Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 10/28/2010

My Feminist Photo Shoot

(L to R) me, Morgane Richardson, Jen McCreight, Tracy Clark-Flory

(L to R) me, Morgane Richardson, Jen McCreight, Tracy Clark-Flory

By now, some of you may be aware that I (on behalf of this here ole’ webblog) was recently chosen as one of 12 “new” feminists by More Magazine. Obviously, this is an amazing honor, and the fact that I’m in the same article as some of my all time heros (Jessica Valenti is mentioned in the article and I was freakin in the same room as freakin Shelby Knox!) is kind of mind blowing. And Jane Lynch is on the cover. As a Gleek, and more importantly as a Christopher Guest mockumentary fan (that’s really where it’s at) and just general supporter of Jane Lynch’s mind blowing awesomeness, a better cover girl probably couldn’t have been chosen.

However, the concept of having a “feminist photo shoot” is definitely one worth talking about. Tracy Clark-Flory, staff writer for Salon.com and one of the feminists in the More article, wrote in her post over at Salon that “just as we rail against restrictive beauty standards…(we) then demonstrated just how subject we are to them when it came to doing our feminist photo shoot.” And sure, on a fundamental level there isn’t much that’s feminist about a photo shoot, no matter who it’s featuring. But at the same time, I feel like I should honestly share my experience.

This past August I was flown out to New York City with my Mom, and then a matter of hours later shipped off in a van with nine other awesome feminists – including Karin Agness, Lena Chen, Tracy Clark-Flory, Megan Evans, Allison Kasic, Shelby Knox, Jen McCreight, LaToya Peterson, Morgane Richardson - to a warehouse in Queens where the photo shoot was to take place.

I was excited about this photo shoot, sure, although I was still trying to master the concept of “literally around 1 million people will be reading this article and looking at this picture. holyshitohmygodwhatdoido?” Thus, the next few hours were kind of a blur, but here’s what I recall.

I was one of the first to get my makeup done. Here’s the thing: I’m not really a glam/glitz/loves looking gorgeous always kind of girl. And from looking around at the other feminists getting dolled up, I don’t think I was alone. To the makeup artist’s benefit, she did ask me (and I assume everybody else) how we normally wear our make up and then tried to replicate it. But when I looked in the mirror I almost keeled over at what a clown I looked like (and to think…that was what the make up artist called one of her most subdued looks). Truly a firsthand testament to what a normal or – god forbid – dramatic make up job must look like. I can now assure everybody on this blog from firsthand experience (though I’m sure you’ve heard it before): DON’T TRUST THE IMAGES YOU SEE IN MAGAZINES. Believe me, if we all had professional make up artists at our beck and call any one of us could be easily inserted into a magazine. And that’s before retouching.

Wardrobe was similar, in that they asked me what I normally wear and even let me keep on the jeans and shoes I wore to the shoot. Hair: same deal. Honestly, as far as photo shoots go, it seemed like the most feminist any one shoot could possibly get. They totally listened to us and respected what made us feel comfortable. Our poses were simple and totally respectable (no stripper poles or gyrating for the feminists, it seems).

Which leads me to wonder: if this wasn’t a feminist photo shoot, what is? I think this also applies to the article – I know at least that my blurb represented my conversation with the reporter incredibly well, and everybody else’s seemed to sum up what they believe in and the work they’re doing. Of course, as Courtney at feministing noted, “The women in the picture are not only predominantly white, but seem painstakingly smoothed out, glossed up, and able-bodied, overwhelmingly thin, cis-gendered and every other ‘normal’ that the stylists could possibly muster from this otherwise rowdy and sharp-penned group of writers, thinkers, and activists. That’s not a picture I would connect with my generation of feminists. At all. Too much glamour and gentility, not enough guts and diversity.”

And of course, I agree that the selection could have been more diverse…generally it always can be. But at what point would it be tokenism?  Honestly, I think all of the women featured are doing really great work and really believe in this cause. I was happy that a magazine like More - although it admittedly isn’t Glamour or Marie Claire (that truly would blow me over) – was willing to do a feature on feminists at all!

Obviously, I’m biased, and no, of course we should never “settle.” But at the same time, I’d hate to dwell on what I see as a few negative aspects of an overall great thing: feminism IS in the mainstream media at this moment! And really, the fact that an article on feminism, featuring real, live women, took the place of what easily could have been a fashion spread featuring emaciated models, is something to celebrate.

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  • Liz @ at 3:38 pm, October 28th, 2010

    I read about this on feministing and I think that the idea of a feminist photo shoot is a really interesting one. How are current/most photo shoots not feminist and how can we improve them?

    Side note, last year I did a magazine project for my intro to women’s studies class, and I did it about feminism for teens. One of the things I did WAS a feminist photo shoot, where I had my best friends dress in the outfits they felt the best in (pretty casual overall) and then I told jokes while they “posed” so it looked real. It was really fun!

  • Seth @ at 6:20 pm, October 28th, 2010

    Karl Marx and Feministing both agree….your photo shoot is way too bourgeois! You need more class equality.

    Perhaps a lesbian, one gay man, one heterosexual man or woman, and more people other races and religions. I bet all are Christian in this shoot.

    You need gender, race and religious diversity and class equality for all. Butterflys, rainbows, flowers and white doves would be soooooo cute too!

  • Natalia @ at 10:04 pm, October 28th, 2010

    @Seth

    It seems to me that most feminists aren’t religious (so I don’t think that the women in photoshoot were all Chirstians). It’s a contradiction since religions are so sexists and oppressive. It’s like being a feminist and pro-life at the same time.

  • Natalia @ at 10:04 pm, October 28th, 2010

    @Seth

    It seems to me that most feminists aren’t religious (so I don’t think that the women in photoshoot were all Chirstians). It’s a contradiction since religions are so sexists and oppressive. It’s like being a feminist and pro-life at the same time.

  • A @ at 10:24 pm, October 28th, 2010

    Julie– congratulations on being chosen for this!! It’s really amazing. I think that you’re right about the tokenism point as well.

  • Seth @ at 11:56 pm, October 28th, 2010

    Yea, down with religion as well! Down with men and the patriarchy! It’s so oppressive. We need to stick together. The whole world is against women. I’m a wican myself.(pagan witchcraft.)

    Even religion is bourgeois! I wish comrades Marx, Stalin and Lenin were alive today. They had a council on women and girls as well. The zhenotdel. Ohhh those were the days of class equality….

  • Anna @ at 6:39 am, October 29th, 2010

    @ seth:

    It really seems like you are more interested in socioeconomic struggles, which are extremely important and valid, instead of feminist issues. These things do not need to be at war with each other and are in at least a few ways intrinsically tied.

    OR

    you are a victim of a cycle of violence. Maybe your Dad beats the hell out or your Mom, maybe your Mom beats the hell out of your Dad, maybe they both beat the hell out of you, maybe you are gay, maybe you are poor, maybe you are ugly, maybe you are dumb, maybe you are too spart maybe you were sexually abused, maybe you are not as strong as your parents wish you were, maybe you are not as cool as you wish you are, maybe shit is just fucked up from every angle and so it doesn’t matter anyway, maybe you didn’t make the team, maybe you didn’t get a date, maybe you never got laid, maybe can’t talk, maybe you can’t think, maybe you don’t care, whatever. I am sure there are a lot of things that make you so cynical or bummed or angry or whatever. If you want some resources to deal with, I got some spots, let me know.

    .confidential.

    knowokay@gmail.com

  • Seth @ at 8:04 am, October 29th, 2010

    You are a sweetheart Anna. I can tell you are young and still learning about the world.

    You have a big heart like I do. I volunteer as well.

    I hope that are able to see and understand what feminism really is and the damage it has done to men and boys.

  • Seth @ at 8:09 am, October 29th, 2010

    It reminds me of a saying Anna…..

    “If you are not a communist by 20 you have no heart. If you are still one by 40 you have no brain.”

  • Liz @ at 6:35 pm, October 30th, 2010

    This is how I found this site :) LOVE IT!

  • Roach @ at 8:43 pm, October 30th, 2010

    Nice photo

  • scary joann @ at 2:26 pm, November 1st, 2010

    I would indeed be happier if I saw at least one pair of jeans with patches. But that’s because I’m broke as the butt of a republicans joke, and I like to see people in my situation clearly, visually represented.

    Our gender class is putting together a magazine and website. Our first photo shoot is of different people representing gender and feminism different ways. I now know to make mention of class differences portrayed visually. It would suck to have people of multiple genders, ethnicities, and sexes and forget class. So thank you many times over for posting this and helping at least me and my gender class grow and be reminded of the dangers that come with any attempts at visual representations.

    @seth
    …it’s so cute how all the people proclaiming themselves to be communist rave about Lenin and Stalin, and yet, never mention Cuba. Which is still communist, has a world renowned urban agriculture, free family planning and abortions, has worked to lessen cultural machismo, uses bikes over cars to lessen the oil dependency, has barely any homeless, the lowest HIV rate per capita because they educate their prostitutes on the dangers of STI’s, and one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
    Of course, most American modern communists don’t KNOW what’s going on in Cuba, partially because the media NEVER gives accurate accounts of Cuba, and partially because it’s fun to rave about Lenin without doing any research beyond the most obvious. Or to rant without offering any real information. Not sure which yours is.
    Also, I don’t see the damage feminism has done to men and boys. I see the damage male supremacy has created. Which true communism, anarchism, feminism tries to combat. Because sexism hurts more than just women, it also hurts men and those of us who reside in between. True agents of social change recognize that.

  • Seth @ at 3:59 pm, November 1st, 2010

    Hi scary joann, I’m glad to atleast see that you openly acknowledge that feminism is the advocation for the implementation of communism.

    At least we have a starting point to debate our views from. They don’t tell these young women in their gender studies class about feminist political ideology. It’s very sad really because feminists implement their agenda based on maintaining the nievity of their students.

    You have perhaps enlightened some of the students here at the Fbomb.

    An open point of debate for me would be that the agenda has not been implemented fully in that women still rely on men for resources. It is my contention that under feminism the whole idea is to support women by the power of the state and not individual men. We must understand that men are not part of the family under communism / feminism.

    Men have no obligation to support women’s families. The family is not necessary under Communism. Can you expound upon how or if feminists plan to free men from our capitalist relationship with women and the family as America continues on its course toward socialist feminist communism and a matriarchal society?

  • scary joann @ at 12:56 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    Your argument and question are based on misguided and/or misinformed assumptions. Not to mention you clearly have no interest in human rights. Or politics. Or logic. Oh yes, I can already see this will be fun.
    America is not heading towards socialist feminist communism… nice wording there btw, I can tell that’s quite an axis of evil for you. I fail to see how women earning equal wages for the same work, having a state that supports both women and men getting leave after having a child, and social welfare programs for people who are unable to work will result in a destruction of family. If anything the family structure will grow and be more communal. I know, what a terrible thing for you, to have people who aren’t relatives help each other with children. Surely it will somehow magically lead to men not being involved in families. But wait! What’s that? Feminism and communism encourage men to take more part in child rearing!? But that will make men not be part of the family! oh wait, no it won’t.

    I’m pretty sure the men in Cuba still consider themselves part of the family. I imagine the familial structure has actually improved with the lessening of machismo. Oh no! Real examples of societies that function without capitalism! Oh god, families without the man as the main breadwinner! Flee little Glen Beck fan, scurry scurry! Because surely without women getting money from men, we will not be interested in relationships or sex, will not want to raise children ever again, and will abandon our families right and left!… like men do currently. Irony!
    And yet that doesn’t happen. Loan systems ran by non-profit organizations that loan money to families or communities to better themselves tend to loan to women more, because women are more likely to spend the money on caring for their families needs than to run off and spend it on drinking. Huh.
    (btw, I pay for everything in my household. I am the family breadwinner (resource winner?), and yet my male partner and family are still around, wow!)
    If you are actually open minded and not one more troll, read “Feminism is for Everybody” by bell hooks. Or take an international politics class and examine the liberal model (capitalism), the exploitation it requires to function (of not just women but the masses we continue to call minorities), and just how sustainable it is.

  • Seth @ at 7:29 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    I understand that as a feminist the official position is that when men and women are free from the capitalist family the free love concept will be reached.

    Can you explain why since feminist laws have been implemented marriage and both rates began to decline and are now the lowest in American history? Can you explain why single mother births have risen to 40% of all births?

    Can you tell me how and when we will be able to sever the capitalist relationship between men and women so that we can escape the bourgeois economic unit of the family as feminism has promissed and thus female dependence upon men?

    As is current this has been falsely accomplished through the removal of all male property rights and thus the male body and the fruits of its labor along with the removal of male paternal rights.

    Can you explain when and how feminism will solve the bourgeois relationship females have with the male worker, the proletariat. How do you plan to solve the problem of female ownership over the means of production?

    When and how will women be able to be independent and self supporting? When and how can we be equals? When can men be allowed to be independent from women and gain our rights back that have been used to make only women “independent”.

  • Seth @ at 7:31 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    Sorry…I meant birth rates.

    Can you explain why since feminist laws have been implemented marriage and birth rates began to decline and are now the lowest in American history?

  • David @ at 4:24 am, January 5th, 2011

    Julie
    I only have the highest regards for you and this wonderfully open blog; But! Isn’t More Magazine a fashion magazine? This is how they describe themselves:

    “More is the leading voice of today’s sophisticated, affluent and accomplished woman, who is enjoying the richest years of her life, sharing news and advice on beauty, fashion, health, career, travel, money and relationships from her distinct perspective.
    Here, we invite you to share your own stories, ask questions, connect with other members, upload photos (Should you toss that dress from three years ago? We’ll tell you the truth.), swap secrets, offer your opinions and find all the information you need to live a joyful and successful life.”

    It is interesting how the US can have all these successful women when the patriarchy is so all powerful? You’re fashion feminist now, go ahead and toss that dress from last year!

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