Man-Made (2017)



Women and femme identifying people are held to demanding standards regarding the maintenance of their physicality. We are taught to accept this, sometimes resigning ourselves to a life of consistency, flawlessness, and performance as a result. This is not the only valid response, however even those who do not react in this manner are still bound by the aforementioned societal pressures, despite whether or not they are felt. Regardless of how we present ourselves, ridicule is inevitable. The relationships we maintain with our bodies, our hair, our clothes, our makeup, or lack thereof, are intimate and vary from person to person. What remains the same is that we are conducting ourselves within a patriarchal society.

Gender roles are social constructs. We define ourselves based upon varying degrees of proximity to the concept of femininity, something that is literally man-made, made by men— a collection of traits, behaviors, and aesthetics that remained when it was arbitrarily decided what men are not. This male viewpoint was arbitrarily determined society's default perspective, producing the patriarchal society we are confined to today. Femininity is not necessarily performed for men, or anyone, for that matter, but it is inherently performative in that those who have a relationship with the word are constantly assessed, frequently without consent.

I am a woman, and I suffer from what I presume is Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I am constantly preoccupied with my perceived physical flaws and experience heightened anxiety regarding the maintenance of my (feminine) appearance; this anxiety is acted out through obsessive grooming behaviors. Anyone can be afflicted with this disorder, however it is impossible to neglect the correlation between my behavior and the patriarchal expectation for feminine perfection. Informed by my illness, I seek to examine, within an intimate grouping of photographs and text, the relationship between femininity and the unachievable desire for consistency using pattern and repetition. Femininity is characterized by tireless maintenance; my own experiences have led me to transform into something more precise over time, trimming my hair with greater frequency, altering makeup routines and style of dress, still holding myself to high standards regarding day-to-day consistency. This kind of transformation (a precise one) is specific to me, but the performative aspect behind it is universal to femininity.

Patterns are indicative of the female experience, the repetitive efforts and alterations women and femme people are expected to make to appeal to societal standards of beauty and behavior. Performance (anxiety) and the expectation of watchful eyes shapes our every interaction, and performance, like patterns, is endless. I juxtapose traditionally feminine imagery (fabrics, mirrors, pastels, a domestic environment, etc.) with ~masculine~ compositional elements (sharp, straight lines, geometric shapes, stability, straightforwardness, etc.) and repeat them to illustrate the performative, idealistic female role. In both the photographs and overall composition, I treat the body, inherently limited in its capabilities, as infinite, limitless. The contents of the photographs themselves, the patterns and lines they illustrate are interrupted not only by their respective white frames, but the window's dimensions. Punctual text adds a confrontational narrative, paralleling the repetitive imagery to create mundane mantras, a written and visual lexicon.

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