Promoting gender equality through the arts and creative industries: a review of case studies and evidence

Artists Arts Arts citizen participation Sex differences Cultural industries Gender equity

This report was commissioned by VicHealth and contains findings and recommendations that are intended to inform individuals, industry organisations, funders and governments, who seek to contribute to the goal of achieving gender equality through the arts and creative industries. The VicHealth Action Agenda for Health Promotion (2016–19) recognises that gender equality is a critical determinant of health and wellbeing and a fundamental human right that benefits us all. Efforts in this area currently focus on improving outcomes for women and girls, and the Action Agenda’s approach builds on VicHealth’s strong partnerships with the health, sport, business, media, research, human rights, education, justice, arts and community sectors. The Victorian government’s Gender Equality Strategy, Safe and Strong, highlights the role that the arts and creative industries can play in shaping gender norms, and thereby the potential to challenge restrictive expectations of women and girls through the same means (Victorian Government 2016).

Artists have long been involved in art for social change. Often this is pursued through individual art projects, powerful works that have a strong impact on their immediate audience. A growing commitment to promoting gender equality exists across a range of sectors in Victoria and the arts are also involved in pursuing and promoting this long overdue commitment to cultural change.

This research examined arts-based projects undertaken across a diverse range of countries that had as their primary motivation, an engagement with gender, or had potential to be applied to this end. Through a study of over 100 projects, and detailed analysis of around 30, a range of inspiring, engaging and poignant artistic activities and creative products are highlighted. These range from intimate interactions in a public space with an elderly woman lying in a bed, to a never-ending game where players collect, confiscate and fire tampons at one another online. Virtual reality is deployed in some projects to provide an insight into the lived experiences of women, as they face harassment walking down a street, or approaching an abortion clinic. Other projects empower young women within the music industry, both as producers and as audience members at concerts and festivals.

Promising approaches to audiences and strategic partnerships in initiating, funding and producing projects, are highlighted, demonstrating the potential for small projects to reach wider audiences, and for large projects to be realised through shared investment on the part of government and corporate support.

The report consists of two parts. Part One contains an analysis of arts projects, highlights particularly effective initiatives in the arts and creative industries, and presents a set of findings. Part Two contains details of over 40 projects and organisations that represent promising approaches to gender equality or, if not specifically related to gender equality, that adopt strategies that could be used towards gender equality.

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