Identity key words

I’ve just started reading Womankind Mag online and have found a number of thought provoking articles. Short, sweet and simple writing to explain complex ideas… That’s my kind of writing!

The way we define ourselves has altered over time, and probably not for the better. Today we classify ourselves into groups – norms and averages – like sociologists. “Mother, part-time graphic designer, photographer.” We don’t think of ourselves as pursuing an ideal, or a standard of perfection or excellence. We are not what we wish to be, only what we already are.

This idea of ‘identity key words’ - the words we use to describe ourselves via social media is one I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about in relation to the herstory website. It’s actually been a running conversation I’ve had with my tutors for the entirety of this project, albeit framed in a slightly different way.

This article has caused me to start thinking again about how I label people on the herstory website.

On the homepage each women is presented through a portrait with a caption that titles her first name and job title:

There are obvious reasons for doing this. Firstly, the website is about exploring different career paths. In order for people to quickly understand what they’re about to read, it’s easy to simply label each person by their job title. I include their first names in there too because they are ‘them’ first, and their job second. If it were to just say ‘Musician’, she would seem more wholly defined by her job than anything else. And we all know (and hope) that isn’t the case. 

After reading that article about our simplified use of identity key words, I feel unsatisfied by the way I’ve labelled each person. Although I have justifications in the way I’ve done it, I’m not sure it suffices.

This is mainly because the stories I’ve written aren’t just about the fact that she does this job, she does this hobby, and she is this ‘kind’ of person. 

The stories explore her past, her present, her future. She has this job, yes, but she also has big dreams for her future and for her family. 

Maybe I’m still figuring out exactly what this website is about and whatherstory's elevator pitch is. I'm willing to explore that and admit that this isn't entirely clear to me yet, which you might be able to tell from the way I'm writing about this!

We don’t think of ourselves as pursuing an ideal, or a standard of perfection or excellence. We are not what we wish to be, only what we already are.

Thoughts on blogging

It’s taken me months to get the guts to start this blog.

At first, when I realised I could have my own blog, I was excited. I had just come out of a meeting with my photography tutor and another lecturer. We’d talked about how a blog would be the perfect way for me to contextualise the research I do for the herstory website - a place where I could easily show what research I’d been looking at and thinking about.

It turns out it was a lot harder to write than I initially expected. I sat down and started my research (which usually consists of scrolling through numerous blogs that discuss and analyse society from a feminist perspective) for the morning. I scrolled and scrolled. I knew I was interested in all of these things - but what did I have to add to these online conversations? What did I, a young fine arts student with no formal feminist education, have to add to this feminist community?

I still don’t know, but after months of worrying about it, I’ve decided to just write anyway. I’m still scared that my thoughts could get ripped apart by commenters (or worse, internet trolls) but I’ve realised it’s more important to start having an opinion than oppressing it for the sake of feeling comfortable.

It raises a lot of questions for me. Where do these insecurities come from - is it because I’m a woman - would a male student in the same position as me have more confidence to write? I’m honestly not sure. I can only be aware of my own shortfalls with my confidence and hope that by making a stand to share my opinions, I can encourage others to do so, too.

I was recently emailing a friend about this, she’d written an anonymous article and it was great so I mentioned she should start a blog. She wasn’t sure she was ready to express her opinions online yet and she was really enjoying reading what others had to say. I replied with advice I needed myself, and it started to make me think - at what point do we know enough or feel confident to start sharing our opinions online? I know this is a struggle for a lot of writers, and again, I don’t know the answers. 

To finish, this blog is not about answers. It’s not about being right or wrong - it’s just a place for me to deconstruct the things I’m reading on the internet or in books or things I see happen and write about them. 

This post will still end up in the ‘drafts’ box for a few days, or weeks. I will antagonise over what I’ve written and wonder if I’m being too ‘this’ or too ‘that’. I will realise that too much time has passed and that I should bite the bullet, click post, and enter this into the blogosphere. Whether anyone will read it or not is another story!

4 Myths That Keep Women Away from Non-Traditional Employment

When we think about truck drivers, construction workers, garbage collectors, and other blue-collar work, few of us immediately imagine women performing these tasks.

Last year I wrote a book about ten women in ‘non-traditional’ jobs. It came from the realisation that women weren’t entering these ‘masculine’ jobs precisely because of that - they’re considered masculine. And females are feminine, right? No, not necessarily. Males should be masculine? No, not necessarily. I believe our reliance on gender roles is unhelpful to general society on a number of levels. Women are considered the weaker sex, based on what? This article breaks down these myths in a very thorough, easy to understand way. I don’t actually have much to add, except for how it relates to my own experience of interviewing women in such jobs. 

For the work I’m making, it’s important to role model the women who are already in these jobs and tell their story, but it’s also so important to talk about what discrimination and sexism they’ve faced. It’s easy to leave this gritty stuff out because it offends people and strikes a chord, but ethically it’s more important that the work educates young women about the workforce they’re potentially entering. 

To not talk about the sexism would be doing my readers a disservice. I also want to talk about how each woman has dealt with the discrimination they’ve faced - Sas, a firefighter I interviewed and photographed last year told me this:

“Most women who enter the service will react in three different ways. The first type play on the fact they’re female. We’ve had a few of those. They flirt and play on their femininity. Or you get the opposite. The ones who become very, very masculine. That’s definitely what I did early on. The third type of women is awesome to behold. She is self confident and assertive and knows exactly what and who she is. I regret not being like that initially. I used to think that I had something to prove. I always had to be better, stronger, smarter and faster. Over time, I’ve learnt to be comfortable with myself. I’m happy with that.

These days, more and more women are joining the service. It’s really interesting to notice that most now fit the third mould. I’m pleased. The younger guys are more accepting now too. They’ve grown up seeing women in different jobs, so it’s normal for them. Whereas with the older guys, some have never seen a woman in the workplace, apart from the receptionist.”