What is Womanhours?
The Womanhours series involves performance, video, installation and photography. Specifically, in PERFECTION, the works Fake Tan and Brazilian Wax are videos I have created undergoing these cosmetic rituals. They were shot on DSLR cameras. Both videos were shot several times over a three-year period with mobile beauticians in a professional photography studio space. My methodology of carnal sociology and self-portraiture gave me the experience to explore the vulnerable realities women feel pressured to undergo, to try to attain the ideal of the Glossy Magazine Girl.
What motivated you to create this work?
I began to develop Womanhours as a way to channel my frustration at the growing list of cosmetic rituals that women are compelled to undergo to appear beautiful. I started to ask myself, how many hours does it take to be a woman? Advertising’s ‘Glossy Magazine Girl’ – plucked, waxed, purged and shrunk to perfection – has intervened on women’s relationships to their bodies. Though women’s bodies that have passed through these cosmetic rituals are abundant in advertising, they are not witnessed labouring to produce this effect. What is seen instead is a singular and controlled perspective, a magical product naturalized by the advertisement’s frame. The advertising lens has become a powerful tool for bodily control. Womanhours turns the power of the lens against itself: the labours of plucking, waxing, purging and shrinking, usually hidden from view, are presented for all to see. These works reveal the intractable, comic ‘failures’ in the face of the demands placed on the everyday performance of female gender. The choice of self-portraiture is informed by Louis Wacquant’s ‘carnal sociology’, where the researcher embodies themselves as the research object, experiencing a social world from within, rather than observing it from the outside. Womanhours’ personal engagement also aims to establish solidarity with other women compelled to endure these rituals. I have not observed a kind of feminist sociology of waxing, shrinking, bleaching, tanning and cleansing. I have waxed, shrunk, bleached, tanned and cleansed myself.
What conversations are you looking to ignite with your work?
I have aimed to demonstrate how body-correcting practices have transformed the construction of women’s gender that the new forms of interaction between media and the everyday practice of women’s subjectivity need to be better understood and more critically analysed, in order to widen the perception of beauty and perfection. It seems increasingly important to visually intervene in the circuit of gender advertising in media and the new forms of body correction – and to break the circuit. It has been one of the principles of Womanhours that ‘gender’ as a topic has been written about critically, but it is critiqued much less often in the visual language that is its everyday language. As I am looked at, as I look, I am a gender. This looking is hierarchically structured: it privileges the active male gaze and subordinates the female as a passive recipient of that gaze, imprisoning her in her body. Today that ‘prison’ is subject to more intense and rigorous forms of discipline than ever before. It is my argument that research responding to this new ‘front line’ of feminism cannot rely on the female voice of a raised consciousness as something abstracted and disembodied on the page. It must also analyse what it is like to embody the suffering of the shrunken, waxed, purged, and bleached Glossy Magazine Girl, and to let that suffering speak in its ‘incarnate’ language.