Fair warning: This is fairly image heavy – I tried to be disciplined. For about a second. Then I said fuck it – I love all the images so they are all staying in.
I’ve blogged before about what it is for me to be a woman, to feel feminine and comfortable in my own skin. Those that know me well wouldn’t expect me to wear make up as an everyday occurence, nor would they expect me to straighten my hair or wear “fancy” clothes and shoes. I’m just not that kind of woman. I’ve been guilty of saying to my male friends that they have it easy in terms of how they look. They can be beardy, fuzzy, clean-shaven and any number of permutations in between and they can still be thought of as a “real” man or a “proper” man. They throw on a suit and some good shoes and there you go – dressed up. Even as a more casual look, they can throw on a shirt and some less scruffy jeans, a pair of boots or clean (ish) casual shoes and they still look like a “proper” man. At least, this is how I see it. And it looks easy – easier than being a woman. It would seem that women, to be seen as “real” women should be made prettier. It would be easy to blame the media, the relentless stream of images of seemingly perfect sized, perfect skinned, perfect smile women that grace the covers of the vanity magazines. The truth, my truth, is that I just don’t feel like a real woman with all the female trappings that women apparently need to have in order to feel pretty or sexy or desired.
I own dresses and heels. I have makeup in a bag in my bathroom. I own a hairdryer and hair straighteners. I know when it is expected of me to dress in a certain way, to wear a bit of make up and look “better” than I normally do. Usually this is work that this is reserved for – or a very special occasion. A friend’s wedding, a big birthday, something that isn’t the everyday event. On those occasions, it is fun to dress up. But to me, that is all it is – playing dress up like I did as a child. I still feel like a child borrowing her mother’s shoes when I wear high heels. And when I put make up on, it feels like a diluted version of having my face painted at the summer school fete. But most of all, is putting all the elements together: the dress, the heels, the hair, the makeup. All this feels like playing. Having said that, it happens so rarely that when I do “make the effort” as some might say, it gets quite a reaction. People express surprise that I have legs. They tell me that my hair looks really good. All I can see is the same person…playing at dressing up.
As part of this train of thought I had an idea to try to document how I saw myself as a woman. I’ll never be a model, nor would I want to be, but this project required the skills of my very good friend Fin. Fin is an awesome photographer and is also very artistic. He knows how to interpret my ramblings, how to turn my bizarre thoughts into real life images. He also knows a thing or two about me and there was no question who I would want to shoot the pictures I had in mind. The brief was just that – brief. Shoot me, as me and then a me made up and then a me in full face paint. I also wanted a shot altered in Photoshop to show how different an image can be made and how images in the media should never be taken at face value (excuse the pun). It was a fun shoot, if not very funny. It is hard to be serious when you are having fun with the man you love and the other man who knows me as “me”.
So there you have it – the many faces of a woman. The me I know and love. The me I am at peace with. The me I am happiest with. I can be plain, I can be pretty, I can be a riot of colour and pattern. But I know I don’t need to feel like I have to buy into the concept of what a woman should look like.
All photo credits: PhotoFin – http://www.photofin.co.uk