Cuteness is Suspect
Brief Observations on the Legitimacy of “Cute Space”
edited by Maegan Fidelino
Kastor & Pollux, 2016
I’m not certain how many times I’ve read that my female and femme-identified colleagues have been questioned as to the veracity of their creations. This is increasingly true in areas of cultural output that involve technical knowledge and execution. Quite naively I have often assumed that it’s an issue with local artistic culture. In the past, my assumptions have been based around my lack of knowledge of the inner workings of other communities worldwide. Perhaps, I thought, attitudes are different towards femme creators in other countries.
But even a perfunctory examination of communities worldwide yields some troubling results. The attitude that a female-identified individual didn’t “actually do that” seems prevalent across anything creative genre that involves tech, and seems profoundly felt with artists at any stage in their career. Artists that possess “cute” qualities can have their work dismissed as silly or lacking in serious artistic vision. My observations are admittedly loose, collected over a period of my own art-making that has hovered in several different genres in the past decade. And while my evidence is anecdotal, it seems prudent that I wonder how other women and femme creators assert their own authorship when confronted with questions of technical knowledge and authenticity.
One particularly egregious example that comes to mind is from Björk. Over her lengthy career as an artist, musician, collaborator, and electronic pioneer, she felt the need to pen a response to the seemingly automatic credit given to a male producer with whom she had worked. Several examples of her reassertions have cropped over the years, and this text is from 2008 in response to Pitchfork repeatedly crediting her male collaborators with regard to production. “i have had this experience many many times that the work i do on the computer gets credited to whatever male was in 10 meter radius during the job.” She went on to concede that, while there may be other reasons for this misunderstanding, there are countless instances in which her technical knowledge or authorship has been underestimated, denied, or otherwise ignored. She went on to write, “people seem to accept that women can sing and play whatever instrument they are seen playing. but they cannot program, arrange, produce, edit or write electronic music.”
This is a troubling assertion that softness, warmth, cuteness, or any other “feminine” traits cannot enter the realm of technical knowledge without disrupting its space.
Introducing an esthetic that acknowledges femme space is essential to achieving balance in an admittedly amorphous sector. Tech itself is difficult to define. What is it that we’re actually talking about? Is it music? AV? Dev? IoT? Gaming? Regardless, these have been traditionally male-occupied spaces. But with the exception of prostitution, midwifery, quilt-making and nursing, almost all professions and practices fall into that category by default. As women continue to create technically complex arrangements and artwork, cute ephemera that often accompanies these projects is at times seen as frivolous and not worthy of being ear-marked as high concept. In an era where women occupy a proportional amount of the workforce, they will subsequently create spaces that assert their own aesthetic principles. While femme creators certainly don’t always bring “cuteness” to their work, I hope that those who do may continue to create according to their own aesthetic principles.
When I include hands in my own work, they are attached to a body that’s attached to a mind that drives them. They are no more or less than any other creator that occupies a similar space. They won’t be diminished for their decoration.
 Grimes Talks the Many Faces of the Music Industry’s Sexism in a New Interview, Mic.com https://mic.com/articles/123071/grimes-talks-the-many-faces-of-the-music-industry-s-sexism-in-a-new-interview#.CuMhrEjm6
 Original blog post written by Björk or her own site, which has now been altered to reflect her new work. Link to the text can be found on numerous sites including http://feministing.com/2008/08/25/credit_where_credit_is_due_fem