If this trip to NY (only three weeks left, will be so sad to leave) has had a recurring theme, it's that feminism is very much alive and kicking like hell. I never doubted it but it's nice to have proof! I was involved in a discussion over drinks with Mapes and Jen Nedeau (excellent writer/feminist/blogger/activist) the other evening and the subject of feminist awakenings came up. It got me thinking about mine, or if I actually had one, I never had a definitive clanging 'Hang on this isn't right - I'm a feminist' as a teenager; I did bunk off school to have the chinese symbol for 'woman' tatooed on my breast at 16, while my heavily pregnant friend had her backside tattooed by a man so creepy he should have worn a bell around his neck (thank you Scrubs for such an excellent quote, needless to say it was aimed at The Todd). Despite my feminist intentions with the tattoo, the experience kinda cancelled out the vibe. I later learned that Melanie C aka Sporty Spice has the same one on her arm...girl power?...
Anyway I digress, I feel I need to look at the notion of such awakenings now, since having been reading, studying, eating and breathing feminist rhetoric, polemic and theory for a long time I have decided upon an outlet for doing something concrete beyond hoarding all of this great information in my brain and just talking. My MA project's new title 'Under Represented & Over Exposed' will be a means to produce material that I aim to have work beyond the gallery space. Material that will tackle the problem of young women and feminist consciousness, a zine and other well-designed, humourous and informative pamphlets and non-profit merch to raise awareness, bolster self-esteem and describe the nature of how self-worth is manipulated by the world around us. I want to make things that will circulate on lapels, on pin boards, taped to books etc. and for the knowledge and messages to be absorbed as normal. I've never wanted to be 'all mouth and no trousers' as the saying goes, so watch this space.
But, I wonder, what kind of things will prompt a feminist awakening in girls and young women under-schooled in their own worth and relevance beyond what is conventionally acceptable and successfully marketable? And in a culture that derides the term feminist, and where one often hears a sentence begin with 'I'm not a feminist but....' as if it's a shameful thing to align yourself with something that promotes equality, freedom, inclusion and diversity? I felt that my teen years were a struggle to fit in, to juggle what I actually wanted to do (stay at home and draw mostly) and what I needed to do and look-like to be acceptable, but by today's standards, I think I had a much easier ride. I feel quite lucky that Grunge was around during my adolescence since it meant that to a degree, for the brief period it was fashionable (before it gave way to scraped back ponytails and bronzing powder) I was able to look bloody scruffy and go unnoticed in this, ghostly pale Collection 2000 powder and black cherries Rimmel lipstick and maybe that weird green concealer from Avon that 'evens out skin tone' were the thing, spots were neutralised and the stark contrast with the lipstick drew attention away from anything else, blemishes, other facial features, natural disasters etc. Such minimal concerns compared to the ever expanding task of grooming today's women are undertaking seem almost quaint.
I hit the big 3-0 in just over three months, and I'm only just crawling out of the abjectly self-conscious pit I fell into as a teenager myself, and that's even with all of all of the things I read, understand, believe and champion. But despite this, is it audacious to want to tackle things for younger women? Is it do-gooding gone mad? Will I look ridiculous trying to talk to 'the kids'? I'm so comfortable in my un-hippness these days is this aim laughable? I hope not, I mean I'm not quite old enough to be the same age as their parents...well. But anyway that shouldn't be an issue, after all some of the coolest brands are no doubt run by old men that wear chinos and deck shoes and are only interested in separating teenagers from the cash in theirs and their parents' wallets, so in that context the strategic aim to boost self-worth and connect like minds isn't so bad.