NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Unravelling the ‘Double Bind’ of Women Artists through the Student-as-Partners Approach

By Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz and Dr Linda Clark — Women-artists often encounter a “double-bind” which involves an irreconcilable social demand of being “too much or not enough” within their personal lives and professional careers (Catalyst 2007; Williams 2018). The pressures of juggling family responsibilities and career are further exacerbated by making this undertaking appear effortless, with this overall set up leading to never being “good enough.”

In academia, the double-bind dilemma manifests for women as competing demands with no clear path provided as to which of these demands to pursue as well as having limited possibility of fulfilling the demands (Jenkins 2014). These competing demands can include the juggling of teaching or study and the expectation for prolific creative outcomes, while simultaneously being wary of coming across as “too assertive” or being “too visible,” as not unsettle the status quo. In turn, this highlights the ongoing need for more inclusive, ethical and sustainable educational practices in creative arts higher education.

Linda Clark, Bearing Witness: Absence 2019. Timber, fabric, wire, video projection 55 seconds looped. Installation dimensions variable. Used with permission. Photo Credits: Anna SingletonLinda Clark, Bearing Witness: Absence 2019. Timber, fabric, wire, video projection 55 seconds looped. Installation dimensions variable. Used with permission. Photo Credits: Anna Singleton

Collaborative approaches that develop support networks and communities of practice for women academics and students are therefore vital and are a way of disseminating the often-rigid hierarchal power structures within academic institutions. A central component of this is not only strengthening collaborations and forms of mentoring among women academics themselves but also with their students who may also be encountering similar experiences. Opportunities for these more equitable academic relationships show the potential to link the increased agency that evolves from these collaborations with increased gender equity in academic institutions (Acai, Mercer-Mapstone & Guitman 2019).

One collaborative strategy which addresses these power imbalances that we have enacted and experienced to achieve sustainable practice in creative arts education at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) is the Students as Partners (SaP) approach. Contextually, USQ has created a SaP framework in alignment with the TEQSA Higher Education Standards Framework 2015 and USQ’s Academic Plan 2019-2022. The framework’s purpose is to ensure inclusive student participation in the decision-making processes across the university. In turn, this instils a university ethos of “students and staff working together to enhance the quality of learning, teaching and the entire student experience” (USQ Student as Partners Framework, 2021).

The significance of the SaP approach is that it seeks to break down existing power imbalances within higher education and open up meaningful spaces for dialogue between students and staff and the capacity to effectively work together (Matthews et al., 2018). More specifically, the SaP approach is about enacting a “collaborative, reciprocal process through which all participants have the opportunity to contribute equally, although not necessarily in the same ways, to curricular or pedagogical conceptualisation, decision-making, implementation, investigation, or analysis” (Cook-Sather, Bovill, & Felten, 2014, pp. 6-7). In this way, one potential key to unravelling the double-bind is through demystifying commonly held public and private beliefs about women by making the invisible, visible (Williams 2018, p. 83). This can be directly explored through SaP as an approach that can facilitate opportunities for both student and staff to uncover unspoken dialogue through their creative practice.

As two regional Queensland-based art practitioners, we, (Batorowicz and Clark) have enacted the SaP approach since the early stages of Batorowicz’s academic career. The approach was developed throughout Clark’s undergraduate and eventual doctorate study at USQ and has led to the beginning of Clark’s own career as an academic. For example, Batorowicz provided a platform for staff and student collaboration by facilitating touring exhibition projects which enabled Clark to exhibit with nationally and internationally renowned contemporary women artists-academics. These connections created important artist-academic support networks that centralised women’s art practice. Though each artist seeks to assert their own agency, both explore and uncover the tensions that women artists experience throughout their careers, as their male artists continue to dominate the industry and art cultural discourses (Australia Council, 2017). Importantly, by making the invisible visible, this partnership potentially centralises this issue of regional women artists within public exhibition settings and in higher education contexts. The SaP based exhibition projects, seek to subvert dominant histories, such as patriarchy and other power structures, by focussing on everyday life rituals and in the process highlight the ordinary and make it special through this very process (Batorowicz & Williams 2018).

References

Acai, A. Mercer-Mapstone, L. & Guitman, R. (2019) ‘Mind the (Gender) Gap: Engaging Students as Partners to Promote Gender Equity in Higher Education’, Teaching in Higher Education, no. 10. 1080/13562517.2019.1696296.

Australia Council for the Arts (2017) The Arts in Regional Australia: A Research Summary, Sydney, Retrieved From: http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/research/regional-arts-summary/

Batorowicz, B. & Williams, M. (2018) Dark Rituals, Magical Relics from the Little Art Spellbook University of Sunshine Coast Art Gallery, Sippy Downs.

Catalyst (2007) ‘The Double-Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership: Damned If You Do, Doomed If You Don’t’, New York.  Retrieved from: https://www.catalyst.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/The_Double_Bind_Dilemma_for_Women_in_Leadership_Damned_if_You_Do_Doomed_if_You_Dont.pdf

Cook-Sather, A. Bovill, C. & Felten, P. (2014) Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching: A Guide for Faculty, Jossey-Bass, California.

Jenkins, K. (2014) ‘That’s not philosophy’: feminism, academia and the double bind, Journal of Gender Studies, 23:3, 262-274, DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2014.909720

USQ Student as Partners Framework (2021) ‘What is the USQ Student as Partners Framework?’ Retrieved from: https://usqassist.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/8769/~/what-is-the-usq-students-as-partners-framework%3F

Williams, A. (2018) ‘Likeability and the Double Bind’, in J. Robertson, A., Williams, D., Jones, L. Isbel, D. Loads, & E. Maxwell (eds) in EqualBITE: gender equality in higher education, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, pp. 79-84, viewed 5 August 2021 https://brill.com/view/book/edcoll/9789463511438/BP000025.xml


Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz is currently the Acting Head of the School of Creative Arts and Associate Head (Research) at University of Southern Queensland. As a Polish-born Australian contemporary artist, Batorowicz’s work explores visual narratives (fairytales, mythology and folklore) that address gender, human-animal relationships and WWII history. Batorowicz has published in Animals (2021); Holocaust Studies (2018); Arts and Humanities in Higher Education (2018) and Australian Art Education (2017) and is also a recipient of two USQ Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2016, 2018).

Dr Linda Clark is an emerging academic and installation/multimedia artist whose practice incorporates multifaceted hybrid forms including conceptual art, video, and sculpture. Clark’s work is also informed by interpersonal relationships, alongside research which explores identity, maternity and feminism. Clark’s work has been included in key exhibitions such as Dark Rituals (2018-19) at USC and UTAS, and Antipods (2015) at University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Clark has completed her Doctor of Creative Arts at USQ, investigating whether a research methodology titled ‘The Mother-Artist Model’ can be used within a collaborative network of mother-artists to facilitate practice, engagement and exchange, to overcome regionalism.

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