Fraser developed the piece from a 1972 live radio broadcast of a dialogue between several men discussing the importance of feminist struggles to men, how they respond or fail to respond to their sisters, their anxieties, and their struggles. The artist transcribed and edited the dialogue in order to demonstrate both the efficacy of the Feminist movement to expand people’s perception of other social groups and the persistence of patriarchal thinking, even among those sympathetic to the Women’s Liberation movement. Men on the Line explores the complexity of reconciling disparate realities; even with the best intentions, true empathy for the other is difficult to achieve.
These concerns touch on some of the central arguments of the Feminist movement: whether one could consider men and women as inherently the same, or whether one had to respect their differences in recognizing the equal potential of both sexes; and whether class difference or gender ambiguity could similarly be reconciled in Feminist theory. Such thorny issues are hard to broach, even after years of Feminist scholarship and activism. Fraser’s piece succeeds in reiterating the pertinence of these anxieties as she adeptly teases them out of the very loaded dialogue of the Feminist movement’s male sympathizers. At base, Men on the Line prompts the viewer to reconsider such concerns, which are still of great importance to all discussions of social difference. Fraser shows us how the Woman’s Building and the larger Feminist movement tackled these issues early on and ignited a dialogue that expanded beyond the confines of women’s organizations.
The performance is one in a series curated by Emi Fontana of new works inspired by the influential Los Angeles-based Woman’s Building. The curatorial aim of the series is to highlight the tremendous impact of the Woman’s Building and feminist practices on contemporary art production.