SftPwr is a cultural digest – amplifying women’s work in the arts + magnifying cultural issues.

Studio visit with performance artist He Yunchang

The photograph documented above is a self portrait of the artist He Yunchang and a host of women censoring their bodies with print-outs of the “Chinese dissident artist” Ai WeiWei’s face. This portrait would be perceived as militant in his cultural context of the Caochangdi Village of Beijing if it were depicting a group of males surrounding the artist, or the artist alone. But for Chinese artists it is a different story when such a protest is made while collaborating with women, this is due to their Soft Power. Soft Power is originally a term used in Political Diplomacy, and was coined by Joseph Nye. Soft Power is the seductive side of diplomacy, as opposed to Hard (Militant) Power. 

Feminism has appeared in many “waves” in the U.S. but seems indelibly branded by the bold political statements made by women activists of twenty, even fifty years past. Their work was necessary. For all our female forerunners, we are thankful. It is for the future of feminism that we are speculating. We propose that Soft Power may be the key to the gender equality that has been fought for – not only in the United States, but in battles around the globe that we see even today. We start small, on familiar ground.

Joseph Nye says that “Soft power lies in the ability to attract and persuade.” It is a creative act. It could be interpreted as a stereotypically feminine power – not weak, but not combative. What if we could persuade the Art community to exhibit equal numbers of men and women artists? We are intrigued by potentially subtle forms of inserting women into cultural conversations.

[More thoughts and writings to come.]

Peace and Visibility for all,

Bonnie K. Norlander
Founder of SftPwr