I meant to write this post last week but life got in the way. As you know, I recently did a talk at a Camera Club in Scotland. I started off by talking about my experiences of being a wildlife photographer, and did a small section on the hurdles faced by female wildlife photographers. I talked about wanting some camouflage trousers and finding just what I wanted in the men’s department, but only finding pink lycra camouflage in the women’s. I wanted a Timex Rugged Expedition watch (mud, shock, drop and water proof) and out of the 20 on the Timex website, 19 were for men and only 1 for women – the men’s had stop watches, compasses, altimeters……..and the women’s told the time, no other features not even the date (I actually wrote to complain to the head of design for Timex and to point out that women lead very active, outdoor lives but didn’t even get a reply). I also talked about the fact that I have a pop-up hide for my wildlife photography which has a lovely comfy chair, but when I sit in the chair I can’t see out of the view holes because they’re designed for much taller men – not a single photography hide is made for women and even if one were available I’m fairly sure it would be pink.
The question I’m most often asked about my creative photographs is “where do you get your ideas from?!” so in the second half I talked through the inspiration behind some of my photos. One of my pictures was inspired by the fact that all the books I read as a child had women trapped in turreted castles waiting to be rescued by a man on a white horse and I commented that it is great these days that girls get to read books where they are Dora the Explorer or Rebecca the Steam Train (although it did take 70 years for Thomas the Tank Engine to get a female counterpart). Another picture was about the myriad of hurdles faced by women every day and which even we don’t notice, for example supermarket shelves which are too high for women to reach, the fact that an average 5.5″ mobile phone is designed to fit in one male hand but is too big for a female hand, DIY equipment only sized for men (everything from safety gloves to screwdriver handles) and the fact car seat belts aren’t designed for pregnant people. About my niece who became a police officer last year and who has to wear a stab vest all day designed for men not women with boobs, despite the fact we’ve had female police officers for over 100 years now (some female police officers have resorted to surgery to reduce their breast size due to the pain!) and the fact that since the Thalidomide scandal 70 years ago 99% of drug testing has been done on men, even though we know men and women metabolize drugs differently. That last statement was one too many for some of the men in the audience, one of whom muttered loudly “it’s 60%!” No, mate, it’s not. Even when drugs are on tested on mice in a laboratory they are male mice, not female.
At the end of the evening, I overheard one woman in the audience say “I thought I was coming to a photography talk, not a talk on feminism!”. Well fuck a rubber duck.
It astounds me that some women will defend the male world we live in. They say it hasn’t bothered them. My response to that is you need higher standards. You need to have more self esteem and to demand to live in a world which is designed for both genders.
A man came up to me after my talk, trying to be helpful. He was small for a bloke, about 5ft 4″, and told me of this particular shop where I’d be able to get camo trousers to fit me because they fit him. I thanked him politely, then walked away shaking my head. Has it escaped his notice that even if we’re of roughly similar heights we are not shaped the same? Does he think I have a male, 32″ waist?! FFS. “Unisex” clothing means the clothes fit men, and we women are just supposed to lump the fact the sleeves and legs are too long, the bum is too tight, our boobs are flattened and the waist is like a boat.
I’m not a feminist, whatever one of those is. I just believe men and women are equal and should be treated equally. Which isn’t to say we’re the same. The women who get ahead in life have to behave like men to do so, which really pisses me off. Women like Karren Brady (Vice-chair of West Ham Utd football club) and Angela Merkel (German Chancellor), who are called “ballsy” even though women don’t fucking have testicles! Even the adjectives given to successful women have to be male. I want to live in a world where a female Prime Minister doesn’t have to wear power suits – she can rock up in a floral dress and still be taken seriously. We’re not there yet. Not by a long shot.
We’ve had 2 millennia of hearing about the world from a male perspective and it turns out that in the 21st century we still can’t even stand 90 minutes of hearing about the world from a female perspective without feeling the need to denigrate the speaker. It makes me furious and just really, really sad.