November 3, 2013

Running with the Wolves: Defining Our Own Femininity. ~ Jennifer Allyson

It means something different to each and every one of us. Femininity that is.

Femininity [fem-uh-nin-i-tee]: 1. the quality of being feminine;  womanliness.

Magazines, television screens and Google searches shout loudly the rules of femininity: don’t eat this, fit into this dress size, be the perfect girlfriend / wife / lover…

I subscribed so long to these views, trying desperately to become this ideal woman portrayed to me everywhere I looked. But as I continued to “obey” the rules, I only felt worse and less connected to myself.

I wanted to believe that each and every woman held a feminine power and beauty that was unique and couldn’t fit into a neat definition. One that couldn’t be replicated in magazines or uttered as rules of behavior to follow.  One that was never ever the same for any one female. One that was as unique as the fingerprints of our own thumbs.

So I went exploring—in search of a hidden gem of femininity, hoping to forever banish the “one-sized-fits-all” approach. This search became ~Inspiring Femininity~ and it is a journey I am still on today.

I began in 2010 by taking as many photographs as I could of women I knew were experimenting with changing the notion of femininity. They were women who were beginning to explore their unique female essence and had undergone their own process to unravel its mysteries. They were Australians and they were Canadians. I gave them permission to be who they were, to feel beautiful on the other side of the lens, regardless of shape or ethnicity or whether they would fit into the neatly-defined concept of a traditional “model”.  And they shared their stories with me, in a blog.

It worked. I discovered that my belief, one I wanted so hard to capture behind my camera, was real. These women connected to their earth and their homelands in a truly reflective way. They shone their unique beauty in each and every photograph I took. And the beauty was never the same, never replicable for any woman featured.

We had two landmark moments. The images were projected using light art graffiti on the side of city buildings, first in St. Peters, Sydney above a busy train station and next in Calgary, Canada in an outdoor art venue. Suddenly our public spaces, ones which were usually full of traditional advertising, were now full of images of real women.

However, what I wasn’t prepared for was to watch the women continue to unravel their uniqueness after the photo shoots. Some began to advocate for female confidence, others were catalysts for social change within their communities, some began to just live their truth—changing careers or moving towards a life direction that fulfilled the needs of their own hearts.

I wasn’t prepared to learn in my own social experiment that the depths of femininity were stronger than I could have ever imagined.

But most of all, I wasn’t prepared to be inspired myself by the women I photographed. I began to search for my own uniqueness and express this in ways I had always dreamed of doing, but never had the courage to do. I chose to live my life with career choices I loved, I learned to dress to express my moods and who I was on the inside, and I learned to love myself regardless of any rules of behavior I did or did not subscribe to.

“Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species. Though the gifts of wildish nature come to us at birth, society’s attempt to ‘civilize’ us into rigid roles has plundered this treasure, and muffled the deep, life-giving messages of our own souls. Without Wild Woman, we become over-domesticated, fearful, uncreative, trapped”.
~ Estes

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Assistant Ed: Jamie Khoo/Ed: Sara Crolick

{Photos from ~Inspiring Femininity~ via Jennifer Allyson at www.allofustogether.ca}

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