The Thinking 

Women and Art

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The Curse of Female Mediocrity

February 22, 2010




WHY IS IT that women seem to be on average better musicians, better singers, better painters, better sculptors, better poets, better novelists, better artists, and yet the vast majority of artistic geniuses are men? How can this be? Patriarchal conspiracy, some active repression of female talent, must be responsible for the low representation of women at the apex of artistic creation.

In fact, this strange contradiction makes sense. It is perfectly consistent with the dichotomy in male and female ability in many areas. Men tend to be the worst and the best. Women tend to fill the middle. This is the curse of female mediocrity. But it is only a curse in the eyes of the greedy and envious. Women may seldom be geniuses, but they also tend to be less represented among history’s abject failures. To be average is better than being awful. Women are amply compensated in the long sweep of history by having escaped the ruinous consequences of intense competition and masculine focus, and by the ability to excel in areas that will never garner Nobel Prizes. Besides, artistic endeavour is as much a feminine as a masculine thing.

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An Anti-Empirical Theory

February 22, 2010


Sage McLaughlin writes:

The notion that women have been deprived of the opportunity to express genius, and that this is the reason for the near total absence of female genius in the arts, is a long-standing meme among modern feminists. It runs up against the little problem that there’s no real evidence for it, and that it is based at an emotional level upon envy, as you say, and on an intellectual level of the facially absurd assumption that men and women are not very different. No self-respecting endocrinologist or neurologist would tell you that men and women are essentially alike in their mental and behavioral makeup. In short, despite their strong implications to the contrary, modern thinkers and scientists have provided precisely zero evidence for this idea of latent female genius, long-suppressed.  Read More »


The Lost Masterpieces of Women

February 20, 2010



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

 A READER argues here that the talent of female artists and composers was long suppressed and that’s why we have no woman Mozarts. I disagree. The hackneyed idea that women could have created works of genius if only given the chance is rooted in envy.


Grammatical Engineering

February 19, 2010


Laura F. writes:

I wanted to send you this ridiculous little opening from a Wikipedia article: 

The curse of the ninth is the superstition that a composer will die after writing his or her ninth symphony. The most prominent examples are Ludwig van Beethoven, Louis Spohr, Franz Schubert, Antonín Dvořák, Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler.

Hey Wikipedia, thanks so much for finally recognizing all those great women composers. But wait, you didn’t name any in your examples…

Laura Wood writes:

Hah! The point is to create women composers. Some woman will read this and suddenly recognize her latent genius. She may even write a tenth.


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