Amanda Maria Atkinson’s exhibition is a timely contribution to the topic of gender performativity at a time when the city has become a haven for stag and hen nights.
You only have to walk around Concert Square and Seel Street to see these gender binaries played out in a rather unflattering fashion. Amanda is a resident artist at Road Studios and senior researcher at the public health institute at LJMU.
As I walked around the exhibition a giant paper mache penis leered over my shoulder like so many of my intoxicated peers before me, harassed by my own insecurity… well sort of. It’s not so much that masculinity itself is the problem here, but the drinking spaces, products and advertising that maintain highly controlled and contradictory gender restrictions.
Big D(ick) Nuts parodies the sexist marketing that usually goes with this particular bar snack, and in turn, the stag tourism the city is fast gaining a reputation for. Excessive consumption, self-destructive and boisterous behaviour are the norm – even in drag – femininity plays a subordinate role.
Being a slightly mature student during my time at university, I’d always avoided Carnage – a nationwide student night – that encourages drinking in a hyper-masculine, overly sexualised environment. It always seemed like a cattle market for the sexually immature, or what Amanda deems the ‘pornification of nightlife’. This particular part of the exhibition reassured my highly judgemental stance with an poignancy that the one gender studies module I took at university could not.
Its been over ten years since I last set foot in a strip club. I always found them a reasonably awkward experience and paying for such fleeting moments of arousal isn’t my idea of fun. It’s here were Rude girls just want to have fun? examines the ‘mutually exploitative’ power relationship between dancer and client.
Drawing on the actual experiences of women that have worked in the industry it addresses the juxtaposition between female empowerment and the oppresive gender relations Amanda feels such venues uphold.
Gender Dilemmas: Negotiating Femininity and Masculinity in contemporary nightlife will can be viewed by appointment until Sunday 4th September. Donations are welcome for The Homeless Period, a local voluntary organisation providing vulnerable women with sanitary items.