- Manju Sadarangani
18” x 36”
Acrylic on Canvas
Completed April 2022
This piece is about examining my own misogyny. The colors are inspired by the peacock, perhaps the brightest example in nature of the male of the species needing to lobby the females, since they serve as the decision makers on reproduction. I have often marveled at how flipped that is in humans compared to other animals, where the patriarchy makes women compete for male attention. I have been guilty of being an asshole to other women, both professionally and personally.
The passing of Secretary of State Albright had me ruminating on competition amongst women. Secretary Albright famously exhorted us to support each other; her quote “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women" is legendary. When I am feeling particularly stomped upon or need a reminder on my role as a woman in foreign policy, my favorite thing is to run down to the National Museum of American Diplomacy and linger in front of her pins. (Seriously, if you haven’t checked out the exhibit, do!)
My genuflection for the matriarchy was stoked in graduate school. I will never forget sitting through a class on feminist international political economy and being introduced to the idea of microcredit. This moment was lovingly called “Manju’s Epiphany” by a beloved mentor in grad school. It was also the moment I locked eyes with a relative stranger in class and fell madly in love with her determination and dedication to women. She remains my ride or die and has dedicated her career to the wellbeing of women and children everywhere.
My deep faith in the ability of women to do the right things is a driving force in my career. I idolize the good sense of the women in my life. And yet time and time again, on the macro-level, women everywhere vote against their interests. I stubbornly cling to this idea that women would make better global policy makers, although I do understand, intellectually that I am being idealistic and naive. The willful subtle asymmetry in this piece is me poking fun at my belief in the utopia of the matriarchy and my own culpability with my own internalized misogyny…. while still indulging in my belief in the utter beauty of the women I know, and their powerful love.