We feel it is important to show you what we as a team feel about our campaigns and projects. Especially as many of us on the team are artists ourselves. Here is an article written by Lisa Reeve one of our Managing directors at ASLI and who is also a photographer, make-up artist, SFX artist and visual artist. Lisa wanted to speak about violence against women, gender stereotypes, body image and the importance of education for girls. Here is what she had to say on this issue:
“When I travelled to Africa as a photographer and shot my project ‘Faces of the Gambia‘ I learned that not all people around the world are given the opportunity or rights to express themselves independently without facing fears of abandonment, imprisonment , violence , rape and even death. I never quite questioned the luxury of being able to choose my own clothes, friends, boyfriend, education and career before. What I witnessed in The Gambia was a huge sense of oppression, reinforced mostly by their society, government, families and religion.
I learned that girls in particular were extremely vulnerable to this as men were at the driving seat of these issues. Young girls are often genitally mutilated (circumcised) to remove any sensation during sexual intercourse, this is to prevent them enjoying sex. Young females have no control over this procedure which is carried out by both men and women who still believe this is a good idea and done without antiseptic pain relief or a qualified practitioner. Unsterilised knives are often used and lead to infection and in some cases death. Women are often expected and pressured to marry very young to an arranged suitor, having lots of children which puts them at risk during pregnancy and childbirth because of poor sanitation. Men have the right to work, have an education and marry multiple wives whilst the women are denied all of these things. Every life choice that I may make here in England, would probably be some ones else’s for me if I was born in The Gambia.
This unbalance between sexes undoubtedly makes women feel inadequate, unintelligent and dependant on men and in turn gives men power. Whilst I was contemplating this observation of female oppression I also noticed how little they cared or thought about personal appearance, some families didn’t own a mirror, with me owning more possessions in my rucksack then a family owned between them. I was often greeted by topless women and learnt women’s breasts are seen as a milking system for their young and not as a sexual body part like they are seen here in the West.
Being of slim build I was asked if I was unwell compared to the larger, more voluptuous Gambian ladies, to which in comparison I was a pale white weed. Parallels between ideals of beauty really hit me there. I was surrounded by women socially oppressed by their own people, was I oppressed by a culture of materialism, consumerism and vanity instead? Maybe these differences do not deserve the same comparison but it did make me wonder about the lengths I go to, to socially conform.
I try not to wear and buy into make-up and fashion industries as I am a massive advocate or recycling (ASLI encourage this too with our swap-shop events) and up-cycling but I feel body conscious. I feel unattractive in the morning without make-up and overweight compared to the pretty and slim models, who no doubt are photo shopped in women’s magazines. How often do we value trends, possessions and objects more then we value people and their kindness?
I created my series’ Faces of the Gambia’ portraits of the Gambian people, to raise awareness of people in third world countries who are disadvantaged and challenged, to be a voice for the unheard , to help educate and promote independence for everyone and to help towards putting an end to female oppression. I am Honoured to be one of the MD’s for ASLI, working alongside talented and passionate artist who really want to make change. The Celebration of Women first issue for this on-line magazine has been so rewarding, I was in charge of artists who were photographers, film makers and performing artists and I have seen a vast array of work from all over the world, carrying powerful messages using art. Lets grow from here and let both men and women walk tall together.”
Lisa also answered some of the interview questions posed to our artists about women:
Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?
“Definitely. images of women in the media portray an unobtainable look reinforced by photo-shop manipulation and specific model selection in which criteria is met for tall, lean and flawless faces and bodies .”
Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?
“I believe that there our fundamental differences between men and women but that shouldn’t make one better than the other. I don’t believe women have the same rights as men around the world and that is sad.”
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?
“I am an animal rights activist. Like with vulnerable people we have to make a stand for the unheard, inequality is not expectable whatever our differences whether it be sex or species. I have worked with many vegan charities and been to Africa where I shot my photography project ‘ Faces of the Gambia’ which hopes to raise awareness about the lack of education for women in third world countries.”
What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?
“To me ASL means conveying, as a team, important messages internationally that express artistically through all artistic disciplines, helping to educate and engage audiences to fight for better change in the world. Art has definitely saved my life as it has given me an artistic outlet for feelings that can be hard to articulate and has giving me a mindful practise to focus on whilst I suffer from a dissociative disorder.”
What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
“I believe it is the fight for women’s equality, men do not have to be put down in the process of that. I think it may mean didn’t things to different people perhaps. I have never thought of myself as a feminist but I do believe in equal rights between sexes.”
If you would like to know more about Lisa Reeve please follow these links: