At the beginning of the month I had the privilege to be part of the Visible Women festival a two day which celebrated who and what women are through the context of art, workshops, and discussion.
Organised by the human dynamo that is Keira McLean, visible women had an action packed programme of theatre and discussion including the premiere of a one woman show by the hottest property on the Scottish spoken word scene Victoria McNulty, the controversially acclaimed show Gaslight by Darren Loki McGarvey, and workshops on feminist music , comedy and film festivals.
As a trans woman I was delighted to asked to submit a poem to this festival but me being me I e-mailed three to Keira and let her decide which one she wanted to include. The poem she selected was Does My Lipstick Scare You ? which I wrote for World Transgender Remembrance Day in 2014. On chatting with Keira she told me that she made her choice due to the fact it was the best fit for the event as it challenged those in attendance to redefine their notions and images of women and of womanhood. Looking back I can quite clearly see why she made this poem her choice and I believe that I would have made the same decision. If you look at some of the artwork featured in the exhibition you’ll see why.
Picture (1) Women And Words asks a fundamental question on the power dynamics in male- female relationships
Picture (2) This picture uses a word which is usually used to describe power and authority that an individual or organusation may hold over us in certain situations. Don’t get me wrong the word obey is fine when we use it in it’s proper context like for example reminding children to obey our parents or school teachers, or if we are members of a group, or a club we promise to obey the rules of that club or group. Unfortunately however,when it comes to women the word obey has very negative connotations. In our case it is usually inferred or even stated that we should obey the men in our lives no matter in what capacity. Yes even in 21st Century Scotland/UK this attitude still prevails albeit to a lesser extent than was once the case,but it is still very much out there.
To me the idea that I should be considered of secondary importance and therefore subservient to male family members, work colleges , or lovers, just because I’m female is fundamentally flawed but attitudinal barriers are often the hardest kind to break down and we need to remember that it is only 30 years ago that this word was included in every wedding ceremony in the country as part of the bride’s promise to her husband. Yes I know it says in the Bible that wives should to their husbands but it also says that nobody should eat pork and people can sleep with family members, and I don’t either of these argument work well in today’s consumer based society .
Picture (3) Words,can be used as weapons and they very often are as capitalism promotes inequality between the sexes as the collection captured, in this photograph amply demonstrates.
Picture (4) Gives you a message the established order don’t want you to know and that message is freedom is power. It also asks the most fundamental of questions which is how can you have no home? For women however, this question still needs to be addressed as more women than men will be homeless due to changes in their domestic circumstances so though freedom may very well be power for men locally, nationally, and globally this doesn’t apply to women who often find themselves out in the cold due to changes in living arrangements.
Picture (5) If every picture tells a story then the images on this wall speak of judgement with slogans like to cover up and shut up and not fit to be a mother informing us of the standards men or the more neanthadal among that species think women should aspire to. Now I hate to shatter the illusions of these delicate little creatures but maybe they have their centuries confused. For the avoidance of doubt this is the 21st and it’s time they stopped living in the 12th
. Picture (6 ) I find this image both challenging and powerful and I’m sure many people will have their own personal take on it. As for me, my interpretation of the phrase walk with me is that men need to spend a day walking in our shoes to understand the prejudice and discrimination, we still face in Scottish/ British and Global society even in these so-called liberal and enlightened times.
Picture (7) This image tackles the thorny image of stereotypes. If you look closely you will see a picture of a women’s crossed legs. This in my portrays the idea of woman as seducer, and temptress. It is if you like the typical male view what femininity is about though it doesn’t constitute an image of any women I know. Indeed if truth be told it provides only one representation of what may or may not be at any given time and as such should not be given a greater prominence than it deserves.
In the same photograph you can also see the word hysterical. This is a word, which is only ever attributed to women and the implication behind it is that unlike men who are always perfectly balanced, women are not in control of our emotions are liable to throw a temper tantrum if we are not given our own way. This sexist use of language gives the misleading impression that men are more rational than women and is often used to discriminate against us.
Picture (8) If visible women means making women proud of who we are then this picture of my friend and fellow poet Carla Woodburn which shows her looking happy, confident, and relaxed is the perfect picture to include in this post. Carla is a very visible woman in the Glasgow poetry scene and has recently set up her own spoken word night Tell It Slant at The Project Cafe on the last Friday of the month and with her friendly but professional attitude and her warm and welcoming personality I am sure it will be a fantastic event which will become a valuable part of our spoken word scene in the months and years to come.
Picture (9) Shows my poem Does My Lipstick Scare You? Hanging on display in the exhibition. Though the text is not clearly visible in this photograph you can quite clearly see that it is a poem in the way it is laid out and I was proud to have it featured at an event which looked at who women are and how we are represented in every way imaginable. On chatting to others who attended the festival , I found that many had viewed my poem and were very complimentary about it saying that it challenged heteronorative norms as to who and what women and told the story of a very visible trans woman who wasn’t afraid to be herself
Naturally I was delighted to receive such positive feedback on my work particularly on a poem which I believe challenges everyone but especially alpha males to recognise that trans woman are women and will not be bullied by anyone Looking back at the festival I can honestly say I completely understand why Keira selected this poem to represent my work and trans women more generally as it challenges the notion of patriarchy and illustrates that women come in all types , shapes and sizes and when we can visibly embrace the fact and enjoy being ourselves then it really is something to celebrate.
Love And Best Wishes