“Because of our gender, we learn early that we must take extra precautions to be safe.
Fear prescribes how and where we live, where we walk, where we park, where we sleep, eat and travel...we understand too well that there is no safe place.”
– From the film No Safe Place by Mary Dickson
Afraid/Not Afraid examines how women live with an ever-present threat of violence and the feeling of being unsafe in their world. In creating this work, we are confronting this underlying fear to call attention to and to create discussion and change around these issues. This collaborative photo-based installation explores vulnerability and our relationship to it as women. Gender violence, sexual stereotypes, and the portrayal of women in the media and popular culture feed and perpetuate this fear in our society. Our work looks at how these forces shape the lives and behavior of women, often in subtle ways, that become ingrained and normalized as part of our worldview. The images reflect the relationship between being watched and objectified and how women present their identities to the world.
Our own experiences and concerns with safety and consent propelled us to create a body of work that looks at the emotional side of this subject. We are white cisgender women who grew up during the changing expectations created by the women’s liberation movement of the 70’s. As young women we saw radical changes in the expectations and possibilities of female gender roles, with opportunities to become stronger and more independent. This grew our expectation of equality between the sexes, which did not always play out. Although our generation has seen rapidly expanding views on what it means to be female in America, there are still problems today. The “Me Too” movement shows us that unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment, discrimination and assault are still issues that women currently face. We believe that these gender-related experiences intersect with the boundaries of age, class and race. Our installation provides a place to consider one’s own relationship to objectification of women’s bodies, the male gaze and female empowerment.
In this immersive installation, the viewer becomes the voyeur, peeping through an exterior window of a house before entering the space. Inside are images of women going about their daily rituals. Some are personal, private moments. Behind those are silhouette images of women in the roles and identities that women take on in public. Other images are close-up photographs of more personal moments in response to these, playing with the idea of interior and exterior personas As one navigates the space an audio component alludes to victim blaming and self-questioning. The work consists of hanging fabric photographs, projected images, lights and a soundtrack. The images and projections on semi-transparent layers combine and interplay as the viewer moves through the piece, building an intimate space for reflection.
“Telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act.” —Janet Mock
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