What do you see when you look in the mirror?

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“Who am I?” We found out at the Science Museum, London

By Marése O’Sullivan

The What I See Project explores female empowerment and self-perception through the videos we share on our website. So the team headed to the Science Museum in London to check out its latest exhibition, ‘Who Am I?’

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Who Am I? invites you to explore the science of who you are through intriguing objects, provocative artworks and hands-on exhibits.

Discover what your voice sounds like as a member of the opposite sex, morph your face to see what you’ll look like as you age, or collect DNA to catch a criminal in our brand-new interactive exhibits.

Investigate some of the characteristics that make humans such a successful species, such as personality, intelligence and language.

Reflect on the big questions that new techniques in science are raising, and explore how your genetics and brain combine to create your unique identity.

– The Science Museum

The exhibition was certainly very interactive, with plenty of insights into everything from our genetic make-up, to our unique identity, to how feminine or masculine we think we are.

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The What I See interns, Harlen and Marése, are shown on the Science Museum’s graphics

There was more of an emphasis on tests and games for you to figure out what makes you who you are:

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I rather liked the more factual side of the exhibition. Computers dotted around the museum gave us the chance to click into the subjects that interested us the most, from ‘Why do we dream?’ to ‘Why are we not immortal?’ to ‘Are phobias inherited?’

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Of course, our family and ancestors make up a huge part of who we are physically. As a genealogist, I was intrigued by this component. I could search for my surname in the 1881 and 1998 censuses and see what places in Britain were most populated by people with that surname during those years. There were also documents provided by the descendant of a World War One soldier, including his birth certificate and a portrait of him as a young man, which really added a true human touch to this scientific exhibit.

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Overall, we very much enjoyed the Who Am I? Exhibition at the Science Museum. You can check out the trailer for it below.

If you’d like to share with us what you think makes you who you are, you can upload your own video to our website.

Are you going to watch the Battle of the Sexes?

By Harlen Leonard

Today (June 26th) will see the release of the much-anticipated documentary Battle of the Sexes.

Poster and trailer belonging to Live For Films

Poster and trailer were found on Live For Films. Click here for more details.

The film’s historical footage chronicles Billie Jean King‘s journey from amateur tennis player to her 1973 defeat of Bobby Riggs, the match that earned her instant respect as a feminist icon.

King was the number one American world tennis champion and won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, and 11 mixed doubles titles. She also founded the Women’s Tennis Association and Women’s Sports Foundation.

In 1973, Bobby Riggs challenged the leading women of the tennis world to beat him in a match. At the time, he was quoted as saying “I want to prove that women are lousy, [that] they stink [and] they don’t belong on the same court as a man.”

The 55-year-old first challenged Margaret Court, on the basis that no women could beat him even at his age, and he won on May 13, 1973. This caught Billie Jean’s attention.

Riggs said: “Billie Jean King is one of the all-time tennis greats. She’s one of the superstars, she’s ready for the big one, but she doesn’t stand a chance against me. Women’s tennis is so far beneath men’s tennis.”

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Image of Billie Jean King – courtesy of The Huffington Post.

On September 20, 1973, Riggs and King met each other at the Houston Astrodome, where Billie Jean went on to beat her competitor and instantly became a figurehead for the feminist movement. Over 1 million people watched the match on television and it is still considered to be the most-viewed match in tennis history.

This must-see film, produced by King, contains historical footage as well as interviews from Margaret Court, Chris Evert, and Venus and Serena Williams.

It is released in cinemas today. Let us know if you’re going to see it!

Watch the trailer below:

Is it ok to want to be a princess?

By Harlen Leonard

This week a hypothetical online letter on Salon.com, written from a father to his daughter, has captured the What I See team’s attention. The letter comes from Mo Elleithee, a Democratic political consultant in Washington D.C., and addresses his daughter’s misconception that she can never be the President of America.

He writes:

You and I were walking down the street and I pointed to the picture on the front page in the newspaper stand.
“Do you know who that is?” I asked.
Beaming with pride that you knew the answer, you looked up and said, “President Obama!”
“That’s right!” I congratulated you.  “President is a very important job.  Would you like to be President some day?”
Then, turning to me with a look as if I had just made the silliest suggestion ever, you laughed and said, “Daddy…I can’t be president! I’m not a boy!”
Talk about a verbal gut punch.

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Mo then goes on to note how he is aware that his daughter is only three and that her only frame of reference for ‘President’ is a man, and isn’t that sad? He points out that, in America, women make up only 20% of senators and only 10% of governors, and yet they make up over 50% of the population. He hopes that these numbers will change as she gets older.

But then it got worse.
When I asked you what you did want to be, you said with all the certainty in the world, that you wanted to be…a princess.
And not just any princess. You like Arielle, and Cinderella, and Jasmine, and Aurora, but you really wanted to be Belle. And I had to be the Beast.
Sigh…

Secondly – your mother and I really did not want you to fall into the “princess trap.” You know the one – where the helpless princess has only one singular path to happiness, and it revolves entirely around winning the affection of her Prince Charming. I thought those stories were lovely and cute before I met you. But when I began to realize the lesson that they were teaching in the context of what you might take from them, that all changed.

It’s not easy to avoid that message. It’s everywhere. We can’t walk through a store without finding some imagery of the glamorous princesses beckoning to you.

Brave (2012). Image belonging to IMDB

Now I understand exactly what Mo is saying. He wants his daughter to succeed in life, driven by her own independence and ambition. Not the so-called ambition forced on to young girls by the media.

I agree with him. I could understand his frustration, especially as he was the travelling Press Secretary for Hillary Clinton during her 2008 campaign.
However, is it really so wrong to want to be a princess? I am sure that people rolled their eyes at Kate Middleton when she said the very same line at the age of three. The idea of the princess waiting around and swooning is long gone. The Duchess of Cambridge has her own career and has certainly not done things by the ‘royal/traditional book’. Let us also consider recent Disney princesses, such as Tiana from Princess and the Frog, who actively worked to make her dreams come true, and the ever awesome Merida from Brave. Is wanting to be a princess such a bad thing with role models like this?

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Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. Image from Disney.co.uk.

It is clear that Mo’s issue is his daughter conforming to social and media pressures in regards to gender roles and careers. I can also understand that he doesn’t believe his child has chosen her definitive career path and he is simply using this experience as an example of the media presence in his child’s life and the pressures that befall her. After all, it is a sorry state that a child, who has never watched a princess film, is under the impression that she is expected to be a princess.

However, on another note…she is three. She is a three-year-old child and the chances are that her views will likely change as she gets older and is exposed to different role models and ideas.

Mo ends his letter on a positive note as it turns out it is his daughter that wants to rescue him:

“Daddy, I have to marry you!”
“You do?” I asked, more than a little amused.
“Yes. Because you’re the Beast and you didn’t turn into a prince yet. So I have to marry you.”
While the conversation went on a little longer (and got even more hilarious as you started ticking off your invite list, which included the Tooth Fairy), that moment struck me.
In your mind, you weren’t the demure little princess waiting for Prince Charming to come save you or sweep you off your feet. You were the one coming to my rescue, to help me reach my potential.

You were the one who was empowered.

On a final note, Belle was my favourite princess. She was sassy, smart, knew her own mind and defended her family. I still like to believe that, after getting married to the Beast, she went on to have a successful career as an archivist. However, this is my personal princess preference.

Does it matter what career a woman has, as long as she feels empowered?

Would you mind if your child wanted to be a princess? If so, please let us know in your comments.

Free this weekend? Here are our top five events to check out in London…

By Marése O’Sullivan

1) Head to see Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth at the Old Vic, for a stunning portrayal of a woman grasping the ageing process.

Directed by Olivier-Award winner Marianne Elliott and starring Kim Cattrall, best known for her role as Samantha from Sex and the City, alongside Seth Numrich, the play challenges the apparent glamour of showbusiness through a cross-generational sexual relationship.

Fading Hollywood legend Alexandra Del Lago (Cattrall) flees the disastrous premiere of her comeback film. Travelling incognito, she seeks refuge in drink, drugs and the arms of Chance Wayne (Numrich), an idealistic young dreamer turned gigolo. A trip to Chance’s hometown in a bid to win back his childhood sweetheart sees their relationship of convenience unravel in Tennessee Williams’ vivid and haunting portrait of the destruction of dreams.

Trailer (all copyright to The Old Vic):

 

2) Buckingham Palace is playing host to the couture of monarchs past with its exhibition, In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion at The Queen’s Gallery.

Gain an insight into the role fashion would have played in your place in society during 1485-1714.

This exhibition explores the sumptuous costume of British monarchs and their court during the 16th and 17th centuries through portraits in the Royal Collection. During this period fashion was central to court life and was an important way to display social status. Royalty and the elite were the tastemakers of the day, often directly influencing the styles of fashionable clothing.

In Fine Style follows the changing fashions of the period [and] demonstrates the spread of styles internationally and shows how clothing could convey important messages. Including works by Hans Holbein the Younger, Nicholas Hilliard, Van Dyck and Peter Lely, the exhibition brings together over 60 paintings, as well as drawings, garments, jewellery, accessories and armour.

Images courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust.

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3) An all-female cast is taking to the stage at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to perform their tour production of The Taming of the Shrew. At the time of posting, a few tickets remain for the midnight show on Friday 21. It will be played out on a traditional booth stage, just like in the Elizabethan era.

Directed by Joe Murphy, the renowned comedy features Kate Lamb as Katherina, Olivia Morgan as Bianca/Biondello, and Leah Whitaker as Petruchio.

The show will tour the U.K., Europe and – for the first time ever for a Globe Theatre tour – Asia.

Image courtesy of Shakespeare's Globe
Image courtesy of Shakespeare’s Globe.

 

4) The Propaganda: Power and Persuasion exhibition at the British Library showcases international state propaganda spanning the 20th and 21st centuries.

Box office tickets will not be available online this Sunday June 23, but can be purchased in person at the British Library.

The exhibition costs £9 for adults – under 18s go free – and concessions are also available.

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Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte in his robes of state from the British Library exhibition. Image courtesy of the British Library.

5) Discover who you really are at the Science Museum.

The free Who am I? Exhibition on the Wellcome Wing, First Floor, uses the latest technology to examine what makes us who we are. With MRI scan helmets, electrotherapy machines and bionic eyes, it’s sure to be a dynamic experience.

Who am I? invites you to explore the science of who you are through intriguing objects, provocative artworks and hands-on exhibits.

Discover what your voice sounds like as a member of the opposite sex, morph your face to see what you’ll look like as you age, or collect DNA to catch a criminal in our brand-new interactive exhibits.

Investigate some of the characteristics that make humans such a successful species, such as personality, intelligence and language.

Reflect on the big questions that new techniques in science are raising, and explore how your genetics and brain combine to create your unique identity.

Let us know what events you attend!

Female Artists’ Representations of Women at the Tate Modern

By Marése O’Sullivan

Last week, I wrote about the male artistic interpretation of women so, today, I’m looking at how women themselves portray their own gender through art.

Many ladies on Oxford Street told us how awkward they were about their bodies. I was intrigued to examine whether this discomfort is evident in paintings by women of women, so I headed to the Tate Modern’s free Poetry and Dream Exhibition, which is definitely worth a visit.

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Image courtesy of the Tate Modern

“The displays in Poetry and Dream show how contemporary art grows from, reconnects with, and can provide fresh insights into the art of the past. The large room at the heart of the wing is devoted to Surrealism, while the surrounding displays look at other artists who, in different ways, have responded to or diverged from Surrealism, or explored related themes such as the world of dreams, the unconscious and archetypal myth.

“These displays also show how characteristically Surrealist techniques such as free association, the use of chance, biomorphic form and bizarre symbolism have been reinvigorated in new contexts and through new media, often at far remove from the intentions of their pioneers.”

– Tate Modern

Dod Procter, Morning, 1926

Morning 1926 by Dod Procter 1892-1972

British painter Dod Procter worked as a team with her husband, Ernest, from a young age, but also produced her own individual work. Her painting Morning – voted Picture of the Year in 1927 and purchased by the Daily Mail for the Tate Gallery, demonstrates the depth of female self-exhibition.

The title, Morning, has connotations with light and awakening. However, the painting itself is full of shadows. The girl is unconscious and unknowing as she sleeps.

Her hands are almost exquisite in their subtlety: her left hand is clutched to her waist at the centre of the image, perhaps drawing the viewer’s attention to her fertility, her very ‘function’ as a woman. Her right hand, hidden from view behind her head, emphasises that her intelligence is the less dominant feature, as do her rounded hips and v-neck dress. There is definitely a sense of sexualised shape defining the subject. The cool colours in the painting highlight both the subject’s skin and clothing.

This is pure physicality, with a fused simplicity and intricacy.

Meraud Guevara, Seated Woman with a Dog, c. 1939

Seated Woman with Small Dog circa 1939 by Meraud Guevara 1904-1993

Meraud Guevara exercises her subject’s control in this painting. Even though she is seated, the room can barely contain this woman, with her extended black hat. Guevara’s dimensions focus on her sheer power. The sharp lines and white and brown colours stress the inner turmoil that seems to be contained inside her.

She’s trapped, confined in this tiny space. Her downcast expression shows that she has accepted her fate. The small window and open door reveal the last bit of hope she has of escape, but she is seated. Entombed.

Her tiny dog, resting on her lap, is smothered by her hand and overpowered by her suffering.

“[This painting has a] disquieting atmosphere,” says the Tate Modern. “The sitter is both impassive in her unfocused gaze and seductive in her slipped blouse. She wholly dominates the steep angled space.”

Germaine Richier, Diabolo, 1950

Diabolo 1950, cast 1994 by Germaine Richier 1902-1959

Germaine Richier, Water, 1953-4

Water 1953-4 by Germaine Richier 1902-1959

These innovative bronze castings by French sculptor Germaine Richier are fascinating depictions of women. Again, we see the physicality of the body. The first is imprisoned by the earth, while the second is headless – faceless. There’s something simultaneously mechanical and emotional about them, with their distinctive nudity and stark posture.

The What I See Project is a global exploration of female empowerment and self-expression. Please contribute here: http://whatiseeproject.com.

Surfing in Heels

By Harlen Leonard

It was Marilyn Monroe who said “give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” While these women may not have conquered the world, they have certainly conquered the waves, and in heels no less.

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Image courtesy of Surfer Today.

These Russian surfers hopped on their boards at Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia, competing for the best ride. Sadly, it is hard to decipher which of these talented women won, but considering how difficult it is walk in heels, let alone surf in them, they are all winners in our eyes.

The event, held on May 6th, is the first of its kind, but organisers Surf Discovery say a similar one is planned to take place in the near future.

It is assumed that these women are trained professionals and that this should not be tried in the ocean or the bath. The original video was posted on Vimeo by Anna_Lazar, please feel free to watch it and be amazed!

Ladies Who Impress: A Night of Celebration

By Marése O’Sullivan

The What I See team headed to Cecil Sharp House in Camden on Monday to check out the Ladies Who Impress event, organised by Jana Bakunina.

The theme was ‘London In Her Eyes’, and the host made sure to quiz her guests of honour on how they see London. Jana herself moved to London from Ekaterinburg in Russia over a decade ago and has since established a career in media. With wonderful guest speakers in the shape of Jenny Dawson, founder of chutneys and jam business Rubies in the Rubble; Katherine Grainger, Olympic gold medallist and Homicide PhD graduate; and Xiaolu Guo, filmmaker, novelist and one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 2013, we were certainly inspired.

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Ladies Who Impress: Founder Jana Bakunina

“In the modern day and age, whom do professional women, juggling work and family, balancing desire to look good with cravings for treats, carrying The Economist and Grazia in their totes, find impressive?” writes Jana on her blog. “I realised that there are lots of amazing women out there from very diverse backgrounds. […] And so I have decided to do something to celebrate those amazing ladies and inspire other women to be more confident, daring, creative, enjoy life and give more to others.”

Jana plans to regularly host events to encourage interaction with women in the public eye who have made huge achievements. Sponsored by GOSH Food and fundraising for Alzheimer’s Disease International, Ladies Who Impress was a true revelation of the strength and determination of these women.

“Entrepreneur, athlete, writer…let’s look beyond these labels,” said Jana.

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JENNY DAWSON, Founder of Rubies in the Rubble

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Jenny’s home-grown company, Rubies in the Rubble, started in November 2010 and the young entrepreneur, who has a Masters in Maths from Edinburgh University, has quickly developed a knowledge of her market. Inspired by her mum, Jenny hit on the idea of using surplus fruit and vegetables to make delicious and resourceful chutneys and jams. Now she’s selling 300 jars a day.

“I stumbled across something I was passionate about,” smiled 27-year-old Jenny. “I realised I can make a really fun business out of [food that could be] wasted.” She said that approximately 60% of thrown out food is good. She employs several disadvantaged people at her stalls and kitchens to help them get their pride and self-confidence back in a work environment – two of the women that work for her are homeless.

Her chutneys and jams have had interest from America and she plans to expand the range of products that she and her business partner Alicia Lawson currently produce. “I guess the thing that all entrepreneurs have in common is a little naivité or lack of fear,” she declared. “Even if you fail, give it your best shot. I care about it so much – [but] if it all goes to pot, I’ll try and laugh about it…if possible!”

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KATHERINE GRAINGER, Olympic gold medallist and PhD graduate of Homicide Studies

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Although she is a three-time Olympic silver medalist and a six-time World Champion, Katherine revealed the struggles she went through to achieve victory as an Olympian. She fell into rowing at university. The mantra behind her team’s first silver Olympic medal was “We’ve never really reached our limits. Why don’t we tap into something we’ve never tried before? We believed it was possible – the different mindset transformed us.” Her competitive nature encouraged her to pursue the sport, but it also led to downcast periods in her life where she felt disappointed in herself. “I genuinely felt like a massive failure,” she said of not receiving gold at Beijing in 2008. “It was really tough to come to terms with it.”

She promised her mum that she’d compete at London 2012, although she didn’t know if she would at the time. “[Mum had said] ‘Promise me you’ll be in London, because I know you can do it.’ It’s just hard work,” she told us. “You don’t make assumptions [that it will not be].” Her determination paid off at the 2012 Olympics when she won gold in the double skulls with Anna Watkins. “I love what [the sport] brings out in me…the journey is worth it.”

She revealed that Princess Anne told her that she had no foreknowledge of the Queen’s surprise appearance in the James Bond spoof during the Opening Ceremony. When the Princess asked the Queen what made her do it, Her Majesty apparently declared: “We needed to find a way to beat Beijing!”

XIAOLU GUO, filmmaker and novelist

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The bestselling author of UFO In Her Eyes (the title of which inspired the Ladies Who Impress event name) and A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, which was nominated for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction, also made an appearance. This multi-talented lady has penned screenplays, poetry and fiction and is known for the deep emphasis on cultural awareness and alienation in her feature films, which she directs and produces. Xiaolu studied at the Beijing Film Academy and earned a Masters from London’s National Film School. She was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists this year.

Photography courtesy of Jana Bakunina, Harlen Leonard, Marése O’Sullivan, Xiaolu GuoKatherine Grainger and Rubies in the Rubble.

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