This may be an odd post for what turns out to be International Womens’ Day (oops!), but I think it’s nonetheless important. So here we go.
I’m generally a fan of political correctness, which I understand as little more than the noncontroversial proposition that we ought to speak civilly to each other, and be mindful of past prejudices that, if not laid to rest, could disturb our newfound peace.
But political correctness deals with how we handle ourselves in the present, not how we describe the past. It’s not politically incorrect or insensitive to read Huck Finn as the author intended it, without removing or altering words we wouldn’t speak today. Nor is it insensitive to represent western art as it was, not as we wish it had been. So I’m not sure I get the point of this campaign:
It’s no secret that premodern and modern masters were predominantly male, as a function of the relative newness of the women’s rights movement. And the female form was a common subject. These percentages, then, are meaningless, unless they represent a further distortion of an already male-dominated history. But I can’t draw that conclusion from this limited information. There’s a lot in the Met that’s objectionable, removed from its context. But surely we don’t embrace the rape of the Sabine women by displaying arts about it.
Should we struggle for an equal presentation of men and womens’ works? Of course. But not at the expense of telling the story as it was.