examines an artistic project meant to correct the historical absence of women in history.

Posted: August 29th, 2013





The Dinner Party setting at the Brooklyn Museum is shaped triangular, a shape symbolizing female. Women over the centuries contributed to the American history, and the dinner party is a way of recognizing their efforts, which have not been heard. The Dinner Party triangular shape setting shows that women were the pillars and corner stone of building history, each of the 39 plates has a woman’s name embroidered and her achievements in the history of America. Butterfly features or flower-like sculptures are prominent in many of the plates. The dinner party celebrates mostly female things like weaving, sewing and painting, which have been framed. On the floor of the triangular dinner table, more 999 famous women names are written. The dinner party celebrates female historical achievement like that of Isabella Baumfree also known as Sojourner Truth, a domestic worker who fought against slavery in 1826 she was the first woman to take a white man to court and won the case. Unlike Martin Luther’s speech, her speech about racial inequalities is not known worldwide. Truth fought unsuccessfully for slaves to secure land grants for former slaves.

Women in America in the mid 1950s were taught that their place is in the kitchen, and for several years, they believed in this fact. They were taught how to be feminine and not associate with women who wanted to have careers; real women were not highly educated or independent. Women joined higher learning institutions in order to get spouses. Others would leave school after getting husbands or becoming pregnant. This trend became so rampant the girls were getting husbands while still in high school as young as 17 years. The dinner table party in the museum is way of recognizing women who changed the course of history. Betty Friedan has given clear examples in her book of how women were disregarded in the 1950s. Girls were taught on how to bring up a happy family, and they ended up as homemakers for the rest of their lives. Most of the women were not happy as homemakers and some even became depressed despite having wealth and being happily married. The culture at that time dictated that in order for a woman to be fulfilled, she had to have a husband and children. Educated women were considered outcasts, and it was hard for them to get husbands. Some women today still struggle with the same decisions. The dinner party museum is a celebration of women who contributed to the America history, and succeeded in changing the history. As was the culture in the 1950s educated women were not considered feminine, they were to be confined in their roles, as homemakers having a career would otherwise be considered almost a taboo.

The installation of the dinner plate party in the Brooklyn Museum has helped women achievements in the American history to be recognized, as there was no mention of women in history courses, in the late 1960s, even in religion there were no women church leaders. In early 1950 to the late 1960s, women’s accomplishments had not been highlighted, something that offended them greatly. Women grew tired of the marriage institution and becoming homemakers. Their fulfillment grew thinner as the days went by.

Research from Betty Friedan showed that women were suffering and not fulfilled with their routine roles, and wanted something more. Women wanted to find their real selves. The problem of women can be seen in the case of Audre Lorde. She differed with what Betty Friedan perceived the American Women. Audre Lorde looked at it from a black American point of view. She based her work on race and sexuality. Lorde argues that black women experiences are not to be compared to those of white women. Black women experiences are seen as being trivial and experiences of the white woman are considered normative according to Lorde.

Women continued to suffer, but they could not pinpoint their real problem, like feeling unfulfilled and becoming desperate. Women felt left out, as they were educated and could not do anything with their education. They felt worthless having to depend on their husbands and find their identity and life meaning through them. Laura Mulvey’s theory on women is that they are expected to provide visual pleasure to men and have an erotic impact. Laura, in her film the Male Gaze, views a woman as a sexual pleasure for a man. This view is however, different from Betty Friedan’s view. Women are to be celebrated, and their efforts recognized. The dinner party installation at the Brooklyn Museum has shown this clearly.

One would argue that the world is dominated by men and women’s troubles started when they envied men. Women tried to be like men, instead of accepting their own state. Some experts say that this is one way of denying their femininity. Women in the 50s would look for jobs in order to find husbands and even going back to school to study courses that would help them get married. This situation was so bad that a wife would take a job to help pay college fees.

The situation has changed, and women have become aware of who they are, pursuing careers in the same fields as men. The installation of the dinner party at the Brooklyn Museum has come at a time when women have discovered themselves and can celebrate their contribution to the American History. The modern woman has found her own identity and it is not through the husband and the children but by doing what she thinks is best for her life in order to be fulfilled.

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