When creating this piece, I reflected on a tweet I read about recently on Facebook. Someone asked the following question.

The general character of responses was quite shocking. Here are some examples: ”Go out without worrying, dress however I want to to go out, go for a walk at night or generally going for a walk with headphones at whatever volume I like, the list is endless…”, ”Skinny dipping at the beach, walk through a park late at night”, ”Enter my workplace without being harassed”, ”It’s not even what I could do or say – although there are many things that would be different and better. It’s a state of mind, ease, the freedom to move about the world without fear and with confidence”, ”Go for a run! after dark! even hushed whisper somewhere not well lit. Then go to a bar! all by myself! have a few drinks, then walk home without worrying about raped and/or murdered then blamed for it. WILD”.

I am lost for words, disconcerted but also not surprised at all. It made me realize how trapped we are inside the men’s world. Our actions, dress code, choices, perhaps even thoughts are being controlled and dominated by the standards, expectations, and fear. It made me question how much of ourselves as women we really are? It seems to me that wherever we go and whatever we do, we must abide by particular rules or we might, in the ‘best’ case scenario, get harassed, in the worst one, seriously hurt. Sure, we have an impression of freedom, but these comments speak volumes. Is every woman in the world ever one hundred percent herself? Even when we believe we are, aren’t so many behaviors so profoundly ingrained in us that we wouldn’t recognize we are programmed, and this is really not your true self? The illusion endures.

It is a dark and unsettling thought yet, appears so familiar the more I think about it. There are numerous things that I personally would or wouldn’t do to keep myself safe. In my previous employment, I was a support worker in a peaceful town. However, once the night descended and regardless that it was only ten minutes walk home, my partner would meet me to be my escort on a one-minute passage through the dark alley. Yes, that short distance was sufficient for me to be intimidated, to feel the need for protection. I am lucky enough to have it, but you can’t predict every threatening situation, notably that as a woman, you are practically continuously surrounded by them. I struggle to reason that they are as many men in the world that share similar experiences, struggles, and worries that women do.

The Collage composition I conceived is an expression of that concern. Women are portrayed as fantasy (mermaid), accomplishing their ‘destiny’ (bride), a breeding source (bees), a mystery, a sex symbol (lady in red swimming suit, molded into men’s desires). The text ”So lifelike you feel you are right there” represents the design of a woman for man’s needs. To get him there, wherever he wants it to be (metaphorically and physically) as this is a man’s world after all. Simultaneously we are under a constant watch (a man with a telescope), every step of our way, our behavior, clothes, needs. Nothing passes by the watchful eye of a man. I purposely cut out the sky at the bottom into letters – I, representing the lost identity and distorted reality, posing a question – who am I?

Fantasy mermaid is reaching out to POWER positioned in the opening of the mine shaft. Through this symbolism, I endeavor to communicate a message that even though women came a long way over the years, we are still deep ” down in the mine”. There is still so much work to do.
To illustrate, ”Rape statistic 2019-20 declares that fewer than one in 70 recorded rapes resulted in a charge last year, 1.4% of rapes recorded by police in England and Wales resulted in a charge or a summons in the year to March, a record low after a rate of 1.5 percent the previous year, according to Home Office figures” (The Guardian, 2020).

My heart breaks when I think about that, and even further when I reflect on less developed parts of the world. Forced genital mutilation, child marriage, rape and murder, lack of education. Is that a safe world that values and empowers women? I don’t believe so. Yes, I am disheartened to say we are deep, deep, down in the mine, and we have only just begun digging.

The other of the mermaid’s hands is a tree. Like a forest converting carbon dioxide from the air into oxygen for us to live, a woman also has the exclusive power to create life. With each one, male or female, there is the potential to change and grow, a hope for a brighter, more stable, and equitable future for all of us.

Disclaimer: I don’t deem all men immoral, and I acknowledge the fact that men are frequently victims of sexual abuse and different crimes, which is equally sad. However, the issues I bring up unquestionably correlate to women in the preponderance, and I want to discuss that and let my art express my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

Published by Elzbieta Skorska

My name is Elzbieta Skorska. I am a second-year photography student degree at MMU.

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