As time passes I feel that my experience of my practice seems to feel more intense to me. I suppose this is partially down to the impending formative assessment and also the weekly development of new skills within the workshops. I am finding that as I am developing new skills, such as mould making and wax and bronze casting- I feel like I am gaining access to a whole new language to communicate the concepts I am exploring. When developing new skills and learning new techniques I find it can be quite easy to lose touch with the conceptual ideas driving your practice. My mind fills up with learning the practical process involved; and learning new skills can be time consuming. This means less time spent actually pushing the work forward, but I have learnt that it is worth it as you develop a new perspective on your work. I find that I am looking at my work and communicating it with a wider visual language than before. It still is very experimental- and I think keeping other explorations going outside of the development of these new processes going is important to keep the concepts alive and connected.
As I have stood back from my practice whilst developing these new skills I have probably benefitted from the space to think. To think and reconnect with what the core concepts are within my practise. I realise that my practice explores qualities of the body particularly from a female perspective. I realise also that I say that I am exploring the body- when I am actually exploring qualities of the female body such as menstruation. This had led me to think about femininity, particularly in western society. I suppose in a way I am questioning femininity and my experience of it.
I have been trying to understand- what is femininity? Not femininity as suggested by advertising campaigns and fashion, but the true essence of femininity. Does it even exist outside of advertising campaigns? As I think about it I realise that a lot the interventions on the body to be perceived as feminine cost money. Interventions such as hair removal, makeup, clothing etc. If a man were to leave his body to nature he would easily be perceived as masculine- through hair growth etc. Masculinity is often associated with a ruggedness. A roughness. Yet femininity is often communicated as managed and manicured. The absence of body hair communicates femininity. Plucked eyebrows. Bleached, waxed or threaded facial hair. Shaved or waxed armpits, legs, bikini lines. The application of makeup- even if it is to achieve a ‘natural’ look. If I were to leave my body to nature then I would become hairy. My complexion would be uneven. My eyebrows would become bushy. Hairy legs like those of a man. Hairy armpits like those of a man. These features would probably be perceived as ‘butch’ traits opposed to feminine. This frustrates me. Why do I have to spend time and money manipulating my body in order to be perceived as feminine? Who decides what is feminine? I can’t help but wonder if femininity is just money making tool. It seems that there is big business to be made from women.
Obviously I am aware that men too have to spend money and time on maintaining an image too but I think it has less of an impact on how ‘manly’ or masculine they are perceived to be. In fact- if a man were to overly pluck eyebrows, shave or wax legs and armpits and trim pubic hair- it could be perceived to be a feminine act. I know male grooming has been a growing trend lately, but I don’t think it is considered to be masculine. I suppose this actually makes me wonder, is femininity confined to gender or can it cross genders?
Going back to the female body and femininity as a money making business, it makes me think how to be a feminine female you are forced also to be a consumer. Even just by being a female who has periods we are forced into being a consumer. There is no part of being male that means that you have to spend money; yet it is a requirement for women on a monthly basis. This is actually a topical notion with the Tampon tax being a current debate in society. I think this sense of imposed financial inequality makes me and thousand of other women feel frustrated. So much focus has been placed on equal pay and equal income that we forget the inequality in out-goings- the cost of being a female. There is both a financial and emotional cost. Even down to having to silently and privately experience menstruation; which is often communicated to be a negative experience. If it is spoken about it is often negatively, for example: jokes about PMT and social disgust whenever presented with either a literal or mental image of a woman bleeding. But it is actually a process which is amazing, essential and usually universal to all women. Why are we forced to experience it silently? Why should we pretend it doesn’t happen? Why are sanitary towels and tampons considered to be luxury goods when menstruating is not considered to be a luxury experience? What is it that companies feel the need to now perfume sanitary towels? Of course- women’s vaginas should smell of a sickly sweet flowery scent to be considered truly feminine shouldn’t they?!?! (I’m hoping the sarcasm is communicated through my typing!) This might seem petty but it really does infuriate me! I feel like through imposed consumerism I am being forced to deny the natural status of my own female body- even the smell of my vagina!!!!
On reflection I see that through my work I am addressing these issues, these frustration and restrictions imposed through what I am told I need to do to be perceived as feminine.