Hypatia vol. 15, no. 3 (Summer 2000) © by Amy Mullin
Art, Understanding, andPolitical Change
Feminist artworks can be a resource in our attempt to understand individualidentities as neither singular nor ﬁxed, and in our related attempts both to theorize andto practice forms of connection to others that do not depend on shared identities.Engagement with these works has the potential to
increase our critical social con-sciousness, making us more aware of oppression and privilege, and more committedto overcoming oppression.
In what follows, I argue that feminist artworks can be a resource
in ourattempt to understand individual identities as neither singular nor ﬁxed, andin our related attempts both to theorize and practice forms of connection toothers that do not depend on shared identities. Engagement with feministworks of art, particularly those that address multiple dimensions of individualand group identities, has the potential to
increase what I will call, followingFreire, our critical social consciousness, such that we can increasingly “identi-fy societal power relationships of oppression and privilege and believe themtransformable through resistant action” (Jennings 1995, 244).In order to justify my claim that some feminist artworks can contribute toour understanding of the complexity of our own and others’ selves and sociallocations, I need to do several things. I will (1) begin by giving examples of thekinds of feminist artworks which I ﬁnd especially helpful in increasing thisunderstanding, works that explore various ways in which women’s diverseidentities and social locations interact. I will next (2) explain why these worksare feminist, but will also make it clear that these are not the only sorts of artworks I consider to be feminist.After I give examples of feminist artworks and evaluate the extent to whichthey may be helpful in increasing critical social consciousness, I will then (3)explore the understanding of the self that was presupposed by my analysis.