As a white British person living in Britain I should not feel under-represented in my daily life. But as a white British WOMAN this sometimes happens.
I am sure that our black sons must have often felt “different” as they grew up – perhaps on campsites when we were on holiday? In a forthcoming post I intend to write more about camping abroad, but today I want to talk about “feeling under-represented” generally.
We hear how black British actors frequently find that they have to go to the United States in order to get acting roles. This should not be necessary. We have many talented black actors in Britain. Our films and television programmes should reflect our multicultural society. I remember hearing Malorie Blackman saying how excited she and her black friends were in their childhood when black characters first started appearing on television programmes. They passed the news round to all their friends up and down her street and great was the rejoicing!
I have only once felt animosity against myself as a white person and that was in swimming baths in Singapore. I had taken our two very young daughters swimming while D. was at a meeting. Perhaps white people did not often go to those swimming baths. I do not know. Anyway, we were soon mobbed and splashed by a whole crowd of unfriendly people. The splashing frightened the girls, who were only aged about 5 and 3. I complained to the swimming bath attendants, but they simply smirked. We got out of the water and tried to make our retreat as dignified as possible under the circumstances. This was not particularly traumatic for me and to be honest I wondered whether I had made a mistake in thinking that we could swim there. Perhaps this episode was partly my fault? But the jeering faces had upset our little girls and I felt guilty about that.
Feeling underrepresented as a woman is altogether of a different order. As far as I knew, there was parity of salary for male and female members of staff at most of the offices I worked in. Of course I was never privy to salaries, but that is what I imagined. I am so shocked to find that this is often not so in organisations today. How can it be that women are paid less for the same work? This appals me.
When we visited Rome and had a trip to the Vatican, I felt extremely under-represented. Male nudes can be beautiful but I began to wonder why the female body was not equally celebrated. I had this overwhelming feeling again when we visited Florence. I am sure that people who know much more about Art than I do, will be able to cite many famous statues of women. Of course I know of The Three Graces and have enjoyed seeing them at Tate Britain. There are also many famous statues of Diana around the world.
I was very interested recently to hear that a 19th century sculpture of two young women dancing has been saved for the Nation. Individuals and organisations had to raise a large sum of money to prevent it going to the United States of America. I saw a photograph of the statue in the Evening Standard and resolved to go and see it before it goes back to its home in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.
The sixth Duke of Argyll commissioned this sculpture. The work is by Italian artist Lorenzo Bartolini, called “The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz”. It dates from 1821 and is on view at the Victoria & Albert Museum until 20th November. Here is my photo, together with another beautiful sculpture of a young peasant woman nursing her baby. A photographer would take a better photo, but this reminds me perfectly of the statue. I recommend going to see it in real life.
I believe this is ‘Peasant woman nursing her baby’, by Jules Dalou 1873. I think that one day soon I shall have to go back to the V&A to check that I have attributed this delightful sculpture correctly.
Extra note: As someone who is currently suffering from a painful heel, I so appreciate the V&A’s plentiful supply of wheelchairs that enable disabled people to get round the Museum. This is clearly stretching my theme somewhat, but it is a good example of including of all kinds of people.
Thinking of these two sculptures makes me as a woman feel better-represented. It would be good if all kinds of people could be better-represented.