Neil Roberts

Roberts, Neil,

"On the Other Side"

ed: Marcon, Marco, Praxis M, Article, # 18 1987. pp. 45

Neil Roberts

Statement in response to the ARTEMIS Women’s Art Forum Panel: As a male artist in an actively patriarchal society, does this create any pressure, and how does it affect you as a person and your art practice?

I found myself too perturbed by the final panel (Fri. 11th Sept.) to speak up then and there, but I don’t want the record of that forum to go unquestioned. As personally difficult as it may have been for the men to say what they did, and as uncomfortable as I may feel about speaking out against my own sex at a time when men need to develop new and supportive solidarity, I don’t want what was said yesterday to be taken as an indication of the depth of male understanding of, or attention to the issues involved.

I did not see any of the four panellists at the earlier sessions, and whatever their individual reasons for their absence, it left them all sadly oblivious to the articulate, informed and especially considered responses offered by the eight women in the first panel session.

That level of debate, and the body of critical theory that informs it, is not only known to some men, it is also beginning to be paired with similar debate and theory particular to issues of maleness, rather than the issues that have arisen and continue to arise out of the changing consciousness of women.

Men’s groups or gatherings have functioned in cities like Adelaide, Sydney and Canberra, and quite probably elsewhere, since the early 80’s, exploring ourselves, our politics and our shared desires, with women, to alter the power structures that dictate so much of our potential and our false limits to us all, male and female.

Language is understood, by some, to be the tool of those power structures, to reflect our deepest conditionings and conversely to be in the vanguard of change.

At this time, in what has been called the foreground to the second realm of feminism, men are beginning our own initiatives to add to the weight of change brought on by women. We are not only sympathetic to feminism, we are also actively engaged in a deconstruction of the myths of maleness, in theory and hopefully more and more in the way we live our lives.

As honourable as yesterday may have been, it seemed to me to be only a pale shadow of what it could have been. I hope it won’t inhibit other attempts to bring men and women together, to exchange, and to share in our progress.

The challenge for men is to convince ourselves that, we, as oppressors, have so much to gain by relinquishing our “power”.