To start, let me say yes, I agree with you: there are certainly lots of very manly men in the arts. Baryshnikov, for example. James Galway butches up the flute. Yet it is often observed, and I have observed it myself, that the arts (especially the administrative side) are primarily dominated by women.
If you wish to refute this claim, I’m sure you can, and you are free to do so in the comments and give many examples. All I’m saying is that when I worked at the BSO, a good 90% of the fellow employees I encountered were of the feminine persuasion. And I’m idly curious: why do you think that is?
What I’m not idly curious about is the question of whether the cultivation of the arts is considered a girl’s domain, kind of like rearing of children is used to be is used to be [figure this one out yourself].
I raise this question — and please don’t hate me for this; I know it’s cliche to look to the White House for an indication of social norms but I can’t help it — because of a story I read in The Washington Post about the White House Music Series. The article talks about how Michelle Obama hosted and organized it, and made the decisions, and is so into the arts, etc. etc.
I wonder: why is this the duty of the First Lady? Because Shelley O. has a particular love of the arts? Sure, but historically the arts have always been the First Lady’s domain. From the article:
Historically it has always fallen to the East Wing to take the administration’s arts policy and translate it into programs, parties and, ultimately, mythology.
Jackie Kennedy used the arts to help Americans see themselves as cosmopolitan and the White House as a place of grand sophistication. Lady Bird Johnson’s focus on “beautification” quietly highlighted environmentalism, the notion that our surroundings help shape our sense of self and that natural beauty was as vital to the country’s legacy as any painting or sculpture.
And Laura Bush, while perhaps best known for inaugurating the National Book Festival, also dedicated much of President George W. Bush’s second term to using the arts as a tool for international diplomacy in places such as Pakistan.
Is it because Obama has more important things to do? As compared to what? He attends environmental summits and talks economy in Hollywood; do the arts not deserve his equal attention?
Don’t get me wrong; I adore that Mrs. Obama is so firm in her resolve to showcase the arts and has established these outreach programs. I just wonder why the onus falls upon her, and has fallen upon First Ladies before her. Am I being overly sensitive? I’m generally not too worried about gender roles, but it’s not impossible. Perhaps I’m underinformed — I’m pretty apolitical. Maybe you can give me some examples of past presidents doing their own thing with the arts. I just wonder.