On the Record is MIDPA’s freshest segment, combining the art of photography with the practice of development. Following the methodology of photovoice, we ask participants to capture an image on a topic they are passionate about, and then add their voice to these images. The consequent interview adds context to the images, encouraging debate and reflection.
In honour of International Women’s Day, our Content Editor, Feli Bran, kicks off this segment with her reflections on gender, beauty, and representation.
Q. Why did you choose this picture in particular?
A. I stumbled upon this advertisement by accident in a busy downtown street in Sydney. I was still a bit unsure of what my contribution would be for the blog on International Women’s Day and then I saw this picture and felt such rage that the words just flowed from me.
Q. What is it about this picture that had your blood boiling?
A. I don’t really know where to start. I think when people state that we live in a post-feminist society, that gender is no longer an issue, that we all have equal rights, I struggle to see what they see. I was actually with my brother and my dad when I came across this image, and they did not seem to make much out of it but for me? It was like someone had dropped a cold bucket of water on me.
Q. Could you pinpoint why that was exactly?
A. I think as a girl you always have a tight balancing act of beauty versus intelligence. I remember being a teenager and ‘uglifying’ myself on purpose because I wanted people to take me seriously. Society had taught me that a pretty woman was just that: a trophy to be paraded to the world. And that was the only thing I had to aspire to. I struggled a lot because I knew I wanted more out of life than being someone’s property. I felt like I was being placed into a box that I had not subscribed to and had no way whatsoever of getting out.
This is just one example of how women’s bodies are constantly commodified and objectified. It makes me feel powerless feeling like my main goal in life as a woman is to achieve a certain paragon of beauty that is completely unrelated to who I am as a human being. This is society telling us: you have no ownership over your body but rather your body is a vessel for others to appreciate. Men are not subjected to this kind of pressure to this extent; these double standards never fail to get me riled up.
Q. So is it more of a personal issue?
A. Yes, and no. That was my experience, but I am also a white latina. Imagine being a woman of colour and stumbling upon this advert. Apparently, perfect beauty means a skinny white woman with long blonde hair –but hairless everywhere else! – that has a noticeable cleavage. How would you feel? You can clearly see that colonialism and oppression still feature heavily in our society; they have just become subtle in their rhetoric. We only need to open our eyes to actually see it.
If you would be interested in participating in On The Record, please do not hesitate to contact our Content Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org