The Role of Women in Photography
I have never been a feminist and I will never be one.
I believe that nowadays it is not necessary to fight to obtain respect, but it is necessary to change people’s perception by taking responsibility, showing the way and walking the path ourselves.
I love and appreciate men deeply and I have been lucky enough to share my life with the best man I have ever met. He is an extraordinary example of sensitivity, charisma, intelligence and respect. You know when Mr Darcy says to Bridget Jones “I like you as you are“, and every single woman I know would love to be in her shoes? Carlo is really like Mr Darcy. So I have positive masculine figures in my life, and I have a marvellous son who is growing hopefully following his father’s example of ethics and integrity.
That said, it is also true there is a double standard that has been applied to women for centuries, leaving heavy marks as well as subtle messages in our society that women come in second place. It is a burden that is still heavy on our image and often gets in the way of our recognition as capable human beings with rights, needs and ideas of our own.
I had a brilliant example of the prejudice just yesterday in a camera bag store in Brisbane. I was greeted by a kind man ready to help me. I normally like to browse on my own to see if there is anything interesting before asking for help, and so I did yesterday.
I had been looking for weeks for a functional, feminine and smart looking camera bag. I finish browsing and I see a potentially interesting bag, but there were some features I didn’t quite like. Asking questions to better understand my requirements, the guy makes the assumption that I carry a camera for pleasure. When I object that I need a bag large enough to carry my cameras but compact enough to use it on assignments because I’m a photographer, he still talks about using my camera as a tourist to “go for museums“.
I found his comment funny and quite offensive at the same time. The guy was perfectly helpful and pleasant and meant no offence, but he slapped my ego nonetheless. I’m a woman, so I cannot be a professional photographer apparently.
It’s funny how it reminded me of a similar situation I experienced some years ago when I went to Canon pro photo solutions. Both participants and suppliers were 95% men and I had to make sure to be well heard otherwise nobody would pay any attention to a woman with a camera. 4 years have gone by and things have changed a lot, but there is still a stigma attached to women and their role that is hard to shake off.
Women and genius
What happens when genius is involved?
Being brilliant women means being the soul mates and supporters of men geniuses. Those women are intelligent enough to let the man be the genius he is. They understand quietly and they stay patiently behind their man. Or beside if they are lucky, but never ever a step ahead. Those women are never seen as the geniuses themselves or the brilliant people who will change the world. When a doubt arises and a comment is made on the possibility the woman is the real genius of the couple, the doubt is swept away by a condescending smile.
When someone recognises a man’s intelligence and cleverness, we happen also to hear the comment that “behind a great man there’s always a great woman” as a compliment to the female companion. As a woman, the perception is to be recognised as great and intelligent as well.
But is it meant that way? No, it’s not. It is the word “behind” that makes it bad, but nobody really pays attention to that small word… because we all want to hear that we exist, and we do not listen to the hidden and subtle belittlement there is in the word “behind“.
We are so used to be perceived in second place that we do not pay attention to these little – but important – details anymore. And so we smile happy for the compliment while oblivious of our own denial of how small we think of ourselves.
We are born and raised to serve, be complacent, dress the role of entertainers, housekeepers, companions, mothers and be quiet and happy about it. Because it is considered a fair contract to have an alpha male in our life that provides for us.
But what happens if the woman wants to become the provider and earns more than the man? What if the woman is the genius?
The role of a woman in society
Shopping, beauty treatments and pretty things are considered appropriate rewards for carrying out the role that society has carefully carved for women. It is socially expected for a woman to be in charge of the house and let men take care of what is really important, and for years we have been confined in the minor role of entertainers before becoming “the mothers“.
In ancient times this kind of role separation was relevant to the dangers encountered and reflected in the outside world. There were wild creatures to be killed for food and defence, and men’s physical strength was perfect for that role, so naturally women had to take care of the shelter and of raising the offspring. Women’s caring and subdued nature was perfect to cover that role at the time, so the role division made a lot of practical sense.
Things have changed, men and women have evolved and the world has not the same dangers now, but roles have not changed much in the meantime. Sadly, whilst once women were protected by men from the dangers of the world, now the world is dangerous for women because of men.
Today many women need to protect themselves from those men who are unable to allow women to be beside them or even ahead of them, and that try to deny them a share of what is not expected but honestly earned.
Being a woman and a professional in any field is a challenge. We have to wear so many hats that is easy to forget to ask ourselves who we are and what we want. We are not used to ask ourselves this question because we have been mostly followed what historically was expected of us.
On the other hand, now many men would be happy to share the responsibility and the pressure of being the main breadwinner of the couple, as well as women would be happy to let men get more involved with domestic chores and in the responsibility of raising the kids.
This fair exchange will bring the perception of women’s professional ability on to a different level while men will be free to follow more their inclinations instead of stressing about being the breadwinner of the family.
I look forward to seeing this change happening for a more balanced society. I look forward to seeing women finally excel and be recognised -guilt free – as capable professionals in their careers.