What defines us as women? What specific traits set us apart from men? And who decided those traits made us less able to lead, placing us instead to the care of the home? Who was the one who thought that house chores were “easier” or “less meaningful”?
In the fight towards equality, we continue to observe how some people refuse to allow women the right to speak up for themselves or others. Feminists are called Man-haters. Some women try to appeal for femininity instead of feminism, misunderstanding how these two concepts have never been at odds with each other. Men on the news tell us that “being a woman is a beautiful thing.” The problem is that for them being a woman means a different thing altogether. It means silence. It means compliance. It means submission. What they’re actually saying is, “Shut up and get back inside the house.”
Within womanhood there are certain sectors that are more at risk, less privileged than others. These are women who cannot listen to the broadcasters talking about how they should embrace their gift, because they live in constant threat. They fear being persecuted, incarcerated, or, in some cases, death.
Among the women found in those dangerous situations are immigrants. They are part of a threatened group that is forced to leave the world they know in search of peace, work, prosperity, or some chance of safety and freedom. Along the path they meet people who are indifferent to their plight and see them as the problem, instead of victims of situations beyond their control.
Photographer Marina Font left her native Argentina in the nineties to study and flourish as an artist. Her work has taken her to different parts of the world to explore themes of identity and gender. During the presentation of her imprinted exhibit, Font shared what her experience has been as someone who left the place they were born in to search for new opportunities.
As an immigrant, I no longer belong to the country I have left behind, nor do I fully belong to the one I have chosen to live in. Memories are the foundation of the human mind, and a recurrent place to go when re-defining our identities.
However, it’s her series called Domesticated or Womanhood where she explores deep into the societal constructs of what gender means and implies. Faceless women hide behind a frying pan or embroidery hoop; they have no name, no opinion, and no place outside the home. They live not for themselves but for someone else. Their reason to live is unknown to them, but to whoever rules over their lives.
The embroidery hoop seems an important element, because it’s not an item of incredible necessity to keep a home running. It’s an element meant to symbolize delicacy, something that women “should be good at.” However, those who cannot find it in themselves to figure out the threading are seen as unsuitable women, unfeminine and inadequate. It may seem that this is an outdated skill; nobody would ask a young girl to learn to sew or embroider to prove her worth. But now we’ve switched the needle and thread for other things: high heels, perfection, even smiling on cue.
Women continue to be seen as things that make the world pretty rather than human beings who should get to choose their destinies. They should not have to prove their worth, but should be inherently worthy of love and respect.
So what defines us as female? What is it that makes us different, less able, or less special? The answer lies not in biology but in anthropology. Because our condition is a mere construct that’s been perpetuated time and time again. If we choose to disregard it, the world doesn’t end, but we might start to evolve as a society.
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