Restricting a museum to one specific gender seems a bit.... sexist. I know. Welcome to the history of art, art education, and art communities. The Guerrilla Girls have voiced their opinions (and facts and stats) on this topic since 1985. The art industry has been predominantly male since... like... forever. Movements are currently underway to change this status quo. And women artists aren’t just now getting their start in the industry- they’ve been here and hidden or unrecognized all along. Every day more and more female artists are uncovered from this blanketed history of male-dominated art. We are now finding that wives, sisters, daughters, and even mothers have made art that a male relative took credit for. Our society is working towards fairly crediting these women and giving proper recognition to today’s contemporary women artists. But what about these women-only art museums and galleries that are popping up? Isn't that just flipping the tables and doing exactly what was being done to us?
Yes. And no.
Women-only museums are different from traditional male-dominated art spaces because there is no hidden agenda, unspoken bias, or concealed objective. Their agenda is blunt: women get space, too. Whereas the majority of traditional museums and galleries simply operate within an unspoken 'boys only, no girls allowed' motto. One space is concealing their sexism and the other is saying 'I see your sexism and I'm countering it by providing a space that is inclusive to women'.
The existence of women-only museums is a reaction to an action. It is the consequence of discriminating against artists based upon their sex. And we see various discriminated communities rising to the occasion to create spaces for themselves. Exclusive art museums, galleries, and shows isn't just a sex thing- it also extends to race, color, ability, orientation, etc. It's very 'Salon des Refusés'.
In answer to the criticism about exclusive art galleries, museums, and exhibitions being a 'tantrum' or 'childish' response to not being allowed in the mainstream venues: I hesitate. Some exclusivity is absolutely done in an immature way with copious amounts of mud slinging and emotional outbursts (I'm thinking mainly of a few exhibitions and like… two specific galleries) that cause me to wonder whether the artists are more concerned with their art or their political/social agenda. However, I can firmly say that the majority of exclusive spaces I have encountered as an artist and as an audience are composed, dignified, and are concerned with created a space for the work.
Ideally, I'm sure would all like to see art venues that operate based solely upon quality of the work, reputation of the artist, and response of its audience (engaged, charged, etc.). But that Utopian universe isn't our reality. Our reality is that we are undoing or 'fixing' centuries worth of sexism in the arts and that takes time. And patience. And alternative spaces until we get a little closer to that Utopian scenario we all want so badly.