Dear women photographers,
We hope you are celebrating today's International Women's Day to the fullest. Because in a world still majorly held and headed by men, we only get this day to ourselves. For every regular day has always felt like a man's day.
Apart from being a member of the more oppressed sex, we also come from different walks of life; the stories are not exactly quite the same to all of us, the degrees of sexism vary as well by race or heritage; yes, racialized sexism exists as well. However, surely we can all find solace in the fact that we all have to face such discrimination. The world pretty much owes us several apologies that will never be uttered. But we're neither here to bring you down further, nor matronize you; you deserve more than that. Empathy is not enough. You deserve respect.
There are many female artists and photographers -- but only few get to relish success at spotlight displays in the poshest of galleries and museums. Art world is notorious for its creative and gender bias towards men, but you know that already. It's not just in the competition of success where we experience such discrimination. We experience it while doing our photography as well.
Women street photographers -- whom among us have never been catcalled even once whenever we roam around the streets? Have you experienced being talked down on and being 'taught' of your line of work by a male photographer, as if he assumes you have no idea what you are doing with your camera? Have you ever been told that you look much better as a woman on front of the camera than to be behind one? Or how about when you're trying to break through as a professional photographer, but the company you're applying to would turn you down because you're a woman? Not to mention, the salaries women photographers and creative make are less than what their male counterparts earn -- for the same position.
Here's a more vivid example: the photojournalism industry is a male-dominated realm; the shooters there are known for carrying bulky cameras and gears to catch the perfect, print-worthy picture. Enter a female photojournalist -- majority of the male gaze is on you, not because they find attraction to you, or because you're new or charming; but because they will see you as weak and inferior unless you pass their criteria of "photographic credibility". Unless you're Dorothea Lange or Margaret Bourke-White, they'll probably treat you like a kid with a great camera too big for your size.
We've read somewhere in The New York Times wherein such an instance occurred, way back in 1973. Sara Krulwich, who was applying for a post as a photojournalist, had to hear one editor tell her that "hiring a woman is like “hiring half a person". It is real, and it is happening. A more later anecdote comes from photojournalist Emma Howells, in which she shares to Peta Pixel the maltreatment and disrespect she gets as a woman in the field.
Now, we are bringing this to the table not to fan the flames of hate and be prejudiced towards the opposite sex. Hate isn't us, it's immature, either coming from a man or a woman; we must walk our talk. We are aware not all male photographers and photojournalists are such, but it cannot be denied that these things really happen a lot in our environment. To be both a woman and a photographer is a complex issue.
But see, our womanhood revolves so much more than just around our lives as photographers -- we play different roles to different people. And every day we experience some form of disrespect and sexual discrimination, at least once a day. Once is even below understatement.
We admire your resilience and hopeful nature towards a world that keeps wronging you -- so now we are requesting you to stop.
Stop yourself from being mum and quiet when men begin to talk down on you and question your skills as a photographer because of your gender. Stop brushing off every yellow card offenses just because they're not red, or because he just does not know any better, because he is ignorant. Be the better person and teach. Have enough self-respect to stand up for yourself. At the same time, don't turn away when a fellow woman is being maltreated as well -- all we've got are each other after all.
The fact that we're still having this correspondence means it's still an issue to be solved, and we're going to keep talking about this until we all get it right. The good news is the fight's far from over. Women, we make up half of the Earth's population -- we're just as capable as men to change the world.
Ciel Hernandez of Lomography Magazine