Sometimes history moves us forward. Sometimes we don’t seem to move at all. A new young artists prize was announced the other day. In a society that does all too little to encourage those who encourage us to imagine, and think and feel in new ways, a new fund supporting artists, especially young artists, is cause for celebration.

So I was in a celebratory mood as I read the write-up — until I went to the flip page. There, the pictures told the story. What was described as a new young artists’ prize “infused with democracy & star power” had an entirely male panel of advisers, and there they were, in black and white, in fact, almost entirely white.

It’s almost 2010. Does anyone remember the Guerrilla Girls?

In years past, feminist masked avengers stalked the art world with data, humor and some enormous gorilla masks. Anonymous women of the art world tagged, postered and pestered the most prestigious art galleries and museums.

One of their most famous featured a nude in a gorilla mask asking:

Do women have to be naked to get into US museums? Less than 3 % of the artists in the Met[ropolitan] Museum are women, but 83 % of the nudes are female.

We’re not talking ancient history. Those were 2004 statistics. The numbers had grown worse since the poster first appeared twenty years earlier.

Back in the 80s the Girls asked in a poster: “When racism and sexism are no longer fashionable, what will your art collection be worth? It’s still a good question and the struggle’s still infuriating.

Guerrilla Girls are still out there. Curators, funders, beware.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.