Widespread social upheavals were unfolding around the world in the 1960s and 1970s. In the United States and Europe, younger generations were rebelling against what they saw as the conservatism of their elders, their governments, and society as a whole. Such historically marginalized groups as people of color, women, and LGBTQ-identified people were also increasingly making their voices heard, as they exposed the rampant and deep-seated discrimination against them and demanded an equal place within society. At the center of these protests was identity. In agitating for their civil rights and pushing for more social advancements, people also sought to break down the stereotypes associated with qualities like skin color, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic class while demonstrating that identity is more complex and less fixed than society often allows for.
Many artists have made work centered upon identity. Often, they are driven by their own experiences of discrimination, or by their personal struggles to come to terms with who they are or to find a place or community in which they feel comfortable. They have examined such issues as the assumption of privilege accorded to whiteness and maleness, forms of sexuality seen as taboo by society, and the subtle and overt ways in which societal expectations can undermine a woman’s ability to define herself on her own terms. But no matter how personal, their work prompts viewers to think about the factors—both innate and external—that shape who we are and to realize that identity is always comprised of much more than meets the eye.
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Standardized and oversimplified assumptions about specific social groups.