The New Website and a Post-Hiatus Update

Hello and welcome to Herstory's brand new website...! 

I've been working away this year with some friends on this rebuild and am really excited to finally reveal it to you. I thoroughly enjoyed building Herstory Mk1 from scratch, however, as time has gone on I've realised that it needed a bit of pepping up. The new site is designed to be more interactive with social media sharing buttons, 'pinning' buttons, and comments. Go ahead and get these stories out there, a.k.a help me spread the word! I also asked my talented friend Lauren Taylor to create illustrations of women doing different activities and wearing different 'hats', so to speak. She also added some fun bits of colour which I've brought through the whole website. The site is designed to be fun and uplifting, and I have front-end developer Andrew Nicholas to thank for helping that vision become a reality. And finally, a big thank you to Kim Pflaum who designed the new logo.

After a wee hiatus post-university, I'm gaining more confidence and excitement for this project, and I have recently started interviewing and photographing an Intellectual Property Lawyer to feature on the site. I got in touch with her recently as I was after some help with my commercial business. I'd met her a year earlier at a Ministry of Awesome event in Christchurch and had found her incredibly approachable. As we were talking on the phone, she opened up about her working and family life, and I thought wow, here's a story! A week or two later we met for coffee and decided yes, we needed her story on Herstory.

Here's an image I love from our first photoshoot:

In the mean time I have been working at a Graphic Design studio which has enabled me to get a feel for the real world after spending 5 years studying. I also launched my own commercial photography business and have since experienced the highs and lows associated with running a biz. My hope for the commercial side is to weave through my passion for Herstory and women. In other words, I would love to photograph women to help them promote their businesses, or to photograph them in a Herstory style to document other aspects of their lives. I still feel like it's a big jump for women to feel OK about promoting themselves, and I would like to make that process easier (and more fun!). So anyway, I've got four clients coming up who fit the bill, so here goes! 

You will have noticed that I've added a Paypal button to the site. After much consideration and thought, I've decided this is the best way to potentially create a little income so I can pay for website hosting and other costs. At the moment, Herstory's costs come out of my personal account, so it would be wonderful to make it self-sufficient. I am asking the people who love and gain from Herstory's content to contribute a little (or a lot) to keep this ship sailing. 

That's it from me for now! It's lovely to be back, and lovely to have you visit. If you're in Christchurch and you want to catch up, flick us a line on the contact page. If there's any specific content or stories you want to see on here, again, just get in touch.

Chrissy x

Yaakov Israel

I love this body of work, especially this photo. I don't think I need to explain why!

"Religious, social aspects filter into everyday life and their meanings are exposed as the journey moves on. Jewish missionaries, lost souls and individuals living in the fringes of the society: all blends in to form this landscape of humanity. "

Yaakov Israel 2011

'Stories to tell young women' - we're in the press

New book and website exposes challenges for women working in all-male environments.

Last Thursday the lovely Abbie Napier came to my studio at Fine Arts to talk to me about my project, herstory. Yeah, I was nervous. I always think that I’m going to get asked hardcore feminist questions, but so far no one in the media has done that. In fact, everyone’s questions have been very easy - they just want to talk about the project, not about anything else.

I think I’ve gotten used to being criticised for being a feminist, the word is often thrown at me as an insult from both friends and family. People love making jokes about women in front of me now, too. It’s hard work being a feminist, that’s for sure, but I as long as I make sure I have a strong community around me (which I do!) that advocates for the same things as I do, I think I’ll manage. 

I’m so thankful to The Press and Radio New Zealand for running stories on the project, especially because so far this has been self-funded and I haven’t been able to afford any advertising. This has really given the project a boost and a wider audience than I could ever conjure up on my own in a couple of days!

Now it’s time to focus on my studies and knock off my honours degree! I’ve got 10 more stories to refine and get on the website. After that, I’m looking forward to seeing where herstory takes me, and anyone else who wants to join in on the ride… Hint hint

PS the story on The Press website got a few trolls, naturally. Big ups to the commenters who voiced their opinions. Just goes to show how much we  need feminism…

We were on Radio NZ - listen here

How far have women come when it comes to taking on careers previously the sole domain of men? One University of Canterbury student believes there is still a long way to go. Twenty-two-year-old Chrissy Irvine, is an honours photography student from Ilam School of Fine Arts and her project, called ‘Herstory’, is aimed at exposing gender inequality in the workforce.

I got an email this morning from RNZ asking if I could be interviewed this afternoon by Simon Mercep on their Afternoons programme. It was seriously nerve racking because it was live. Now, I’ve only done one interview as of last week, so this was a big step up. But I reminded myself to practise what I preach and be confident in my own abilities and to make the most out of the opportunity.

It’s easy to tell other women to go out and seize the day, seize the opportunities, be confident, be strong… I need to do the same.

Going on air was a fantastic experience, a lot of friends text me before I went on telling me to 'just be yourself!’ which helped a lot. I really appreciated the flood of messages that family and friends sent afterwards. 

Something I’ve learnt this year (especially after Jon Jeet’s wonderful presentation at Fine Arts) is that you can’t get a degree or take on a project like this without a strong community of people backing you up. So kia ora whanau, friends, tutors, peers, and all of the encouraging emails people have sent this week.

"How to begin becoming the person you were meant to be"

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?

Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.


The magnificent Anne Lamott on how to begin becoming the person you were meant to be.

Pair with Lamott’s indispensable meditations on why perfectionism kills creativity and how we keep ourselves small by people-pleasing, then revisit Alan Watts on becoming who you really are

(via explore-blog)

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.


[Writing is a way] to think through what it means to be in this world. I definitely write to reach other people, but I write for myself first. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way. It’s just that this is me trying to make sense of my place, and how did I get here, and why am I so lucky in some ways, and so unlucky in others? So it starts with me, and then I move beyond the self, as much as I can.

— Fantastic Guardian profile of Roxane Gay, whose Bad Feminist is a must-read for all people of all genders.  (via explore-blog)

I have to agree with a lot of this statement. However there are days where you might lack any form of motivation and suddenly you remember your audience. Then you can write. It then becomes for them, not for you.

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.”