Monday, June 14, 2010

What It Feels Like for a Girl

In my sorting through some forgotten frames from this past year, I've come across so many of remarkable women I've photographed. And in sifting through the out-takes of my crying project, and revisiting the experiences behind these photos, a clear theme emerges. I post these two photographs of Emily with a distinct message in mind.

In my four years of college, I perfected the art of female bonding/commiserating. I always ran with the boys, so to speak, until I ventured off to higher education and met some of the most impressive women of my life. Sadly, though, here is what I've deduced. For me, and for many beautiful, intelligent women I've known, the following formula holds true: validation from men in romantic and/or career ventures + self-assurance regarding physical appearance and corresponding pleasant personality attributes + ability to hold back difficult emotions + pressure to give 100% to others and willingly accept 50% back because that's good enough = self-worth. That might not be the hitting the nail exactly on the head, but I think it comes pretty fucking close.

This isn't a a post intended to debase the male race. I love males -- in fact, I need them oftentimes -- to be strong when I can't, to be nurturing when I can't, to be sensical when I won't, and to be companions and fathers and life-long friends. I have been close to men who have let me in, who have knocked down their walls, who have shown their vulnerabilities, and who have leveled with me as an equal, unafraid of how incredibility frightening that can be. But, I have really struggled to find a place of comfort and peace as a young woman, especially as a aspiring photographer/artist/communicator, especially as a credible, valuable human being... I suppose this is not in direct relation to males, but more so to society's expectations at large. I have felt silenced. I have felt incapable. Knowing so many other women who all feel the same is not only sad, but extremely frustrating.

I just want to shake you and tell you that you are worth loving! And I am certain that others have felt the same urge with me. Go right ahead. I need shaken.

Why do we measure ourselves based on the expectations of others? Why do we feel like we must always be perfect, and put-together, and 100% stable? I am not any of these things. I need to fall apart, from time to time, sometimes for days at a time, and I am entitled to respect and love without a perfect presentation. I am entitled to my cellulite. I am entitled to my tears. I just want to be enough for myself, and dammit if that isn't the struggle of a lifetime.

And this is my anthem to every woman I have ever loved and known who has felt inadequate, unloved, and afraid. Wear your swimming suits without fear. Know your boundaries in the midst of pain and abuse. Celebrate your talent -- don't compare it. Stop, for one moment, and tell yourself -- really believe -- that you are wonderful.

If you promise you'll work harder to be kind to yourself, I will work harder too.


Ellee said...

Thanks, Erica.

Andreita said...

girl, you're amazing. i'm totally revisiting this post in the future because i'll know i need it.

Kailey (SnackFace) said...

Hey Erica,

I'm a fellow OU alum and blogger, and however creepy it may have been that I stumbled upon your blog, I have to say that I adore it. This post is incredible. I want to shake every woman and say the same thing (or really, something similar), too. I even need to do it to myself.

I'm revamping/updating my own blog and I was wondering if it would be OK to add your blog to my blogroll. If not, I totally understand.

Thanks again for a brilliant and beautiful post!