When I first started Inspiring Femininity, I wanted desperately to get the message out, using my artwork, that femininity was defined by much more than a one size fits all approach.
So, I began to photograph as many women as I could. The first of these images were dedicated to the wild woman's soul. Often the photography shoots involved women connecting to nature or their environment, allowing their true soul to be expressed unapologetically. The inspiration for Inspiring Femininity was the book, Women who Run with the Wolves: "Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species. Though the gifts of wildish nature come to us at birth, society's attempt to 'civilize' us into rigid roles has plundered this treasure, and muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls. Without Wild Woman, we become over-domesticated, fearful, uncreative, trapped". – Estes
After some time, I began to notice a plethora of body positive campaigns all over the Internet. This caused me to step back and put this project on hold, while I decided to learn exactly what the other campaigns were about. I wanted to make sure my own efforts were not misdirected. Most importantly, I wanted to learn more about what femininity truly encompassed. I also began to experiment myself with the concept of modeling. I worked with some very talented photographers who helped me to explore different sides of femininity – whether vintage fashion styles, traditional dark room photography, or photographing the inner wild woman.
I learned something I hadn’t anticipated learning --- that femininity had very little to do with physical form. As soon as I learned this, I began to see the body positive campaigns on the Internet with a suspicious eye. When I deconstructed them, I found one thing in common: feminine bravery being positioned by the physical form (sometimes to sell beauty products to do so - similar to the Dove Real Beauty campaign). Even the no make-up selfie craze, while it had a health underpinning, still gave a consistent message – a woman's bravery is defined by their physical features.
These campaigns were missing the mark. By trying to be "liberating" they were continuing to put women in the same boxes they were desperately ready to move out of. The boxes just had different costumes.
My thoughts on how this impacts Inspiring Femininity now, is that I don’t want the images produced to showcase femininity as fitting in a box. My bigger challenge will be how to use photography to fulfill this goal. I want to capture something "other worldly" beyond physical characteristics. I want to capture strength, courage in overcoming difficulties, the beauty of crying in the face of adversary… whatever it may be that showcases femininity. I also want to capture femininity and how it is expressed in both men and women.
My hope? To motivate others to step out of the paradigm of defining themselves by their looks.
Going back to my original inspiration, C. Estes says it perfectly:
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés