On the Record: On Gender

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.

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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 editor.midpassociation@gmail.com
 
 

Think Outside The Box

Imagine you meet a new person – the first information you would share would probably be nationality, occupation, educational background, current living situation and interests or hobbies. Meanwhile, you will probably be silently judging their appearance (whether it is gender, skin color, age) and forming your own opinions. It would only take you a couple of questions to figure out their sexual orientation and religious beliefs.

Without being conscious about it, you categorise. You automatically will label this person and place them into pre-determined boxes that have been created from external societal norms and that, in turn, will judge the societal worth of this person. I believe that these unconscious boxes we put others and ourselves in, have deep roots in the cultural and social environment we have grown up in. Whilst this might have benefits for navigating in a social environment, this also limits our openness to look beyond the boxes and see the uniqueness of each and every person.

Putting people in boxes also has another limitation: what if you feel like you do not subscribe to any of these labels? What if you do not feel like a man even though your biological appearance has the characteristics of a man? What if your interests and passions fall more into the box categorised as ‘woman’? What are you then; undefined? And for who? Who is to decide which box you fit in, and what if you don’t even want to fit in it?

On International Women’s Day, this is more relevant than ever. We have to remember that ‘being a woman’ does not stem only from biological appearance. ‘Being a woman’ is fluid, and comes in countless versions and shapes. The ‘woman’ box also includes newly-become women, transgender, queers, and everyone else that feels they somehow fit into the ‘woman’ box.

Fortunately, in recent years there have been more cases that recognise this variety. Most of you will of course remember Vanity Fair’s “Call me Caitlyn” frontpage, with Caitlyn Jenner which led to public awareness on the topic of transgender rights.

 

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This month’s Vogue Paris features Valentina Sampaio on the frontpage. This makes Vogue Paris the first magazine in France to use a transgender covermodel.

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Recognition of transgender as women is a step towards an equal, non-discriminating, post-gender society that embraces diversity and fluidity. This is why I think it is very important to remember that when we celebrate International Women’s day, we are celebrating everyone who wants to define themselves as women.

People should not tell you who you are but rather you should tell them. As one of my good friends always says to me: You do you!

#midpa #internationalwomensday

Get Inspired by Amnesty International

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Amnesty International Monash – Caulfield

In lieu of the United Nations International Day for Zero Discrimination, our editorial team attended a talk about Marriage Equality arranged by Amnesty International Monash Caulfield (AIMC).

For all those of you who might have missed it, Amnesty International is currently campaigning for equal rights to marriage in Australia. As stated on their website “All of us have a right to be free from discrimination. That includes discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation”. This is a fundamental part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is important to highlight that, on a global scale, 23 countries have already made same-sex marriage possible. [Fun fact: The Netherlands were the first country to introduce the necessary legislative measures in 2001 with Finland being the latest nation to join the ranks.]

It is curious to note that according to Amnesty International’s report, two-thirds of Australians think that everyone should have equal access to marriage. However, this is still a contentious issue wich continues to be pushed back by Australian politicians. With this campaign Amnesty International is trying to reform the Marriage Act, so it allows everyone to get married and have the same rights.As part of the campaign Amnesty International have created this video:

By the end of the talk we had the opportunity to interview the president of AIMC, Marco La Rocca, about the campaign:

“Marriage equality is a campaign conducted by Amnesty international Victoria that tries to pressure Parliament to push for the right for everyone to get married. Act Now with us, Amnesty International Monash Caulfield, by signing the petition at our stall, or directly trough Amnesty International’s website. Marriage is about love and commitment and, in a country based on equal citizenship, it should be possible for everyone to marry the person they love.

If this sounds like something you could get on board with, do not hesitate to visit Amnesty International’s website to learn more about how you can make Marriage Equality in Australia a reality.

 

#loveislove