Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is an art piece which is now permanently installed in the Brooklyn Museum. This piece commemorates 1,038 historical and mythical women. Thirty nine of these women are memorialized with place settings on a triangular table, the other 999 named in gold on the Heritage Floor which the table stands on. Every one of the over one thousand women attributed broke barriers, were depictions of strength and/or furthered the feminist movement. For example, Christine de Pisan, who became a writer and spoke out against misogyny in literate in thirteenth century France. Or Sojourner Truth, who was born a slave and died a respected and influential activist who spoke out against institutionalized oppression of African Americans and women. Or Georgia O’Keefe, whose art continues to inspire feminist artist to this day. These women as well as the 1,035 others who are commemorated in The Dinner Party are all inspirations who led lives well deserved of this honor Judy Chicago and her team of volunteers bestowed.
But what about the copious amount of inspirational, remarkable, change-making women who are not recognized in this work of art?
There is an abundance of women who did not make the cut onto the Dinner Party whose actions were well deserving of such recognition. In many ways, this is understandable. Judy Chicago did not assert that she was creating a piece that would encompass all of the important women in history. That being said, many women were overlooked due to race, as bell hooks says in her book Feminism Is for Everyone “Very little serious literary scholarship had been done on works by black women writers prior to feminist movement.” Unfortunately, this fact held true in the conception of The Dinner Party, thought we see a few women of color, the overwhelming majority are white females.
This leads me to wonder, in a post bell hooks, post Combahee River Collective, post Cherrie Moraga, post Beverly Daniel Tatum world, what would The Dinner Party look like is conceived now?; a sort of Dinner Party 2.0, if you will.
With the advent of the theory of Intersectionality, and the new faces the feminist movement has seen in the past 36 years since the production The Dinner Party began, the women who’s accomplishments that would be seen as commendable enough to be represented on this Dinner Party 2.0 would be virtually endless. I would imagine we would see such amazing women such as Rosa Parks, Maya Lin, Barabra Jordan, Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Sonia Sotomayor, and countless others in this new rendition who we did not see in the original Dinner Party.
One of the women who did not appear on the original who I would have liked to see is African American writer and feminist Celestine Ware. Ware was in a lot of ways ahead of her time; in her book Woman Power: The Movement for Women’s Liberation she speaks out against “the distance between white and black women [in the Feminist movement during the 1970s], a distance based on different life experiences,” according to the book A History of U.S. Feminisms by Rory Dicker. She believed this separation did not have to be permanent, saying that “Black and white women can work together for women’s liberation, but only if the movement changes its priorities to work on issues that affect the lives of minority group women.”
Another woman who I would want to see on this Dinner Party 2.0 would be Christine Lagarde. Lagarde is “an accomplished lawyer who became the first female finance ministers of France and is now the first woman to run the International Monetary Fund,” according to the CBS news program 60 minutes. In an interview with 60 Minutes, when her interviewer referred to the fact that before Lagarde joined, the International Monetary Fund was something of a ‘boys club’ and that in a lot of things she has done she has been the first woman, she replied, “well, what matters to me is that I’m not the last one.” Lagaurde is one of the most coherent, grounded, and reputable political figures I have ever heard speak, to say she is a coherent, grounded, and reputable “female political figure” would be an insult considering the gender barriers she has broken.
But the women I have mentioned above do not even scratch the surface in terms of women who would deserve to be on this hypothetical recreation of The Dinner Party. This leads me to the conclusion that a physical Dinner Party 2.0 would not be adequate. If one would recreate Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party it would have to be in digital form. A luxury Judy Chicago and her team did not have, a Digital Dinner Party would be able to encompass the virtually countless influential and strong women who have changed our world for the better. As Courtney Martin wrote in her article ‘You Are the NOW of Now!’ The Future of (Online) Feminism for the Nation, “It’s time for all of us—bloggers, organizers, philanthropists and business experts alike—to put our heads together and figure out how to create a robust, sustainable online space that can serve as the ‘women’s center in the sky’ (as Gloria Steinem recently put it to [her]) for the next generation.” Imagine adding a digital continuation of Judy Chicago’s work to this “women’s center in the sky”, an all inclusive women’s history for all generations.
In her book Feminism Is for Everyone, bell hooks says “Producing a body of feminist literature coupled with the demand for the recovery of women’s history was one of the most powerful and successful interventions of contemporary feminism.” Judy Chicago’s piece The Dinner Party definitely was a huge step in this recovery of women’s history. Now it is our job as a society not only to keep that recovery alive, but to make sure women’s history never vanishes again. To let this happen would be an injustice to all of the women who deserve a place in our history books, who paved the way, who continue to strive.