the (un)funny feminist learns about art: Miriam Elia’s “We go to the gallery”

I laugh because I love.
I laugh because I love.

SO. MUCH. WANT.

SO. MANY. LAUGHTER.

SO. EXACTLY. LIKE. AN. EARLY. READER.

And yet so exactly not.

Which is rather the point.

I give you: We go to the gallery by British artist Miriam Elia.

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Funded through Kickstarter in 2013, Elia’s project got slapped with a lawsuit earlier this year for infringement of Penguin’s Ladybird brand, whose early reading series of books is, in part, what “We go to the gallery” spoofs. Happily, shifting the logo to a dung beetle and renaming the earnest children (they are now John and Susan, rather than Peter and Jane) enabled Elia to continue selling her book.

In its press release about the relaunch of “We go to the gallery,” Dung Beetle Books articulated its three key learning principles:

  • Helping children to understand that there is nothing to understand.
  • Ensuring the child’s own opinions match those of the arts elite. 
  • Preparing young people for a lifetime of crippling uncertainty. 

The re-imagined publishing house also has an impressive (albeit imaginary) catalog:

Dung Beetle’s first success came in 1938 with the publication of Why We Burn Books, an early learning guide to fascism, which sold particularly well in Central and Eastern Europe. Later notable publications include Blitzkrieg for the Under 5sLet’s Learn about Radiation Sickness, There’s an Immigrant in My Cafe, and Let’s Go in the Strange Man’s Car.

[Do yourself a favor, and go check out the About Us page for Dung Beetle educational publishers. In fact, go check it out now. I’ll wait.]

Okay, back to the gallery. The mystified children may be mystified; their mother clearly is not.

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I’m now considering changing my Twitter handle to @BigScaryFeministVagina. Whuddya think?

2 thoughts on “the (un)funny feminist learns about art: Miriam Elia’s “We go to the gallery”

  1. This post makes me want to find all my 1st grade Dick & Jane readers so that I can delight in the sexist attitudes they present. Are you of a time when Little Golden Books were big in children’s literature? Some one has probably already done this, but those would be great to re-write. I’ve purchased a few updated versions that seem harmless enough (generic ABC’s) for the granddaughter, but did run across a few that drew contemporary male and female images doing decidedly gendered work roles and entitled something along the lines of This is what mommy does, or The work that daddy’s do… I did not not buy those as you might imagine.

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    1. The sexist (also racist, classist, etc) stuff that can get into very early-reading books is sometimes jaw-dropping, isn’t it?! Because the authors need to highly restrict how many words they use, they rely on other methods to convey meaning: images, obviously, but also a lot of social norms and expectations. Which are not always chosen carefully–or even consciously–all along the writing-to-publication chain of people.

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