wonderlust photoworks – γνῶθι σεαυτόν in collaboration with @kyotocat (2018)
With the exception of a few days scatter here and there through the worst wilds of winter, it’s been viciously cold here in NYC. Today was a bit better–even if there is still a lingering chill in the air that is not at all normal for here.
In an effort to sum up the state of things one of the high end liquor stores on my walk home had a sign out front reading: this weather is more confusing than my teenage daughter.
It’s not that it’s a bad joke (it’s awful); it’s not that cliché (the union of forty-something straight white cis dads from the 1970s called and wants their joke back) and it’s not that it punches down instead of up–it’s victim blaming.
If young women are ‘confusing’ maybe it’s less due to the fact that they’re hormonal while trying to negotiate cryptic boundaries/navigate societal expectations with regard to gendered embodiment and perhaps due in large part to the complete contradictions our society imposes on them with regard to their appearance, behaivor and even physical being.
The expectation to be attractive without being so attractive that you invite unwanted attention. Because no matter what you do–there’ll be someone who isn’t happy about it.
I’ve talked with too many femme friends who all offer variations on the theme of men started looking at me different, treating me differently and behaving differently toward me long before I ever even started puberty. Everything from then on was less about me and my own autonomy and instead was about making a space to exist and feel if not safe then at least not always threatened.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies–positivity towards them and acceptance of them. The idea started out as a result of something I read years ago about a young woman who curious about why she was dirty or disgusting because of her genitals decided to get a good look at them in a hand mirror. Instead of finding something unappealing, she was fascinated by the lips, ridges and folds. She realized through nothing more than the act of looking closely that everything she had been told was wrong and that her body was beautiful, miraculous even.
This is just as much for young women–who through the glut of false expectations foisted by porn–think their own labia aren’t normal/attractive. It’s also for those who experience dysphoria related to their genitalia–because it’s not always about learning to love/accept what you’ve got.
The title is in ancient Greek–which is insufferably pretentious–but it’s known widely enough that it doesn’t strike me as hermetic. It means know thyself and was allegedly the inscription over the enterance to the oracle at Delphi. (A place well known for giving cryptic but astonishingly prescient advice–the disconnect between the wisdom/efficacy of the advice and the resulting actions endeavored based upon the advice given frequently catastrophically hinging on folks really not having a clue about their essential nature.)
And huge thanks to Kyotocat for working with me through a bazillion different variations on this concept before nudging me in the direction of something that didn’t immediately come crashing down under it’s own weight of self-serious import.