This book was recommended by my tutor as part of her feedback on A2 Heads (which I did on smiles and photobooths). It’s not a photography book, it’s an academic text on “contemporary” feminism as it was in 2009.
It wasn’t an easy read and I suspect I’ll have to read it again to get a bit more from it, particularly the chapter that touches on fashion photography. I frequently had to stop to look words up, and they weren’t photography terms. I did however find it both engaging and enraging and ended up shouting at the Marie Claire magazine that I was part way through reading, because of its “athleisure” beauty advice that should there be someone especially cute at the gym you could use a waterproof eye-liner pencil. It’s copy like that that gives continuing credibility to Mcrobbie’s view that even if some parts of feminism are now essentially business as usual (as enshrined in equal opportunity and diversity legislation), the fashion and beauty industry and press has stepped into the slightest of vacuums that was left by the patriarchy. Feminism itself has not applied equally across the range of ages, class, race, sexualities that identify as female.
My climbing partner was surprised when I told her the title of the book that I was reading. Like me, her gut feeling was that feminism should not be considered as either finished or even no longer necessary. We both have opinions based on our age, our experiences, and those of our daughters, and we both think that feminism is a work in progress. I have been impressed and intrigued by the number of photographers seeking to make people think about feminish – I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise at all – but the Photographers’ Gallery exhibition was hugely inspiring and educational to me and this book has continued my learning and given me a more contemporary perspective.
I suppose the question here is how will reading this book affect my work, if at all? It has (re)stoked my inner rage and sense of injustice, and I don’t suppose my feminist perspective will change any time soon. Amongst other things, this book made me realise how important diversity and fairness are, and respect and kindness. These are qualities that as photographers we can show, demonstrate and share via our work. The chapter on make-over programmes is down-right ugly, for want of a better word. Designating feminism and “politically correctness” as no longer needed does not remove our responsibilities to show kindness and compassion; or to legitimise meanness. Like much provocative reading, there is a lot for me to process here. I am taken by the idea of “clouds of light which give young women a shimmering presence” and think this would be an interesting area to explore, particularly as I’m currently working on Part 4 The Languages of Light.