The Female Gaze

I reached out to over fifty women to celebrate unity and solidarity, while still recognizing the injustices and struggles interwoven in what it means to be a woman. In a world so focused on catering to the male gaze, I decided to capture the female gaze and document how women see the world. What does it mean to be a woman?



Alex Vargas
“I remember having a conversation my second year, in bed with a friend, and he was like, ‘What is a radical epiphany you’ve had in the last year?’ and I said something along the lines of ‘I don’t think that I’m that pretty, but I don’t think I have to be.’ I don’t know if it’s me being uncomfortable with the way I look, because I’ve grown to accept the way I look and my body, to a certain extent, because of what I’ve been conditioned to think. But I like my body and I like my face and the way I look and my skin tone and everything. I accept myself. But also, but maybe I’ve learned to divorce, or [work] toward divorcing the way that I look and my value as a person. Maybe I don’t have to be pretty. Maybe I just have to be who I am as a person and still be valuable.”



Tzinti Medina
“Being a woman to me is simultaneously being both the strongest and most powerless person in the room.”



Nicki Guivatchian
“I used to have really long hair, and I just chopped it all off which was really empowering for me, because everyone loved my hair and how it was supposed to be. Then I cut eight inches of it.”



Atika Dunlop
“What I thought I was supposed to look like is not what I looked like. I was especially self-conscious about really small things. Like when I was little, I wished so desperately to have straight hair.”



Celine Li
“I came to the U.S. two years ago. I had a great job in China for six years but I felt like I was doing something I wasn’t so passionate about. So I changed my job and accepted the challenge to move [to] a new country by myself. I follow my heart. I know a lot of my friends and colleagues stay where they’re comfortable. I feel like it’s a little bit boring. I like a lot of challenge, change, and discomfort. It makes my life more fun and meaningful, but during the whole process, you need to be very brave and independent and take responsibility for your decisions.”



Rozhelle Buhay
“I was born in Guam, and it’s pretty simplistic [there]. You sleep, work, and play and that’s all. The food resources there are pretty natural. Everything there is pretty organic. That’s what I grew up with. Then when I moved here, to the U.S., everything was processed and there was so much fast food and I was like, ‘Ah, yes, I want to try everything!’ At a young age, my weight gradually increased so much that my mom started to pick at me. She would say, ‘You’re not having a woman’s curves anymore. Those are starting to be rolls.’ I think for my mom, her standards of being a woman [are] to have that hourglass figure and she didn’t see that in me.”



Jessica Cao
“I feel like I haven’t been as confident as males are taught to be, going into professional settings. When a woman is confident, people are offended or think she’s bossy, or they look down on her. But when a male does the same thing, [he's] respected. The fear of being looked down upon for being confident is still there. [At work,] something a lot of my male peers didn’t experience is like, when they would come in and ask questions, they would feel like it’s okay to touch me or call me 'honey.' I know they don’t mean it in a bad way, but it’s something my guy coworkers would never experience.”



Fisayo Osilaja
“My grandma is always telling [me that] it’s very important to know how to cook so that I can be a good wife and so that someone will want to marry [me]. I mean, it’s definitely important to know how to cook as a human being. I understand where she’s coming from, but she’s making it seem like that is my whole reality. She never talks to me about other things. She [is] just very insistent on me cleaning and cooking while my brother [is] playing video games.”

Is there anything you would want to tell young girls?
“Be yourself. I know that’s cheesy, but I wish someone [had] told me to be myself when I was younger. I was so insecure and sad and depressed. I really want every small girl out there to just be [herself]. We are infinite and dynamic, so don’t go through life streamlined in a certain way just because people want you to act that way.”



Christina Chen
Something I’ve been actively doing is utilizing [the phrase] ‘Make space, take space.’ It’s a concept where people with privilege will make space for those who need it. But instead of waiting for people with privilege to make space for us, I think our mantra is that we are just going to take space.”

How do you embrace your womanhood?
“I’ve embraced my womanhood by [ignoring] gender norms and not [caring] about how I appear. I burp really, really loudly. I burp [in] really random places. Usually, people are shocked-- like, what is this coming out of this girl? And I’m like, ‘Suck it up! I’m human and I burp.’ This guy yesterday was saying, ‘Do you do yoga?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah!’ and he was like, ‘Hm, have you tried massaging out your stomach? I feel like you have a lot of gas buildup in your stomach.’ And I’m like, ‘Whatever, just because you can’t burp like me.’”

By Kimiko Okumura

2 comments

  1. so sweet, i love this piece. tzinti's quote is so powerful!

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    1. Omg yeah I was just about to say! That quote is something

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