To be a woman…

Olivia Chen
Dec, 2019
When asked to develop a cover page for Shillington magazine’s “Woman” issue they asked me to present my own interpretation of Feminism.

Looking at the title, I had to ask myself…What does it mean to be a “Woman”? Is it the biological characteristics of an adult female body? Is it the clothes we wear? The colours we prefer?

I had a difficult time defining what a woman is, or what we’re supposed to be.

But what I knew for sure is that in most cultures, women are the “afterthought” while men are still the default. “Wo-man” is based on “man”. “Fe-male” is based on “Male”. God created Eve to provide Adam with a mate. There’s a W in “WNBA”, and we watch “Women’s football”- we don’t watch “Men’s Football” and we don’t say the “MNBA”. Why? Because we are not the focus, we sit outside the central system, forced to fit in and around it.

Unfortunately, “man” is still at the centre of the default settings for our society, despite everything we are doing to challenge the status quo.

But in observing the system, it is important that we keep our vision clear. I’ve realised that I don’t want to move toward the centre of default expectations. We don’t have to be like men to succeed.

There is beauty in diversity, and nature comes with balance. Women are not men. We will never be men- and, I for one, don’t want to be treated like one. I want to be treated like my own woman.

There are perks to not being central to the “default” expectations of the system. I prefer being an “afterthought”. Being overlooked gives us room to be an alternative; the freedom of creativity. And I firmly believe that creativity is a power like no other.

Inspired by Ai Wei Wei’s smashing of the Han Dynasty vase, we will smash the default idea of what a “Woman” is and what a “Woman” can be…

When Ai Wei Wei destroyed ancient vase as a symbol of Han Chinese it was shocking. But he did it in order to break free from the limitations and constraints of traditional art. It marked the beginning of new art in China, as well as the new approach for the artist.

For Shillington Post Cover– “Woman”, I smashed a bust of Aphrodite- a classic symbol of an ideal woman that has been forced upon women for centuries. Only when the default image of a woman is destroyed, then the freedom of self-identification can begin.
A series of photographs capture the action - with strong colour and imagery showing the determination of women who want to “break the mould.”

To me, true feminism is the freedom to become whoever you want to be and still be accepted and celebrated. To “break the mould” that is forced upon you.

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