and female, and to undermine safeguarding.
The only thing children engage with in these sessions is drag, and the only thing they learn is that some men might be women if they say they are. The sessions normalise highly sexualised and misogynistic entertainment for children thereby blurring boundaries between adults and children in the name of diversity and inclusion. There are many more appropriate ways to promote diversity with children that do not involve exposure to the adult entertainment of Drag.
Please reconsider the appropriateness of promoting Drag to children.
Rishi Sunak found time to answer, and clearly has concerns.
But the response from the DCMS has been dismissive to say the least. Members have received letters from the DCMS so casual that the writer did not even give their surname.
Thank you for your correspondence of 18 January, to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP, regarding the upcoming Drag Queen Story Hour event at Tate Britain. I am responding as a member of the Ministerial Support Team.
Tate, as an arm’s length body, operates independently from the government and sets its own public programmes and events. These are developed in line with Tate’s safeguarding policy, which itself states that Tate complies with all relevant legislation, and with input from specialist educators.
Tate is offering free events of all kinds for families throughout half term. It has stated that it does not advocate or promote any one viewpoint, rather it offers its diverse visitors a broad selection of events.
And this is the pattern we have become used to – the concerns of the public are ignored no matter how much evidence we provide.
Pointing out the obvious problems of misogyny and child safeguarding are not enough.
The failure of these organisations to do their due diligence would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Just because this act calls himself “family friendly” doesn’t make him so.
A cursory internet search reveals that Sab Samuel considers himself an advocate for ‘queer’ and ‘trans’ children, and has been raising money for the funeral of a friend of his – a drag queen with a conviction for four counts of child rape.
Samuel also feels emboldened to lecture women on how to be acceptable feminists:
And to promote in his new book the epitome of Queer Theory: alienation from your parents and the idea that you should seek a new ‘glitter family’:
But even this is not enough to sway the Tate.
Nor, predictably, has been a letter from Baroness Nicholson:
Even this letter has received a dismissive response:
The Tate certainly seems committed to a “broad and diverse” range of ways to objectify women, while paying lip service to progressive politics. Shame it doesn’t want to listen to women who don’t want children to be told that a woman is something to be used and mocked.
The “reflection and dialogue” isn’t The Tate’s alas – it’s clearly not interested in considering other points of view or debating the appearance of a hypersexualised parody of a woman in front of a group of very young children.
The Tate does not feel that it needs to listen to public concerns, or even the concerns of Baroness Nicholson, and neither does the government agency which funds it. This leaves us, as tax payers, paying for institutions showing an open hostility towards women and families but with no sense of obligation to listen to us.
So we keep protesting, keep writing, and keep fighting for a safe (art) world for women and girls.