19 Feb New podcast: T-shirts travel exhibition
Gender inequalities remain widespread in our society and can be found in all areas of our economic, social and political activities. Globally, inequalities have been measured by tools such as the GII or the GGI. These are able to show the extent to which women’s and men’s access to opportunities, and ultimately outcomes, differ. However, these data are limited insofar as they focus on redistribution between women and men, but fail to address equal recognition (Fraser, 2013).
Central to this lack of recognition is the invisibilisation of women’s lives and their contribution to society. Women’s work – in art and literature for example – continues to be marginalised as exemplified by the Gorilla Girls Talk Back campaign (Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?). The true extent of women’s contribution has also been dismissed: for example, in 2019 the Nobel Prize for Economics was jointly awarded to three economists, including a husband-wife team. However, in some media outlets, the headlines read “Indian-American MIT Prof Abhijit Banerjee and wife wins Nobel in Economics”, leaving his work partner a ‘nameless’ wife. In fact, Duflo’s achievements are nothing short of remarkable since she is both the youngest person to receive this award and only the second woman. A similar trivialisation occurred when Katie Bouman posted a picture of her work on visualising black holes. The post-doctoral researcher was dismissed as ‘young’ and ‘cute’ and faced backlash and accusations of stealing the credit for the work of her team. In parallel, feminist efforts to address redistribution and recognition have been co-opted and watered down by marketers, social media, or celebrities. Feminism has become increasingly commodified (Goldman, 1991), and femininity re-packaged into a ‘post-feminist’ apparel (Lazar, 2014) in line with neoliberal feminist ideals (Prügl, 2015) of individual empowerment and individualism, at the expense of collective challenge to power relations and rejection of objectification and hypersexualisation.
The GEARING-Roles project has developed a travelling exhibition that seeks to recognise women’s contribution to society by making them visible using the medium of fashion. Key facts about women’s achievements were collected and translated into visual feminist designs. These were then printed on T-shirts with questions and designs on the front and back, as an alternative to traditional mediums such as posters, both to challenge the use of fashion as a tool of women’s oppression and to create a space to reclaim the messages in a material way. The T-shirt exhibition acts as a visual aid to raise awareness of female role models and can be used at any project gathering. There is a four-fold benefit: T-shirts can be worn, so it can be a moving exhibition, creating a short but impactful influx of interest; T-shirts can be hung, creating a longer-term exhibition for visits; T-shirts can be moved, so can be used time and time again e.g. in different countries and settings; and pictures and videos can be taken of the T-shirts and of the different types of exhibitions to be used on various Social Media sites.
The designs can be explored online here.
You can also listen the podcast here
For more information about the project: https://gearingroles.eu/
Fraser, N., 2013. Fortunes of feminism: From state-managed capitalism to neoliberal crisis. Verso Books.
Goldman, R., Heath, D. and Smith, S.L., 1991. Commodity feminism, in Critical studies in media communication, 8(3), pp.333-351.
Lazar, M.M., 2014. Recuperating feminism, reclaiming femininity: hybrid postfeminist I-dentity in consumer advertisements, in Gender & Language, 8(2), pp.205-224.Prügl, E., 2015. Neoliberalising feminism, in New Political Economy, 20(4), pp.614-631.