Sweet ‘Arts Intersect Project 2019 in celebration of International Women’s Day by Corrina Eastwood.

What is the Intersect Project?

The Intersect project existed in its first incarnation as a live art portraiture project exploring and challenging the male gaze in art from an intersectional feminist perspective. We decided this would be the perfect way for us to celebrate women’s history month each year and its debut at WOW London felt like the perfect place to start and join with other women to develop this collaboration to continue in the future, while also archiving the project. As many of you know, at Sweet ‘Art we have a passion for the importance of archiving artists projects carried out by marginalized groups in accessible ways such as the SHE book, our responsive zine publication T’ART and this blog!





Sweet ‘Art at WOW 2019 with Intersect!














Aims and Objectives

The Intersect Portraiture Project set out to explore the following:

  • The concept of the ‘female gaze’ in art.
  • Subverting the concept of the traditional ‘male gaze’ in art and society (that of women as objects, often sexual objects, in the passive role of the observed only)
  • The concept of intersectional feminist perspectives (the idea that even if we all call ourselves feminists we all come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, gender identities, sexualities and socio economic positions which affect the way we see feminism and what it needs to be for us.)
  • Female solidarity (we know from past projects and exhibitions the importance of women joining together, talking to each other and having fun with a common aim.)


How Could Intersect do this?

Four female identifying artists are selected by Sweet ‘Art for the Intersect collaboration due to the exploration of feminist issues in their practice from very different social, personal and political perspectives.

The artists each work at one of four easels on a portrait of a woman sitter for a set period of time. When the time is up, each artist moves to the next easel and continues work on the previous artist’s portrait until each artist has worked on each portrait. The resulting four portraits act as an unpredictable, collaborative representation of different feminist and female perspectives exploring a female gaze.


Intersect 2019

Our artists

This year we held an open submission for the four spaces on the project and had varied and enthusiastic responses.  The successful artists were selected based on a combination of their artistic abilities and style, their exploration of feminist issues personally and through their art practice and their varying identities.

Leena McCall

Leena identifies as a white, British/Finnish artist who is married and a mother to three boys. She is studying for an MA in Fine Art.

“Through my studio practice and now as part of my MA in Fine Art studies at UCA, I am continuing to investigate the female gaze in portraiture. Previous work has explored how women choose to represent their erotic identity, in such paintings as a ‘Portrait of Ms Ruby May, standing’, which was censored by the Mall Galleries for being ‘too pornographic and disgusting’. I am currently developing a new form of portraiture I refer to as ‘rhizomatic portraiture’. I want to examine what a portrait is beyond a single representation of a person at one moment in time. How do I, as an artist represent the multifaceted nature of a person, their memory, their connections to places, spaces, people, habitat, their rhizomatic being in a visual image? And how does my connection with the sitter reflect in the artwork? This is an ongoing portrait project I am investigating through a series of self-portraits and portraits of my mother, who has cancer. The Intersect Portrait Project offers a unique opportunity to explore this rhizome theory with other artists and sitters – the end result will be a ‘map’ of lines, a ‘becoming’ of a shared experience of four artists and sitters.”


Odette Farrell

 “My abstract paintings deal with my story as an immigrant: I was born in Mexico City but three of my grandparents immigrated to Mexico from countries such as Cuba, Spain and Ireland. My parents were both migrants. My husband too as he came to study in Mexico from South America and now we are migrants in the UK, making our children migrants as well. I realise that identity is fluid and subject to social construction, as I played with the emotions and expressions of the model to shape my own interpretation of the human body in my painting.Recently I am immersed in portraying, which helped me in my attempt to answer the enigma of identity. Therefore I am very interested in participating in this year ‘s Intersect Portraiture Project.Due to my history of displacement, I explore the politics of identity and its intersections. I address issues such as identity, migration, femininity, memory, repression, desire, absence and loss.”


Shadi Mahsa

“I am an Iranian independent woman living in exile for the past thirty years. After the revolution I witnessed dramatic changes in my country. My identity was always in a question as I have a strong cultural background which was influenced by Islamic government and the roles which must be obeyed. My choice to leave my country and my experience living in a Western world with all the freedom and choices to live was challenging and was very difficult. I always dig into my emotions to find out who I really am and where I belong. Lost in the middle of Western world and Eastern world.”


Susan Bryan

“I have a life long passion for art and experienced challenges in managing the process with full-time work commitments. Anecdotal evidence has proven that this is the story of many people within the descriptor BAME. Currently, I am an Advice and Outreach Officer for an arts organization, the project supports economically inactive BAME women to access the arts. An attempt, to even the balance of opportunity for the work of marginalised minorities creativity and exposure. Old enough to remember the Feminist movement in the late 70s/80s, when I was completing a degree in Fashion; I feel that wave of revolution feminism is so much more about inclusivity. So, I whole-heartedly embrace the concept of an intersectional feminist perspective. My female gaze has absorbed thousands of images but in my art practice I have chosen to focus on men and women, who would regard themselves as being ‘other’.”


Intersect at Crabtree & Evelyn

This year we were asked by the awesome team at Crabtree & Evelyn if we would like to host something to celebrate sisterly solidarity, creativity and self care at their new concept store and event space in Islington, London.  The store is a pilot in the organisation, reaching out to communities and offering opportunities for community activity in their stores.


We jumped at the chance to host the project in such beautiful surroundings in such a great location but also to explore the concept of the project in a new way. We felt hosting the project in a commercial space in which skin care products are sold appealing to women was an interesting way to subvert and explore the ideas central to Intersect.


Those ideas are about exploring a female gaze, the way in which those who identify as women view and look at each other and themselves from differing social and political perspectives. We also hope to challenge the traditional male gaze with Intersect and we focus on the male gaze in art specifically with this project. However art does reflect society, and general societal attitudes towards women are reflected in art practice and the approach toward women as subject.

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 14.50.15

Dejuner Sur L’Herbe

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 14.52.51

Duchamp Playing Chess with a Nude

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 15.02.38

Tom Ford Ad

The media, capitalism and the way in which women’s bodies become commodities in the striving for a very specific type of western beauty standard, feels important to consider while also negotiating the fact that most of us do enjoy a nice body butter!


I was struck by the consideration of this as sitters arrived for their booked time slots to be drawn by our artists, but also waited in the beautiful surroundings of the store and browsed the products. It made me think about how as feminists we often walk this line. As I bought the truly dreamy Crabtree & Evelyn Lavender & Espresso Body Lotion (Im going back for more !!) I wondered “Am I treating myself to a bit of pampering and self care because I am worth it and deserve to feel good. Or am I socialised to feel the only way I can care for myself is to buy products to help me achieve an unattainable and narrow standard of beauty, where my skin should be as smooth as a babies bum and soft as…well…. a babies bum?” You know that old chestnut! It’s a pretty standard thought process for me when out shopping. Did I mention I also bought a Lavender & Espresso linen mist?! Well we all got 50% off!

Xerox Scan_25032019181544

But let’s go back a bit. I feel it is important to mention the exciting build up to our event but also the unwanted attention that our policy to be inclusive gained prior. Our feminism is intersectional and trans inclusive. It is important for us that our women-only events include all women and we will not entertain trans exclusionary ‘feminist’ ideas. We can not speak from a trans experience as currently there are no trans members of the Sweet ‘Art team but we wish to continue to be good allies and are always welcoming of guidance as to how to best support our trans sisters.


Once set up on the day with input for our artists and the Sweet team we were ready for our first sitter. This year we ran the project as a ticketed event but built in long breaks for our artists. Despite this some did still say they felt very tired and achy at the end of the day and this is something we hope to consider further for next time.

Despite this the day did feel relaxed and welcoming for sitters and shoppers who may want to watch, grab a vagina cake (from under the modesty box in case some shoppers were less vag enthused!) and read some of a selection of our feminist, lgbtq+ self published zines and books.

IMG_1486 2



The team at Crabtree & Evelyn welcomed our sitters warmly offering drinks and chatting about the shop and the project. There was lots of opportunity for the Sweet team to engage with sitters about the project and the concept.

IMG_1465           IMG_1497



The focus of the project did evoke wider conversations about feminism that felt important. One conversation was even prompted by a sitter noting how sitting on standard sized chairs often feels uncomfortable for women. This led to conversations around the data gap and how research that determines the shape which the world around us takes, including the ergonomics of seating is all based on the average man as a data set. These kinds of discussions remimded me of consciousness raising groups and the importance of women only spaces to reflect on experience and support each other through validation and confirmation of shared oppressions.


The Intersect project does provide a very specific type of setting and focus for this kind of women only shared experience. This focus of course raises many questions in sitters and artists around the female gaze and the way in which we view each other as women, specifically as we are all immersed in patriarchal norms and are all susceptible to societal pressures around what is considered ‘flattering’ or ‘attractive’. We questioned the degree to which we adopt a male gaze in general and in art.






Feedback from artists often mentions a fear of “upsetting” sitters by not making them “attractive” enough in their portraits. This often is followed by questions of what this means exactly and where this standard or type of attractiveness comes from.

One sitter on looking at her completed portraits commented on her nose, saying she normally doesn’t like her nose but felt differently about it, seeing her portraits. I commented that maybe she just hadn’t seen it properly before. I feel this touched on a potential male gaze and the unrealistic body standards we are socialised to hold.

Maybe the artists were able to hand back to the sitter a truer likeness than she is conditioned to allow herself to see alone. My sense looking at the portraits was that her nose was quite accurately represented and that something about the portraiture process allowed her to see a different perspective.

When I trained as an art psychotherapist a tutor once said to me “you can’t lie in your art”. I thought of this comment as this young woman re-examined her perfectly lovely nose through the gaze of our four talented artists. She left seeming affirmed and happy and emailed that evening to thank us again for the experience.


Sitter feedback forms


The experience of our sitters is a different one to that of our artists in this project. It is increasingly apparent that the project is hard work and draining for our artists who draw for many hours in the day. This is physically tiring despite our breaks and refreshments! However I sense that the less passive involvement in sisterly collaboration for our artists is also an emotional challenge.

Our artists have little time to get to know each other before the project and I feel with more funding it would be beneficial to be able to give more time to this and an in-person debriefing of the project after.

Artists often start positive and excited about the prospect of supporting each other and sharing an artistic experience but I am reminded of feminism and activism as I see the often unsaid struggles and negotiations that play out as artists work together.

Difference is glorious and should be celebrated but our differing experiences of the world and our varying feminist ethos, makes the need for empathy and understanding ever more vital in all we do. I feel the project’s highlighting and exploration of this is its most important aspect in some ways. It begs the answer to important questions.

In asking for feedback from artists, Leena comments..

“The lack of control in this collaborative process left me questioning my own artistic judgements and abilities. Even ten days later, I still do not enjoy looking at the photos I took of the various portraits. I feel uncomfortable about the end result.

What fascinates me, is why I feel this way? The Intersect Portrait Project has made me question some fundamental assumptions and beliefs I hold. What has informed my sense of aesthetics? My white, middle-class European upbringing? Has the traditionally male western canon of art been the key influencer in my own artistic training?

How does the female gaze, or specifically, my gaze differ to the gaze of the other female artists? Why do I feel a sense of frustration when viewing someone else’s interpretation of the sitter? What is the underlying cause of my need for control over the output? Is it the deep-seated desire to create a self-portrait in every portrait? The need to recognise oneself in the work?”

You can read more about Leena’s experience of the project on her blog

In her feedback Susan comments on her identity and the expectations or isolation it may bring in feeling ‘other’ or ‘minority’ while also expressing the importance of “stepping out of one’s comfort zone”.

“As a Caribbean artist it would have been interesting to draw a black sitter. Both to practice using bright colour pastels and share the challenge of drawing an ’other’ we might not have had the previous opportunity to draw. In terms of identity, I felt a responsibility to demonstrate to minority shoppers access to art practice…..”Yes, I can do that!”. Feminism…….I feel that the ‘intersect’ route is the one I pin my heart to; for its inclusivity. Art practice…..I am relieved that the Sweet Art idea of sharing canvasses pulled me into stepping out of comfort zone.”

Susan also commented in her feedback on feeling “unsettled” by her drawing being worked over and noted that it felt “painful” but also that “there was a bigger issue at hand”. These words feel so powerful to me. I wonder in retrospect about the greater need for a facilitation of open dialogue to voice these unsettling and painful feelings and explore them in relation to personal and political issues and feminist and identity politics. Again important questions asked and issues raised.

This felt really important in regard to feminism and the need for understanding of different positions and an intersectional approach. How being “erased” can maybe feel different from different personal, social or racial perspectives. I’m aware of how damaging the narrative of women always needing to appear harmonious in feminist discourse can be. The idea that feminism has no conflicts or can do no harm. Of course this isn’t true or helpful and the ways in which some brands of feminism do not serve all women, needs to be acknowledged. This starts with women feeling safe to speak up when they feel erased. We will continue to strive to create those spaces and safe opportunities.


As with many of our sitters, Shadi spoke of feeling safe in a women only space that explored these issues and this did feel to be a commonly held thought..

“Being in a group of women, was very comfortable to me. I am sure if it was a man in our circle, it would feel as safe as I felt.”

Many of our sitters mentioned in their feedback and spoke on the day that allowing themselves to be looked at was an empowering goal that they felt proud they could be supported in achieving. As I listened to jokey comments of “can you make me look thinner” or “Please add a filter!” I was struck by how far we still have to come as feminists and activists in challenging the damaging ways in which women are socialised to self criticise and self loathe.

Despite the struggles and challenges and all that the project emotes we did overall have a fun and affirming day! I really feel the project can address important issues while also being light, fun and empowering.



My favorite moment this year was the involvement of a mother and daughter who booked two slots to sit, to celebrate International Women’s Day together. They were greeted with hot chocolate and tea by the lovely team at the store and together they discussed with me if they should sit together or separately for their portraits.


I eventually asked the daughter who I will call A. what she would like to do. She seemed shy to respond but eventually asked her mother if she would be sad if she chose to have her portrait on her own. He mother laughed and assured her of course not and it felt like a very touching, empathic example of how as women we must care for each other’s feelings and an example of how, if we are not sure how our actions are making the other feel, than we can always ask, so we can get it right.

In her feedback A. also said how she enjoyed the project because she liked the way that “..the 4 different artists were helping each other make an art piece..”


We will be following A’s example this year as we celebrate the Intersect project’s achievements, learn from its mistakes and look forward to next time!


Art Pilgrimage – by Sarah Kingham

I have spent at least an hour today queuing to experience art. Firstly, because I mistakenly got to the Hayward Gallery an hour before it opened, so I passed a peaceful 40 minutes in the National Theatre expresso bar watching a man stick lines of dots to the windows. This seemed to presage the second part of my day, at least in retrospect. There was a small line of people waiting at the door to the Hayward when we returned at 10:58am.

Then I queued because I waited in line twice to commune with pieces of art. The first of these was Richard Wilson’s 20:50. The work is so popular at the Hayward’s current show, ‘Space Shifters’, that the ticketing staff advised us to go straight to see it, before the queue built up. That they gave this advice to everyone entering the show possibly nullified its efficacy. None the less, we chose to follow it.


There was a queue of around twenty people on the first floor. We joined it. A series of tape barriers showed that the queue could be four times longer later in the day, when things get busier. Out on the roof garden a huge convex, blue tinted mirror by Anish Kapoor reflected the clouds. They never seemed to move while I looked at them. It was peaceful; the air was heavy with the odour of sump oil and anticipation. As we approached the work, laminated health and safety sheets were handed out. We needed to remove coats and bags (there was a pair of storage boxes, like those in theme parks, before rollercoasters). If we got vertigo, we should look out of the window, but definitely not grab the sides of the path into the work; the oil in 20:50 goes right to the top of its container; the edges curve in voluptuous surface tension.


Sky Mirror, Blue – Anish Kapoor

I absolutely love this piece. I first saw it in the second incarnation of the Saatchi Gallery, at the former GLC County Hall building. There it reflected the Edwardian splendour of the top two-thirds of a high windowed and wood panelled room back to itself, darkly. The realisation that the surface is flawed, marred by tiny motes of dust, does not detract from its black splendour. How deep is it? You imagine it could engulf you. Surely the director of ‘Under the Skin’ must have visited it at some point and sublimated its darkness as a future image to use. The space at Hayward is truer to the first conception of this site-specific work, a white cube lit by a grid of skylights. On the far side of the room, the oil continues through an open doorway and out of sight. The path cut through the slightly more than waist deep pool of oil narrows as you reach the centre of the space. (Surely it’s only a few inches deep? Otherwise the weight would bring the building down.) Despite the queue, and the gallery assistant hovering, I felt awe. It is a rare man-made exemplifier of the sublime. I was sad to hear that Saatchi sold it to a Tasmanian museum in in 2015. Two versions can exist simultaneously, one there and one on loan. I wish the Tate had bought it. They could’ve filled the ground level of the Turbine Hall with it. Imagine it installed in the whale gallery of the Natural History Museum.


20:50 – Richard Wilson

Later we went to Victoria Miro Gallery. Somehow I had managed to secure a timed ticket to see the Yayoi Kusama show. I’d originally had two but their website had crashed before they were processed. Kindly they allowed themselves to be persuaded to let my friend in too. We queued into the building and were handed dot-covered passes to the infinity room installation, ‘My Heart is Dancing into the Universe’; these were also laminated. We queued up some stairs. The top floor of the gallery is a reclaimed industrial space with grey concrete and exposed beams, supported by an iron girder. We agreed that it was like queuing for something at a squat party. It was a long queue, and we had a lot of time to talk.

I first came across Kusama at the start of the new millennia, at a big Serpentine retrospective, her first in the UK. She’s one of those artists who fascinates through living her art as much as making work, like Kahlo or Warhol. Her New York happenings, her now self-imposed seclusion in an institution; the way that she chooses to embrace her overwhelming hallucinations, covering her work (and her costumes) with a riot of seething dots, multi-coloured or black on crimson or primary yellow, undulating with the forms they engulf. The Serpentine show also had an infinity room (possibly a box rather than a room; I remember something smaller). Mobile phones didn’t have cameras back then, so no one was taking selfies.


Still from one of Yayoi Kusama’s 1960’s performances

When we reached the threshold of the infinity room at Victoria Miro we were shown a plan of the L-shaped space. We must follow the path, staying within the low barriers that delineated it. Rather facetiously (or hopefully) I asked if anyone had strayed off the path and become lost in infinity. No, but apparently a few people had blundered into the installation.

Inside it was a fairyland of black paper lantern spheres suspended in darkness. Each one was patterned with large dots that glowed through a range of colours, pink into purple or yellow into green. The colour changes were gradual. There seemed to be a whole universe of them falling away from us. We gawped and took some photographs (including, I’m afraid, the now obligatory ‘art selfie’). Seemingly seconds later the gallery assistant told us it was time to move on. We had to leave so the next person or pair could be entranced by it. Later I realised that another highlight of the Hayward show, the installation ‘Narcissus Garden’ was also by Kusama.


Infinity Mirrored Room – Yayoi Kusama

It was impossible for many people to get tickets to see the Kusama show, which is a pity. I hope she gets another UK retrospective soon, it’s been eighteen years since the last one and she turns ninety next year, still prolifically designing large scale sculptures and painting dazzlingly intricate, vivid canvases, examples of both of which were on show at the Miro. The Hayward show is well worth a visit; there are many fantastic pieces there, and they interact wonderfully. Perhaps queuing for these works intensified them; we live in an age of instantaneous gratification, and the novelty of waiting added to the experience. I would have liked to have longer alone with both works, without the pressure of a queue behind me, but you can’t have everything.

Space Shifters was at the Hayward Gallery, South Bank and closed 6th January 2019

Yayoi Kusama; The Moving Moment I Went to the Universe was at Victoria Miro, Wharf Road, closed 21st December.

The problem with Frieze Week ’18 by Sian Matthews


That title is a little misleading because I did actually have a really great time at Frieze London. It has been over a month now since the fair and I have had plenty of time to contemplate it all, although there is one thing that has been playing on my mind that I would like to discuss. But let’s start on a good note! This year was my first time attending the art fair itself, although I have explored the sculpture park in previous years, and thanks to Sweet ‘Art I had a press pass!

This year Frieze week had a huge focus on women in the arts. Frieze itself commissioned some large-scale artworks, installations and performances such as Tatiana Trouvé’s ‘The Shaman’ (pictured below) a 1.2 tonne bronze tree and water pump. It was one of the first things I saw as I went into the fair and it definitely commanded the attention it was receiving.


At the other end of the fair there was a curated section of stands showcasing the work of 9 female artists who had used their work as a form of political activism in the 80s and 90s called ‘Social Work’ I quite enjoyed Social Work as it was diverse on all levels, including race, age, backgrounds and even mediums and subject matter. The section included artists such as Nancy Spero, Helen Chadwick, Berni Searle and Ipek Duben; artists who use the female experience and themes of sexuality, gender, alienation and identity to challenge both aesthetic and political conventions. It worked really well and was an insightful look into the practice of some very influential artists. I was also lucky enough to wander past just as Sonia Boyce was giving an interview about her work! (I won’t lie, I felt a little starstruck!) It was fascinating to listen in and hear what she had to say about the motives and messages behind her work and what she thought of Social Work itself.

The stand I connected with most in Social Work was the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery who were showcasing the work of Mary Kelly. ‘Interim Part 1: Corpus’ is the culmination of 3 years of documentation by Kelly of conversations she had with women of her generation and displays their words in first-person text panels alongside screen printed images of fashion ads and medical photography of ‘hysterical women’. It feels personal and almost candid in its delivery, you get the feeling you’re reading something like a diary entry, something you shouldn’t be reading, and I appreciated the fact I was being told something so intimate.

The one thing that really disappointed me about Social Work is that it was hyped up quite a lot beforehand, but then felt like it was squished into a corner at the actual event. I would have preferred it to have had a more prominent spot in the fair.

Another nice touch to the fair this year was a fund-raising event hosted by Tracey Emin in the form of a postcard auction, with the proceeds going to women’s charities. Although unfortunately I didn’t manage to catch any of it!

Elsewhere in the city, galleries such as White Cube, Victoria Miro, the Parasol Unit and even the RA celebrated women by opening exhibitions and installations of works by artists such as Yayoi Kusama (who I love but sadly missed out on tickets for!), Cornelia Parker brought her PsychoBarn installation to the courtyard of the RA, Heidi Bucher and her beautifully haunting latex skinnings, and Doris Salcedo (pictured below) at White Cube. Women really did take over London for Frieze week!


On the Friday night I attended The Other Art Fair which also had a whole section dedicated to female artists. They had their own building across the road from Victoria House which was designed to be a statement called ‘not 30%’ to draw attention to the fact women typically get only 30% representation in art fairs. I thought it was a great idea (although I wasn’t sure about segregating them in another building away from the main event), and there was a diverse selection of work, from painting and sculpture to taxidermy and even tattooing. I so badly wanted to get a tattoo by artist Emily Malice but I missed her by a couple of hours as Friday night was the only time she wasn’t there! (maybe next time!)

Whilst we were there we also met two recent graduates who had turned their stall into a fun and inviting participatory project.  As Illustrators, they were drawing visitors to the art fair as any animal of their choosing for a small donation, so obviously we had to take part! See us below as a cat, a leopard and a jellyfish!


Overall I think The Other Art Fair may have been more enjoyable on a social level. More interactive, more inviting, it was more appealing to a wider spectrum of people. Dare I say more inclusive?

All of this sounds great doesn’t it? Women finally getting the recognition they so badly deserve. So going back to my clickbait title, where is the problem?

What has been playing on my mind is the idea that all of this new attention from large institutions, galleries and companies is just a form of box ticking, it felt like they were just ticking women off their inclusion list. I am not really sure of the exact thing that made me feel like this, maybe it’s the fact that both art fairs felt the need to over-publicise their inclusion of women and make a song and dance about it as if for attention; to be seen to be doing the right thing instead of recognising the issues faced by female artists, educating themselves and making the necessary changes. Obviously, I’m not saying we shouldn’t shout about the needs and rights of women in this industry, its massively important to talk about it! There was just something about Frieze week that made me feel like the motives behind it were off.  As you all must know by now, 2018 marks 100 years since the first women in the UK won the right to vote. This means that women’s rights are very much the theme of the year. It means that right now equality and women’s rights seem to be a bit of a fashion statement unfortunately and these companies need to be seen to be doing the right thing or they face huge backlash.

While I think its amazing what happened at this year’s Frieze week, and I certainly do not want to belittle the success of the artists featured. I can’t shake the feeling that we should all be a little wary of the motives and the intentions behind this sudden push for women. I am worried that next year this will all go away and no real progress will have been made. I hope I am wrong.

I have taken a photo of an article written in the free art news paper given out at the Frieze art fair itself which I feel sums up my feelings well and highlighted certain points for you. I feel it quite clearly explains why the focus of this years Frieze week only felt skin deep.


Let me know what you think, am I just being pessimistic? Did you visit Frieze or any of the other events going on that week and what was your experience? I’d really like to know.

The curious, moving and brilliant new work of the 2018 graduates, by Sian Matthews

I started this year’s degree show season by making my yearly pilgrimage back to the University of Hertfordshire. I have been going to see the Headlines show since I first started my Foundation degree at UH in 2012, and having been a part of Headlines ’16 after completing my BA I always find it a lot of fun to go back and see what the students have achieved with the same space, resources and amazing tutors I had. I am never disappointed. Headlines includes the whole school of art, from Fine Art, Photography and Fashion to Model making, Design and everything in between. It’s a diverse celebration of a lot of hard work and that’s what makes it such an awesome show.

Obviously, every year I make a beeline for the Fine Art studios, my old stomping ground, to explore the work on display and support my fellow artists. It is also a chance to see old friends and tutors. I can admit I miss them and my studio.

One of the things I always enjoy and am proud of is the distinct visual similarities and connections all UH students seem to share no matter what year you go, like one huge collective. There always seems to be a huge focus on 3D work, accumulations and collections of found objects, plaster casts and video work; mediums which I view as more tactile and interactive for the viewer. Objects which you can form a connection to always seem to do more for me than a drawing (personal preference). I am sure that this connection we all share comes from the environment created at UH; there is a lot of space, meaning you have more freedom to create large scale, ambitious works, as well as some very hands on and inspiring tutors and it’s encouraged to bounce ideas off each other and collaborate.

There was a lot of that this year, as well as some fantastic performance and painting. A few favourites of mine, working with themes such as the everyday, the human condition, balance and absence, included (pictures below) Lucy Alexandra, Lucy Matthews, Elizabeth Leonard, Lizzie Cardoza and Seda Kalayci.

Moving forward a month to Free Range, “the largest creative graduate showcase in Europe” at The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. From the 2nd of June to the 16th of July, each week there is a new exhibition exploring a different creative medium combining the work of many universities. Again, I like to go every year, it’s always a great show and different to any degree show; the main difference being that it’s a curated exhibition. Degree shows tend to have all the artists clearly separated for obvious reasons (the work needs to be graded so it needs to be clear who did what). Free Range gives the artists the space and freedom to pick works and curate a show that illustrates their achievements as a collective (I am also aware that some universities use Free Range as their degree show).

My first Free Range visit this year was to Photography week 1. I’ll be honest here, this is a controversial opinion! I am sometimes cautious of going to large photography exhibitions because I feel they can get repetitive. Not to say the work included is awful or boring, because it is not, but I am not someone who gets a great deal from photography. It is just not a medium I connect with easily- it’s personal preference. So I was pleasantly surprised to find some really fantastic work on display. These included works by Molly Snell, Katariina Leinonen, Hannah Detnon, Elena Cenedese and Jessica Nash. (pictured below)


Jessica Nash

Free Range Art Week I was excited for, so excited that I went to the private view. I was looking forward to seeing how the UH show would differ from the degree show and seeing what other crazy things I would discover from universities such as Northampton, Leeds, Hereford, Colchester and Norwich.

Every year since I took part in Free Range, Herts has used the T3 space, it is bright, open and right in the middle of everything which makes it a great space for those big ambitious 3D works I mentioned earlier, its also great for performance because of the footfall it gets. This year was no different, it was packed. I know I am biased, but it looked amazing.


Next to UH was Hereford College of Arts. My eye was drawn straight to the work of Justine-Diane Winter whose installation, focusing on themes of feminism, attraction, repultion and decay included wilting flowers nailed to the walls accompanied by a video. It demanded my attention straight away, it was bold and obviously meant something to the artist.



Also from Hereford was Tara Love and her panel of coloured ear casts. As someone who loves a repetitive process and casting objects this piece jumped out at me. It was quirky and fun to look at as well as a thought-provoking comment on our sense of hearing and the connections it provides us with.



‘The Unnameables’ by Hannah Moulds were uncanny as they creeped around the entrance way to the T1 space. These faux fur forms almost seemed alive in the way they trailed around the space they were given. Reading what the artist wrote about them gave them a whole new context and conjured all kinds of weird imagery and stories. It would be great to see them again in some different spaces.


Back downstairs I found a couple of gems. A whole collection of small studies of nipples by Olivia Fenwick arranged in a pattern on the wall, reminiscent of a mandala. These accompanied a pile of sculptural nipples which were spreading their way across the floor upstairs as if they were multiplying. Always fun to see an invasion of nipples, right?


The second gem I found downstairs was the work of Alex Dixie Tobias. A small key hole in the wall led to a burlesque peep show, one designed to be a comment on feeling used, and performing for other people’s pleasure and entertainment. Some of Alex’s other works focus on identity and the struggles of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.



Art can be therapeutic for some, it can also be a way to document and make sense of a difficult situation or condition and I must applaud any artists who lay it all out in such a revealing way for the whole world to see.  I’ve done it and I know how hard it is to confront a demon everyday in the quest to create something great and regain some control of something uncontrollable.

These are just a few things which stood out to me at Free Range 18. I could go on for a while yet, I honestly thought it was an incredibly strong show this year. I even went back on the Monday before it ended to see a few art works without the massive crowds from the PV and to make sure I hadn’t missed anything special. I am already looking forward to the degree shows of 2019!

Did anyone go to any great degree shows? What stood out and excited you? Share in the comments below.

Sweet ‘Art Intersect Project For WOW Festival London by Corrina Eastwood

Some of you may well have read the post I wrote in December titled I learned A Lesson Today About Feminism.  It was fueled in equal measures by frustration and inspiration but most importantly and despite the challenges to Sweet ‘Art as an organization we took away from this time a new found energy and passion for our mission and values, to be a truly inclusive, intersectional feminist organization.

FullSizeRender 2.jpg

Part of this new energy and self reflectivity resulted in us looking out and reaching out in ways we maybe hadn’t done before in an attempt to join others with different perspectives. We wanted to share experiences and partner with organizations to help and be helped in furthering our mission. This has resulted in us linking with some incredible organizations for upcoming projects including Black Blossoms, the Bernie Grant Centre, WIA, Vout –O Reenees arts club and the Vagina Museum. So watch this space, exciting times ahead!

This also resulted in us being introduced to the awesome and inspirational Claudia Merhej, the curator of WOW Festival London, who asked us to join the festival this year with something visual arts based and interactive to take place at the Royal Festival Hall. We were super excited at the thought of being part of WOW after years of enjoying this incredible festival on London’s South Bank and after much coffee and many phone calls the Intersect Project was born.



Big thanks to GreatArt for their sponsorship of this project!


Intersect acted in its first incarnation as a live art portraiture project exploring and challenging the male gaze in art from an intersectional feminist perspective. We decided this would be the perfect way for us to celebrate women’s month this year and its debut at WOW London felt like the perfect place for us to join with other women to develop this collaboration to continue in the future, while also archiving the project. As many of you know, at Sweet ‘Art we have a passion for the importance of archiving artists projects carried out by marginalized groups in accessible ways such as the SHE book, our responsive zine publication T’ART and this blog!

2f1b49_adc189d9cf7b4762aa764c9d04677ae9~mv2 2f1b49_752f1e8f6d69491eb7a3a52c5ad8a702~mv2


2f1b49_8a4c2ca78c134276a97e2465cadd9406~mv2_d_2899_2411_s_4_2.jpg     FullSizeRender 3


Aims and Objectives

 The Intersect Live Art Portraiture Project set out to explore the following:

  • The concept of the ‘female gaze’ in art.
  • Subverting the concept of the traditional ‘male gaze’ in art and society (that of women as objects, often sexual objects, in the passive role of the observed only)
  • The concept of intersectional feminist perspectives (the idea that even if we all call ourselves feminists we all come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, gender identities, sexualities and socio economic positions which effect the way we see feminism and what it needs to be for us.)
  • Female solidarity (we know from past projects and exhibitions the importance of women joining together, talking to each other and having fun with a common aim.)


How Could Intersect do this?

Four female identifying artist (find out more about them here) were selected by Sweet ‘Art for the Intersect collaboration due to the exploration of feminist issues in their practice from very different social, personal and political perspectives.

The artists each worked at one of four stations on a portrait of a female identifying sitter for a set period of time.




IMG_3874.JPG  IMG_4067.JPG

IMG_3931.JPG  IMG_4065.JPG

The sitter was asked to fill out a questionnaire before starting that asked a simple question set by each of the participating artists. This was to help the artists get an insight into the sitter beyond their physical appearance if they so wished.

IMG_3895.JPG      IMG_4542.JPG

When each artists’ time slot ended, they were facilitated to move to the next station to continue working on the previous artist’s portrait, and so on until each artist sat at each of the four stations; creating a collaborative visual dialogue of an intersecting female gaze.





We were really excited to see how this very simple way of giving female identifying artists an opportunity to focus on a female identifying sitters, would affect the resulting artworks while artists were given the opportunity to challenge their own gaze as practitioners. Artists were facilitated to move literally and conceptually, to observe from different perspectives, something that is vital to intersectional feminist thinking and values.

IMG_3997   IMG_3974

IMG_3996  IMG_3893



We felt that the resulting artworks did act as an unpredictable representation of differing feminist and female perspectives, exploring the female gaze. However there were many ways on various levels in which the activity was evocative and challenging.

IMG_4015                                  IMG_3870

Some artists focused on the collaborative aspect of the project as an important take-away; female artists working together on a shared project that felt inspiring yet on occasions uncomfortable. The assumption that as women and intersectional feminists, collaboration will always be easy felt pertinent, as the artists found ways to negotiate difference and work together. It can feel a bit like this when navigating feminist activism.

“….the thing that stood out was that you have to let go of your own vision, and accept that there are others and after a while you begin to sync and start to work more with what you have. I noticed that Asia for example towards the end did only a small detail and left something for me to continue with (I was behind her) so we kind of built the woman up between us, but Ting would often dominate over what had gone before – both were interesting contributions, and perhaps related to personality but both situations you had to be cool with to maintain the group – I wonder how men would have reacted to this and performed this exercise!” 

Dannielle Hodson

IMG_3887.JPG       IMG_4019.JPG




The idea of challenging a male gaze, of a women traditionally being passive and the observed in art practice and this being replaced by a more active, dominating female gaze, did feel to be something that the artists were able to explore.

Dannielle mentions feeling her normal gaze in life class was challenged. That of the sitter purely as object, which maybe enacting the traditions of life drawing and the objectifying of women in this forum. However Dannielle also mentioned concern for the sitter’s feelings in relation to how she may look physically. An empathic ‘female gaze’ or a response to traditionally patriarchal dictated beauty standards?

“I also found myself at my last station erasing what had gone before and trying to ‘fix’ it, also a kind of domination but I was concerned that it looked nothing like the woman and she could be upset.  I was very conscious of the woman’s feelings where as in a life class usually I’m not really thinking about this, just the bodies angles and shape etc.” 

Dannielle Hodson

IMG_4229 2


We had such an awesome response from guests to WOW London prior to and during the event with people emailing in the approaching weeks asking to book a slot to be part of the project. We had a first come, first served sign up sheet on the day this time around and all slots were taken very quickly, it was super exciting!

It was interesting to see the different ways in which sitters chose to interact with artists and the project, and overall there was a real sense of camaraderie and solidarity with all sitters leaving with their portraits expressing that the process felt both unique and special.



“Thank you for such a beautiful experience. Please do it again, it’s an incredible idea!”

Shiraz Engineer


Some women were keen to share the sense of trust and being attended to and privileged in the position of sitter, this feeling important and valuable.

“It was lovely to just sit still and be allowed to be still. I loved the concept of the rotation and the resulting artworks were wonderful!”

Anna Godsiff


Others felt empowered by the concept of being under a ‘female gaze’ this bringing up considerations of the abuse of power or lack of consent often felt in relation to being more typically under a ‘male gaze’, as a women in society.

“…..as I was waiting for my turn, reading that I would be the ‘object of the female gaze’ felt immediately empowering, flattering and ‘sisterly’. A welcome change from being the object of the male gaze, which is more often than not, a highly unpleasant experience because we seldom give our consent. Sometimes when we do, the male gaze takes the piss into leering, and worse. So flipping that on its head – female artists, and giving one’s consent – was very exciting, and I automatically trusted them completely, not to take advantage of the powerful position they were in…”

Shiraz Engineer


A well earned drink when fished and ready to enjoy the rest of the evening at WOW!



The project not only involved the Sweet ‘Art team, our talented artists and the sitters but became a place where others visiting the festival could come and sit and watch the action, chat with us about art and feminism and have both fun and important conversations.

We cant wait to do it all again!



A Women’s day Experience by Sian Matthews

I had a bad experience for International women’s day and it helps prove how far we still need to go.

A friend and I decided to spend IWD at a few galleries in London which were holding exhibitions and tours about women artists, the female gaze and the influential women who helped shape certain institutions. I hadn’t seen my friend for a while, I was looking forward to celebrating women and art with her.

The day started strong with a coffee and a catch up before moving on to the newly opened Richard Saltoun gallery in Mayfair. The first exhibition held at this new gallery space, ‘Women Look at Women’ explored themes such as feminine identity, censorship, gender stereotypes, sex and relationships through the work of thirteen international artists. The exhibition included beautiful but honest black and white photography by artists like Renate Bertlmann, Francesca Woodman and Annegret Soltau, as well as sculptural works by Helen Chadwick.

It was great to experience an exhibition, curated by a woman, working with female artists, feminine themes and the female gaze. You know, other then when Sweet ‘Art does it. For the most part I was impressed by it. The exhibition felt refreshing; it was clean and well thought out, and most importantly for the viewer, it was insightful and thought provoking. Of course, any exhibition has space for improvement, to learn and ensure you do things better the next time. ‘Women Look at Women’ could have been more inclusive. It could have included a wider, more diverse group of works, but it did what it was meant to do well enough for me.

After such a great start you will understand my disappointment and, honestly, outrage at our next visit.  This year for International Women’s Day, the Royal Academy intended to celebrate with ‘Feminine Futures’, a series of events and tours from the 1st – 10th of March.

We got to the RA at noon for the IWD tour, which was billed as an event that will “explore the lives of some of the important women in the history of the RA”. What we were greeted with however was anything but!

Before I explain why I was so disappointed, I should point out that this tour was one of six or seven delivered over ten days. The tour is presented by a different guide each day and therefore is different every time. For all I know the rest of the tours were spot on.

To start, the male guide took us into a small corridor next to a staircase which was decorated with photographs of the current eighty academicians. He pointed out Tracey Emin and Cornelia Parker and briefly spoke about them (they were the only female artists mentioned for the whole tour). He then spent the next 5 minutes talking about several of the men on the wall.  He made no effort to mention any other female academicians, he didn’t even mention Sonya Boyce, the first woman of colour to be made a Royal Academician, as recently as 2016.

Moving on he spoke about two paintings depicting some of the life drawing classes at the RA many years ago. These paintings showed female models being drawn by male artists and were themselves by men, although I cannot remember who. While standing in front of these paintings we were told that at this point in the RA’s history, women were banned from attending life drawing classes because it was thought that it objectified them. The guide also informed us that all female life models were from local brothels as it was inappropriate for women other than prostitutes to model nude. But according to him, all of that was ok… because they were paid a little more than their male counterparts.

Throughout the rest of the tour the guide spoke about not only the building it currently occupies, Burlington house, but also when it occupied the top floors of Somerset House and the National Gallery. He spoke about the architects, the owners of buildings and artists who have worked within the RA: all men, including Constable and even Churchill. It would have been far more interesting to tell us the little-known fact that’s among the 34 founding members of the RA there were two women! Mary Moser and Angelica Kaufmann.

A few times other members of the group asked about the role of women at the RA, which was met with the guide asking if any of us were artists and what our practice consists of. Both myself and my friend answered, explaining that we are installation artists with an interest in the work of the YBA’s. So we were already familiar with Tracey Emin who’s work he promptly explained to us as if we had no idea who she was. ‘My bed’ he said was a “product of her realisation of the mess around her” not exactly what I would call an in depth, insightful or accurate description.

'My Bed' by Tracey Emin

Right at the end of the tour, after someone asked about them, he briefly mentioned the suffragettes, how they had “slashed a couple of paintings in protest” basically referring to them as trouble makers who had ruined a precious painting. There is a lot of information to be found about this incident at the 1914 RA Summer Exhibition on their own website, surely a tour guide at the RA should be able to talk freely and in a respectful manner about this event?

Reading back through this it probably sounds like I am making this up. But I can promise I am not. You expect to come away from a tour of influential women at the RA feeling proud of what these women achieved in an industry that wasn’t always accepting, I expected to hear about how the women before me helped to pave the way for myself to be an artist and work in the arts today and instead I was told about how women had been mistreated by the RA until after WWII. I left feeling deflated, like we had gone backwards for an hour and honestly, I was angry.

Another point I feel I should add here is that on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day, the same day I was trying to celebrate with a friend. An exhibition opened at Tate Modern, all about famous “ladies man” Picasso.

After all of this I had just one question on my mind. How did such a small gallery in Mayfair, and countless other small organisations manage to get their shows and messages so right when the big institutions with all their money and resources get it so wrong? Do they not care? Do they not listen? It seems ridiculous to me and it highlights just how far we all still must go in not only getting, but understanding and respecting equality.

Threesome – an exhibition of three women painters, by Charlotte Elliston

As it was recently the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People act, which gave women who were over 30 and property-owners, the right to vote in the UK, and will soon be Women’s History Month (including International Women’s Day on 8 March), the Sweet ‘Art team will be trying to see, and post about as many relevant exhibitions and events as possible.

First up was a visit to New Art Projects gallery in London for a panel discussion about their current exhibition Threesome. Threesome is an exhibition featuring artists Roxana Halls, Sarah Jane Moon and Sadie Lee, and has been curated by Anna McNay. The focus of the exhibition is the female gaze; each of the artists are figurative painters, female, and identify as queer.  This follows on from the recent Tate show Queer British Art, which was a show timed to coincide with the anniversary of the  1967 Sexual Offences Act.  This was a great show of art by gay white men, but was a bit lacking on other forms of queerness. Threesome was partly intended as a response to this – showcasing the work of three contemporary lesbian artists. I knew in advance that the premise of the exhibition was that each artist was painting each other as well as themselves, and had also each painted a nude study of performance artist Ursula Martinez. (Along with Corrina, and some of the fab WIA group, we had recently seen Ursula in discussion with Sadie at the National Portrait Gallery for their Queer Perspectives Lates).

sadie ursula

Sadie Lee and Ursula Martinez in conversation at Queer Perspectives

So I was excited to see the full exhibition, and the works ‘in the flesh’ (pun intended) rather than just as images. The event featured all artists and Ursula Martinez in discussion with Anna McNay, and the gallery has said that the full transcript of the discussion will be added to their website in due course. I highly recommend keeping an eye out for this! The discussion began with Anna McNay inviting each of the artists to discuss their works in turn, before moving on to the portraits of Ursula and finally opening up the discussion to encompass more general themes from the exhibition.


Portrait of Sarah Jane Moon, by Roxana Halls


Each of Roxana Halls’ portraits use heightened colours (in the discussion she mentioned positioning her subjects within a set of neon lights to create the effect) and stylised poses reminiscent of dolls, to create what I would describe as a ‘nightclub’ effect. Her subjects are flanked by mannequins dressed as iconic lesbian characters from films and are posed almost as if they are mid-dance. For most of the discussion I was facing the portrait of Sadie, and (I don’t think it was just the fact that she was wearing glasses), I was reminded of some of the iconic images of Grace Jones. I attributed this mental link to the almost luminescent skin tones Roxana created, and to the strength and power of her images.


Bulletproof Heart album cover.


Ms Jones in 1984 in London, by Adrian Boot

In the discussion, Roxana said that she often uses mannequins within her work, not always so explicitly. Her reason for doing so is that straight male film directors will often use mannequins in their films to represent lesbian women; somehow implying that lesbian women are not quite ‘real’ women, or not quite human. Judith Butler says in her essay Imitation and Gender Insubordination “I suffered for a long time, and I suspect many people have, from being told, explicitly or implicitly, that what I “am” is a copy, an imitation, a derivative example, a shadow of the real”. This was echoed by the ideas present in Roxana’s work

The discussion of the use of the mannequin to represent lesbian women also made me consider the myth of Pygmalion, and the use of this trope in art and culture. Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with the figure of a woman he had carved, and she was brought to life with magic and became his wife. The myth has been widely used in painting, film and literature.


Pygmalion and Galatea, by Jean-Léon Gérôme


Still from the film, Mannequin, dir. Michael Gottlieb


Still from My Fair Lady, dir. George Cukor (They changed the ending from the original play to add ‘romantic’ interest)

In both the straight and queer versions, these tropes appear to be created with the fear of the unknown, and the desire to impose control by not just objectifying, but actually making the woman into an object. The myth also places the creative agency in the hands of the male, whether that be the sculptor Pygmalion, shop-window dresser Jonathan Switcher, or linguist ‘Enry ‘Iggins. In these instances not only a creative, but a sexual power is also conferred to the male as in each instance, the bringing of the ‘mannequin’ to life results in sexual union.


Portrait of Roxana Halls, by Sadie Lee

 Sadie Lee’s work focuses on the ideas of intimacy and sexuality. Her three artist portraits are reclining figures, shown in their underwear, on rumpled beds. Within the discussion, Sadie said that her aim was to use (and I think to subvert) the traditional Venus pose, where the subject had one arm bent over her head, and another around her waist.


Venus Anadyomene, by Jean Dominique Ingres (with a barbie-doll genital area)


Venus Williams, taken by Hirakawa for ESPN Magazine

Her portraits were created by looking at the subjects from a position between the legs (described by Sadie as a position a lover might see them from), lit from below with a harsh raking light. They pick up qualities of the skin like dimples and stretch marks. The underwear is everyday; big knickers, 100 denier tights, bras with the label sticking out. In the discussion, Sadie said that she wanted the portraits to be real and mundane. She deliberately used a harsh light, to challenge traditional notions of female portraiture equalling female beauty. Her aim was to contest the thought that a portrait of a woman has to be flattering.

The portrait of herself was based on Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus, where the model is purportedly using her hand to hide her genitals, but could equally be masturbating.


Sleeping Venus, by Giorgione,

Sadie’s self-portrait replicates this pose, but turned away from the viewer in order to make the pose “more threatening”. She explained that by turning her back on the viewer, she removes complicity in the voyeurism. The subject knows that the viewer is there, but is performing the act for herself and not them. Sadie’s portraits lie in direct contrast to the European tradition of the female nude, in which the subject displays her nudity for the observing male’s pleasure. John Berger sums this up in Ways of Seeing “In the art-form of the European nude the painters and the spectator-owners were usually men and the persons treated as objects, usually women. This unequal relationship is so deeply embedded in our culture that it still structures the consciousness of many women. They do to themselves what men do to them” – I really hope Venus Williams actively sought out her nude photoshoot of herself as a Venus!


Portrait of Sadie Lee, by Sarah Jane Moon

Sarah Jane Moon’s portraits were created with the aim of giving her sitters agency. The fact that they are all painters was important to her, and she wanted to show them as creators in their own right. Each of the portraits was painted from visiting the artist in their own studio, and the studio features as a backdrop. Each of the artists is also featured holding a tool of their painting. The subjects all stare back at the viewer, making eye contact which is direct and unapologetic and could even be described as challenging. The paintings show that in each case the viewed is also the viewer.


Self Portrait in a Straw Hat, by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

Sarah’s portraits made me remember the self-portraits of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, the 18th century French painter, and the thoughts of Griselda Pollock on this piece in particular. The artist has painted herself with the tools of her profession, but she is also portrayed as unambiguously female. She is well groomed, well dressed and beautiful. The shadow of her hat across her face and her gaze avoid confrontation. Her mouth is slightly parted in a demure smile. Pollock says that the aim of the piece is still to create a spectacle for us, the viewer, as through Western art history there has always been “an insuperable distance between the notion of the artist and the notion of a woman”.

Sarah’s pieces also critique the tradition of portraying the male artist in his studio, with his female (nude) model. In two of her portraits, we see completed works, or works-in-progress depicting naked female bodies. Within the discussion, it was revealed that one of the pieces behind Sadie was actually a self-portrait, further subverting the idea.


The Artist’s Studio, by Gustav Courbet


Lucian Freud, shot for Vanity Fair

Although each of the Threesome painters has a very distinct style, and is aiming to explore different things within their work, the discussion also drew out common themes. The idea of agency seemed very relevant. It seemed important to each of the artists that they were not simply producing a passive image of someone, but were creating a piece where the subject was active, dynamic and powerful – in some cases, stripping the viewer of their agency and relegating them to the role of passive consumer.

The discussion ended with the questioning of what is different about the female gaze. The panellists mentioned ideas of empathy, truth and respect; possibly even love, certainly from a queer female perspective. The point was also raised as to whether defining the female gaze was reductive. Is art created by women inherently different to that created by men? Should differentiation even be employed between art created by women and that of men?



Anna McNay, Sadie Lee, Sarah Jane Moon, Roxana Halls and Ursula Martinez in conversation

There was also the acknowledgement that the idea of the female is seen through a history of the male dominated society. Notions of femaleness, and queerness are both linked to notions of otherness, perpetuated in the Western art tradition, so what does being ‘female’ even mean – how can this be defined in a society which has always just seen ‘female’ in opposition to ‘male’ and ‘queer’ in opposition to ‘heterosexual’.

The theory of there being a somehow unified female gaze also implies that there is a shared way of looking which links women through history and across the world. Griselda Pollock also references these kinds of theories that art produced by women has commonality, saying that this idea will “…efface the fact that although women as a sex have been oppressed in most societies, their oppression, and the way they have lived it, or even resisted, has varied from society to society, and period to period, from class to class. This historicity of women’s oppression and resistance disappears when all women are placed in a homogenous category based on the commonest and most unhistoricized denominator”.

Many of these discussions and debates are far to large and unwieldy to continue here, but I am sure that we will touch on them again in our various exhibition visits. I also again recommend getting down to see the show for yourself before it closes. It is also running on conjunction with 3X3, also curated by Anna McNay, which is a photographic show from 9 queer female artists.

Threesome opened on 11 January 2018 and runs until 4 March 2018 at New Art Projects, London.

I learnt a lesson today about feminism… by Corrina Eastwood

I learnt a lesson today about feminism; particularly about white feminism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always learning; I always try to be open to learning. I try to accept that the more I know, the more I know nothing, in everything I do. I try hard at this; I’m always making mistakes. Sometimes I’m more open to accepting I’ve made a mistake than others. Sometimes I can’t admit it at all, but today I really learnt something important and I want to admit it openly.

Sweet ‘Art was and continues to be something that I have put my all in to. Along with Charlotte, I have worked endless hours with no pay. I have borrowed money for Sweet ‘Art and lent money to it, to ensure every show was right, back when it wasn’t able to sustain itself. I have asked good, capable people deserving of fair pay to work for free, which is hard and which they have done. I have endured abuse, from white men who feel we leave them out due to our values and mission to privilege the voices of women and those marginalised in the arts. I have suffered abuse from artists who are frustrated that despite our tireless efforts, we just somehow didn’t get it right for them. I have also endured criticism from artists who we have not been able to accept into our shows, as we keep artistic standards very high, despite the difficulty we experience in rejecting artists. We hate excluding anyone but we are passionate about good accomplished art and about critical intersectional feminist thinking. We don’t just exhibit the work of everyone, despite this being a way that we could be more financially stable. Of course we have also endured nasty misogynistic abuse from trolls on the BBC online, but that was actually quite fun!

Despite it all I have kept going because although we always have so much to learn, I always felt it was doing something important for activism, for the arts and for women. I really truly believed in it.

Sweet ‘Art launched in 2012 on International Women’s Day with Show #1. I decided I wanted to create an art event that celebrated women’s day as there were none in London at the time, at least that I could find to attend. I wanted it to be a show that addressed women’s issues and I wanted to make vagina cupcakes. That was it, that was my plan. I think we did well; over 400 people came out to the opening, everyone was buzzing; we had booze sponsors and press interest, but we also fucked up some. I only made white vagina cupcakes as it didn’t cross my mind to make vagina cupcakes that may belong to women of colour, and the idea that not all women have vaginas, or that not everyone who has a vagina is a woman was nowhere in my consciousness at all at that time. Not at all. My black friends didn’t mention the cupcakes, the utter lack of my even considering a skin like theirs. A skin that wasn’t like mine. An experience that wasn’t like mine. I noticed this myself half way through the event as I proudly handed them out, I was mortified. On INTERNATIONAL women’s day!

I still make the vag cupcakes for some of our events; some women do have vaginas and we like the cakes. I make them in all different skin tones now and froth when I order the fondant icing online, with the off-pink being categorised as ‘skin colour’ and the brown as ‘teddy bear brown’. NOT ALL SKIN IS PINK! But I was there once. I did that once.

So that was one lesson out of many but the one I want to share now, like most lessons well learnt had to come at the expense of my feelings, not that of anyone else’s. Ironically, considering the lesson.

It was a lesson learnt through realising that there can be a type of feminism that only serves a certain type of person. That it can be well-meaning but it comes from a place of privilege and a complete lack of outward-looking; a lack of acknowledging one’s privilege and keeping it in check; a lack of consideration that what is good for you may not be good for others; a lack of realising that feminism is about all women (and men coz ya know patriarchy sucks for us all right?). That if it doesn’t serve us all then it doesn’t serve any of us. I knew this before, but I’m not sure I totally KNEW it. I always felt anyone calling themselves a feminist was a good thing; that any type of feminism is a good thing; any action in its name is good. Lets not in-fight, I always thought.

As I have noted we struggle as an organisation, we are a feminist not-for-profit arts organisation, I mean of course we would struggle, the struggle is the point right?

Well when one of our interns pointed out that an arts organisation run by two white guys, on our doorstep in Shoreditch were calling for artists to take part in their next Nasty Women exhibition, that will take place this time on International Woman’s Day 2018, I struggled with this news, actually my heart sank. The last Nasty Women exhibition this organisation hosted as far as I can tell was a great success in terms of turnout. As far as I know all artists are exhibited for free. I also believe that all art that is submitted will be exhibited.

Firstly if all artists exhibit for free the money must come from somewhere and this organisation, that sprung up a couple of years ago seems to have a lot of it. Good for them I say! They also seem to have good contacts, good sponsorship deals and even give profits for the Nasty Women shows to charity. Good for them I say! I’m sure they work hard but I know for a fact that they won’t have had to work as hard as us and they will have had privileges we haven’t…. but ya know….good for them!

…but unfortunately it will be bad for us. Despite the fact that we have been doing this for years, that we are women that live the feminist cause (I write on the subject and lecture on integrating feminist intersectional thinking into art psychotherapy practice. I have worked front line with women who are survivors of all that the patriarchy has had to throw at them and been a casualty myself.) Despite the fact that we curate seriously, we don’t just exhibit everyone, because a naïve belief that all art by any women is feminist art is dangerous in terms of activism. We don’t just pop #feministart next to all of our insta posts and hope it makes it so. We actually do a fair bit of thinking.

Despite all of this, of course artists will not pay to exhibit their work with us, so we can cover our costs, when the big boys are doing it for free.

So…the irony that a rich white male run organisation will host a ‘feminist’ exhibition on International Women’s Day and sink and ultimately silence an actual women run feminist not-for-profit arts organisation in the process, does not escape us. You have got to love that patriarchy right?! In fact this organisation seems to be hosting quite a few ‘feminist’ exhibitions now, it seems to have become their thing.

Nasty Women was and will be curated by a woman, it isn’t all men at the helm as I’m sure they will argue. I am of course glad a young women is interested in feminism and wants to host this show, but surely I can be forgiven for being slightly irked when I read her instagram posts, naïvely asking if people have been watching the news lately about Harvey Weinstein. “It’s so relevant right now. (heart eyes emoji) It’s important in society today and bringing this to London, it’s important to me that women have their voices heard”

It’s so relevant right now…. Let’s listen to women’s voices….. Well listen to this….

This is what privilege does, it makes you feel everything is yours for the taking and every thought you have is the first; that you are doing it all for the right reasons and that you will save everyone with your idea. It makes you throw money at a fashionable skinny white girl version of a ‘movement’ that actually silences the voices of some women, of the people who have been slogging away for years at this so “relevant now” cause, and it enables you do it all without even noticing, because you haven’t looked further than your own instagram likes, read a book or acknowledged the shoulders on which you stand that laid the foundations for you to do it all in the first place.

So as I pondered the situation, of two white men taking our thing for the lols, it suddenly hit me, all of a sudden I KNEW, something that before I had only known, and I felt a bit ashamed.

I knew that this is what it feels like to be silenced by your lack of privilege by people who have that privilege and just don’t see it, in the name of a movement you thought could do no wrong. I wondered if at Sweet ‘Art we ever did that. I wondered if I ever did that. I thought about women of colour who talk about white feminism. I thought about trans women and sex workers who talk about feeling excluded from a certain type of feminism.

Its not the same, I’m in no way saying it’s the same but it none the less made me KNOW a bit more.

We may or may not host our own women’s day show again in 2018, but what ever we do, we will do it with this knowledge and if we continue we will continue to honour our values. We will try harder to reach out more, to look out more, and we will continue our dedication to partnership. We will try and build stronger relationships with other feminist arts organizations, particularly those that are run by women of colour and trans women. We will do better, because we have a lot to learn.

I’m sure the Nasty Women IWD show will be a great success. I hear from lots of sources that the curation and organization of the last one was, well, interesting! It takes experience to get it right, it takes years of getting it wrong, and I hear the curator is very new to feminist art show curation, so let’s give her time. If only she had a women run feminist arts organization with years of curating experience, just on the doorstep that could have and would have been happy to help!




If you are an organisation that would like to partner with Sweet ‘Art, if you would like to make a donation or would like to get in touch about the content of this blog post please do so via our website wearesweetart.com  

Why are there so few Womxn Gamers? Written by Gwendolyn Faker

The sexism and discrimination we see in gaming is a self fulfilling prophecy; while video games and advertising were initially gender-neutral, advertising began to narrow its focus to young boys as a target market following the video game crash of 1983. Since then a toxic culture has grown up around a mandate of exclusion and discrimination.

The sexism and discrimination we see in gaming is a self fulfilling prophecy; while video games and advertising were initially gender-neutral, advertising began to narrow its focus to young boys as a target market following the video game crash of 1983. Since then a toxic culture has grown up around a mandate of exclusion and discrimination.

Where critics and curators are the gate keepers of the art world, in gaming, well, it’s just dude bros (also known as broflakes). They’re the gamer archetype we all know and loathe; the straight white man aged 13-35 shouting obscenities into a headset ‘schooling newbs’ and shouting about how he’ll ‘face fuck your mum’. For the past 30 years we’ve watched as womxn and womxns bodies used as bullseyes, objects of sexual desire, props, plot-points, trophies and decoration. Honestly it’s tiring, and a big turn off for many would be gamers.

Hi, I’m Gwendolyn, I’m 30 years old(so I was born just after the Atari Shock of ’83). I identify as queer and non-binary/gender fluid and I’ve been gaming since I was 4 years old. I’ve been plugged into a NES, a SNES, a Sega, a Gameboy, a N64, a PlayStation, or an Xbox console for most of my life, playing adventure, role playing, puzzle, and PVP fighter games. I’ve whiled away hours in front of a computer screen! Playing old school DOS games when does games were still new school. I’ve played Myst, Oregon Trail, Sims, and in my late teens had a brief but passionate tryst with the MMORPG World of Warcraft that culminated in a 26 hour long binge and the resulting re-evaluation of where my life was headed. I’m no stranger to board and table top games and have known to throw down in Settlers of Catan as well as RISK despite my abhorrence  for colonisation and war and I once sustained a concussion while playing a Monopoly.

Nowadays I don’t play as often as I used to, but I make a point of staying up to date with what’s new, and what’s happening in the industry, especially when it comes to technology, and issues of diversity and representation.

The latest statistics show that 48% of females play games, and 50% of males play games, so why does it seem womxn are still being excluded from gaming?

“Statistically gaming is very male dominated in terms of whose making the games … and how the subject of the games are swell… so you have these groups of dudes who don’t think women should be involved [in] gaming or think we’ve only just got interested in gaming so they have this sense of well we played games because we were bullied in school and it was a way for us to escape being the geeks, how dare you come in all of a sudden and care about games and try to change them, this deep sense of entitlement [of] this is our den our boys club and how dare you try and infiltrate them.”Anita Sarkeesian, Feminist Frequency

If this sounds familiar it may be because these same attitudes exist about womxn and ART. Sylvia Stone, when answering the question posed by Lina Nochlin ‘Why have there been no Great Women Artists?’, wrote of there being ‘…a sneaking fear of being called a man hater or having the label of penis envy slapped on them in this Freudian age, perhaps they just enjoyed being one of the boys. But these feelings are slowly turning around…’ this self policing, and self doubt, are direct results of this exclusionary culture and it’s disparaging of attitudes towards womxn in gaming(and art).

In terms of evolutionary psychology we know that “female-initiated disruption of a male hierarchy incites hostile behaviour from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status” and it’s been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN “men who harass women online are actually losers” but that isn’t little comfort when you’re being told to ‘show your tits’ in exchange for gold on the busy a market streets in Ironforge.

The changes we’re seeing (growing diversity and representation) haven’t come about on their own. They’re not a benign development. They’ve been fought hard for.  Thanks to critics and academics like Anita Sarkeesian, Kishonna Gray, Emma Vosen, Kellee Santiago and Jennifer Jenson, we are finally starting to see the industry evolve past it’s caveman attitudes.

But like all social change there is backlash: #GAMERGATE.

While industry professionals have pointed the finger to condemn the #GAMERGATE ‘for damaging the video gaming community and the public perception of the industry’ they’re also partly responsible. In 2007 a study by Miller and Summers (2007) found that, “Of the 49 games included in the analysis, 282 male humans and 53 female human characters appeared, indicating 1 female for every 5.3 male characters”. They’re the ones creating homogenous content, and they’re the ones marketing it. A 2016 study showed nearly 75% of the industry was male. They as the makers of games are reinforcing the idea of gaming as a ‘boys club’ with just about everything they do right down to their hiring practices.

Admitting there’s a problem in gaming is the first step, the question is where do we go from here? The industry itself so far seems unwilling to admit the role they’ve played and would rather point the finger elsewhere. If they could I’m sure they would take #GAMERGATE, and everything it’s dredged up and brought to the light of day, and have it buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in New Mexico like so many unsold video game cartridges.

Thirty years after the Atari Shock, and the subsequent shift in the marketing of video games(from something for everyone to something just for boys), the industry has FINALLY begun to accept what the statistics that have long shown; WOMXN PLAY VIDEO GAMES. It took something as extreme as #GAMERGATE to get the industry thinking about how it treats womxn and the effects that has had on broader cultural attitudes.

Sweet Art put together a panel of womxn gamers and get their ideas and opinions on gaming, their experiences with gamer culture, and what changes they’d like to see;

  • Bernadette, is 31, a Writer for a popular online gaming media outlet, and a Mom.
  • Sarah, is 27, is a lesbian, and works as Theatre Artist.
  • Kelly, is 30, a hairdresser and creative. She has OCD, depression, and Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Penelope, is 23, is studying for a Bachelor of Design (Games), and currently works for a technology company that develops free-roam virtual reality systems.
  • Laura, is 28, an Artist and Arts Educator.

What’s the first game you remember playing? How old were you? How did it make you feel?

Sarah: My mother has a photo of me when I’m incredibly young, [maybe] 2 years old, with my brother (6 years my senior) playing a game on the NES. In this photo, I’m happily sitting next to him with a wide smile, clutching the controller for player 2, and clearly have no idea what I’m doing. I’m willing to bet my brother let me button mash my way through my early childhood. I also remember going to my Aunt’s house for family dinners, where my oldest cousin had a SNES, and I’d be allowed to play it for a while after supper, usually playing Yoshi’s Island, probably because I thought Yoshi was a cute character. I’d have been around 6 or 7 at this point. The first time I remember gaming leaving a lasting feeling with me, though, is when Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came out for N64. I was at the house of a friend whose father owned the local video store, so they always had access to the newest movies and games. They’d hooked up a projector to the system, and I remember standing in the basement as my friend’s older brother rode around Hyrule, showing us Link’s moves, Epona, and the songs you could play on the Ocarina. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. The graphics were beautiful when I compared them to anything else I’d played, there was a cute horse you got to have as your companion, and the melodies on the ocarina had me entranced. Needless to say, I was hooked, and the rest is history.

Bernadette: I’m 31, have had a mild obsession with games since I can remember and find that it both alienates and brings me closer to people. I’m not great at making friends my age and find that is often due to a lack of mutual interests: I don’t care about your kitchen remodel, and you don’t care about my speed run times! It’s hard. My 11yr old son is on the spectrum and has always had a knack for strategy games and video games. It makes having something in common so easy for us while also giving me joy to see my little nerd excel at something. I don’t play online anymore; I have kinda been scared away. I get addicted and spend too much time so that when I end up having a negative experience in something I have invested so much time and energy on, it really bothers me and turns me off the game. I write for [an online gaming media outlet] and have for several years, but I struggle to break into anything more in the game world as I’m not tech savvy, I’m a writer but don’t know how to get more involved. Games are life!

Laura: I never actually grew up with any games. My parents refused to buy me and my sister any gaming consoles apart from a shared original game-boy. It was technically my sister’s so I could only play it every now and then, until she quickly lost interest (being 3 years older than me). I collected more and more games and defeated each and every castle and saved every princess with vigour. When my parents visited their friends, I’d go just so I could sneak up to their attic and play on their SNES (that I still pine over). As I got older I would sneak onto my father’s laptop to play wheel of fortune or “you don’t know jack”, even though I never truly enjoyed trivia games. Basically I got my unknown fix wherever I could. By the time I was a teenager I had developed a taste for gore. Being a goth-y teenager in a small town, I was frequently teased… So I would play PC games to try and escape the reality that was my teenage years. Now that’ I’m an adult I always feel the pang to play, but feel like I rarely have time to actually play. I still stick to PC games, simply because I kick serious ass in them, and I tend to fumble a bit with console controllers. Looking back on my childhood I now realise that gaming was a means to deal with General Anxiety Disorder, which I was officially diagnosed with in my mid twenties.

What games do you play most (RPG, PVP, MMORPG, BOARD, etc)? What are you favourites? How do you chose which games to play?

Sarah: I’ve had so many favourites over the years. These days I would say I mostly play RPG or MMORPG games. Some old favourites include Harvest Moon 64, Ocarina of Time, all Pokemon games, Majora’s Mask and a good game of Smash Bros. or Mario Party when with a group of friends. Recent favourites in the last few years have been The Last of Us (the story of and bond between Joel and Ellie had me in tears by the end), Skyrim (for the vast landscape, epic story elements and immersive sense of fantasy), Witcher 3 (I was really invested in Geralt’s story both as a Witcher and as a man struggling with the relationships he has with those around him), Uncharted 4 (the gameplay was so fun, and the sense of adventure and excitement was incredibly addictive) and, most recently, Horizon Zero Dawn (for its look into mankind’s use of technology/how far is too far, the examination of mankind’s connection to the Earth itself, and also for its feminist protagonist.) I’ve always played other games like Animal Crossing, Minecraft, Just Dance, Guitar Hero, Destiny and the like, but those are more titles I play for fun or with friends. The ones I’ve talked about more thoroughly in these answers are the ones that keep me playing week after week, and really fuel my passion for gaming.

Laura: Typically the games I chose are based on reviews, or how it looks. I know the saying “never judge a book by it’s cover” but sometimes you just want something with dark hallways and crazy weapons, not fields of butterflies. That being said, I like user reviews. If it’s extremely popular and seems mentally challenging, I’ll give it a try. It has to have a good story line or purpose. I don’t like doing super repetitive things with little outcome. I tend to like creepy-ish games. There’s a cool one that’s coming out soon that I’m really excited for, called “We Happy Few”. It looks exactly like the type of thing I’m into.

Penelope: I like a range of game types. My favourites tend to be social party games, or PvE games of any platform. I enjoy spending time with other people and those games enable that. I also love sim games such as the Sims or Animal Crossing. I like making things and personalising them. I look for games that have an appealing art style, interesting story, or are based around an interesting idea. It also depends on how socially progressive the game is (how is gender portrayed? Does is reinforce negative stereotypes of race, gender, sexuality etc?)  For example Dragon Quest looks super fun and cute, but I hate the way the people are drawn and so only tried it once. Games that reinforce negative stereotypes of any type (gender, race etc) through art/design I’ll also be less likely to play, or feel comfortable with. Games with exceptional design (characters, animation, art, everything) such as Overwatch and Breath of the Wild I am extremely attracted to.

Gwendolyn: I have never been able to play first person anything, it makes me so nauseas, I have dyspraxia so that may have something to do with it. I’ve lways preferred games with a story, something that let me be someone else for a few hours and see and do things I’d never done before. Games like Harvest Moon, Monster Hunter, Ōkami, Fable, and Monster Rancher are my favourite titles. That being said I love PVP Fighter games like Eternal Champions, Bloody Roar, and Street Fighter, mostly because as a kid they allowed me to beat the shit out of my siblings. I like cute games, and I would be lying if I didn’t say art didn’t play a HUGE part it what I chose to play. Now I am more discerning about what I play than I was as a kid or even as a teenager, I won’t play games that rely on tropes or perpetuate stereotypes.

What has changed since you first starting gaming?

Kelly: My view of games and the kinds of games that I like vs the type of games I thought I would like. I really like The Darkness and Farcry which are pretty horrible in terms of story and all that. I don’t believe in “putting aside your feminism” to watch/play/whatever, basically consume something that doesn’t align perfect with your feminism. I mean, let’s be real, if I were to do that I’d literally watch nothing. I guess I’m a lot more into violence that I imagined and also I’m a run straight into the danger vs hide n’ wait until it passes type which surprises me.

Gwendolyn: When I started gaming everything was so basic, clunky 2d 16bit was the newest thing and now we’ve got these games with totally immersive 3D world. We have virtual reality games now! I think though, the really disappointing thing is that while the technology has been hurtling into the future faster than the speed of light attitudes about gaming and gamer culture hasn’t progressed passed dial-up. It’s old fashioned, and if you do something you’re ‘not supposed to’ like play while female you get this horrible non-sensible screeching sound. Games are still marketed almost exclusively to men and boys, most titles are still shoot-em-ups and when we actually do get an expansive sandbox game(GTA) it’s full of sexism, rape, and racism, which means I sure as hell am not playing it. I think now post Gamer Gate we’ve seen game makers start to recognise that they’re part of the problem, and have started to make changes.

Penelope: Games are getting a lot more inclusive. For example Pokemon Red was also one of my first games, now in Pokemon I can choose my gender and skin colour where I could not before. There is also a little bit more diversity in the main characters of AAA games. Games companies are being held more accountable for lack of diversity. With indie games and the increased choice around games, there’s no one way to be a gamer anymore, and it’s easier to find diverse games in both gameplay or characters.

Laura: I think the community has changed since I first started gaming too. It’s more acceptable now for literally anyone to be a gamer without being pressured or tested regularly on how much they know. People realise now that it’s fun. It’s a release, an escape. You still get the idiot that tries to call you out, but I think there’s more variation of people with access to games now, which not only widens demographics, but also makes gaming more acceptable and less challenged in society. It’s like reading Fifty Shades of Black on the subway: Everyone knows you’re reading porn, but it’s totally acceptable. Does that analogy make sense?

Do you see yourself represented in Games? Do you feel included in the ‘Gamer’ community? What still needs to change? What would you like those who create games to know? What would you like to see in the future?

Penelope: I tend to avoid most gaming communities. Most public gaming events I’ve attended I have felt uncomfortable at, being almost always the only girl. Also being queer, non-monogamous, and not-white leaves me feeling safer and most comfortable gaming with friends or people whom I know are good. I sometimes see parts of myself being represented, and each time is like a breath of fresh air, and I feel a little more like myself. I generally see this through custom character customisation allowing me to be female or have dark skin. I never see my non-monogamous side portrayed in a positive light.

Laura:  I always felt sort of strange. Boys would hit in my in-game because I was a girl, or they’d make fun of me and I’d gank the shit out of them. In real-life a lot of people saw it as a ploy I think: “fake gamer girls” and all that. More so now than when I was a teenager. Back then I was a huge tomboy. I didn’t fit in with most “stereotypically girly” things. It just didn’t feel right. As I grew older and discovered more about myself and what it meant to be me, I learned to embrace them. As a (mostly) straight cis female (still wear all black and looove makeup by the way) I tend to get picked on when people find out I’m a bit of a nerd. I read comic books, play video games, (I also play roller derby, and the bagpipes). Those things help make up who I am. Yes I have people challenge them all the time, particularly guys. I get asked typical questions to “challenge” us apparently “fake geek girls”. Just because I don’t know the exact name and clip size of every single weapon in all the games I’ve ever played, doesn’t prove anything. I feel uncomfortable telling big gamers that I like to game because since I got a “grown-up job” I don’t play as much. That makes me judge myself, assuming that they’re judging me. Plus I hate looking like an idiot by not being able to follow along chit chat on games I don’t know anything about. It just perpetuates the “fake gamer” stereotype, like I’m supposed to know every game. It sucks because I do like talking about the games that I play, and that fear of bringing it up to people definitely hinders me.

Kelly: I’d love less slurs, [and] more gender diverse characters – especially if you’re creating a character physically – why should the first thing you have to choose be “male” or “female”? It’s outdated and boring. If I can be purple with green spikes a square jaw and GIANT tits what the fuck does gender have to do with it? If you’re telling a story, or you want to tell a story but that story isn’t your experience for the love of satan please either don’t tell it or find people who’s story it is to make sure you’ve got it right. I would like men to stop being gatekeepers. I would like more Ashly Burch… that’s just me being a sucker for funny, smart, nerds. I would [also] like Fallout 4’s township building element to not suck.

Sarah: There are many games on the market today that I’ve played and raved about afterwards. I think the tech is sitting in a good place these days. Game controls (for the most part) feel intuitive, the graphics are cool, there’s a lot of good design work and attention to detail in many of the titles I’ve played in the past year. I think the industry has to be careful about getting a bit complacent; I’ve played games recently where I’ve had the thought of “oh this bit of gameplay here is exactly like what so-and-so did in that other game.” That’s all just from a mechanics point of view, though. In video games, as in TV, movies, real life in general, the main thing I’d love to see is more representation. Of all people, of all genders, races, sexualities, classes, etc. It could be my identity as a gay woman, but I want to see more ladies kickin’ ass and takin’ names! So many developers are taking time to really flesh out characters and give them compelling story arcs, it’d be nice to see this diversify and continue to be a part of what makes games so great.

We’ve spoken to the players, the makers, and the critics and there seems to be consensus; games are important, they’re a big part of a lot of womxns lives, but the culture and attitudes around womxn in gaming are lagging.

There are still battles to be fought and as we’ve seen; womxn are playing to win. With more and more womxn entering the industry everyday from all sides it won’t be long before we’ll have defeated the final boss(sexism).

Written for We Are Sweet Art by Gwendolyn Faker