F*ck You Gender

Let’s talk Gender.

Wikipedia: Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex (i.e. the state of being male, female, or an intersex variation), sex-based social structures (i.e., gender roles), or gender identity. People who do not identify as men or women or with masculine or feminine gender pronouns are often grouped under the umbrella terms non-binary or genderqueer. Some cultures have specific gender roles that are distinct from “man” and “woman,” such as the hijras of South Asia. These are often referred to as third genders.

As a female with many years of corporate working experience, I’m well aware of the power of gender and the negative roles it plays in our societies and across many different cultures. I’m raising my sons as feminists and encouraging them to explore their own gender & sexual curiosities and express the hell out of themselves should they so wish. We should all be able to live our lives as we choose, love who and how we like without judgement, dictatorship or exclusion from those less tolerant.

Whilst researching what I want my project to ultimately achieve, I asked my friends what the word Gender (any aspect) meant to them. Here’s some of their replies:

“Social construct that supports a binary world view – JP”

“To me is nothing more than a label – PMV”

“Labels exploited by advertisers to sell more products through images of a perfect cisgender fantasy world – PG”

“This is Anthropology from The Oxford Bibliographies: “Gender is a key concept in the discipline of anthropology. Sex and gender are defined differently in anthropology, the former as grounded in perceived biological differences and the latter as the cultural constructions observed, performed, and understood in any given society, often based on those perceived biological differences” – DS”

“Social constructs that can and should be played with & subverted however you wish – QLC”

“Fascinating. Devastating for some – LS”

“I immediately think of the term “gender roles” and how much I’m getting sick of them – LF”

“Taken quite literally written down on a form to be filled out, it simply means boy or girl. Now, what does boy or girl mean? To be one gender or the other? The gender you were born with but no longer are? Does it label you so society tells you to behave a certain way? Does it depict how you should behave in life? Does it make you weak or strong? Or are we reading too much into it and over complicating things? Could it be simplified? Does someone knowing my gender give them preconceptions about me? I’m afraid I only have more questions than answers. I have so many friends now identifying as non binary or gender neutral. Could it be fashion? Could it be making a statement? Could it be rebelling? Maybe that just feels more natural I know I have lots of questions going through my mind and on so many different matters – AP”

Gender isn’t just about Girls & Boys or Blue & Pink. If you think it is, you need to catch up. Gender is a exquisite complex beast and my ‘F*ck You Gender’ project will see me photographing fellow humans and sharing with you a visual feast of images tentatively exploring gender identity & expressions challenging mass biological and sexual orientation constructs, all with accompanying prose. I want to meet and photograph people that buck society’s expectations and stereotypes. I want to photograph people who SMASH patriarchy gender role assumptions. Our children need to know the truth is out there! I also want to meet people who play to & with gender presumptions too, some just for the hell of it. I’d like you to learn about others journeys using my photographic and story telling skills to show you it in all it’s beauty and hidden turmoil. To those of you who think you have a story to tell, please make yourself known via email lesley@lesleyburdett.com or Facebook. I can shoot anonymously if you so wish.

I’m very lucky to personally know many individuals who pretty much cover the gender spectrum. It’s helped me understand the challenges and discrimination people face on a daily basis. I know some of you don’t so just in case you remain a tad confused, please meet the ‘Genderbread Person’ an info graphic which covers all aspects of Gender from The Proud Trust. The Proud Trust is a life saving and life enhancing organisation that helps young people empower themselves to make a positive change for themselves and their communities.

Here’s a photographic teaser for you. Please meet Alfie Ordinary. Alfie is a performance artist, the son of a Drag Queen and works/performs regularly in Brighton, around the UK and has taken his Brighton Fridge award winning show ‘Help I Think I Might be Fabulous‘ around the world. I’ve known Alfie for many years, he’s bloody hilarious and incredibly talented. This previously unpublished shoot from a couple of years ago which the dress designer and I heavily curated, saw Alfie without his customary wig and adorned in a Freya von Bulow Papercouture dress. I bloody love this image and I have it framed in my house. It’s been a fantastic conversation starter for my visiting CIS friends ever since.

I’m looking to photograph & interview hundreds of individuals so please don’t be shy about getting in touch. I want to photograph how you act, dress, behave and interact with the world as you normally or not so normally dress. Like I said before, I can shoot anonymously if you so wish. It’s my ultimate goal to assist in breaking down the perceived gender stereotypes. Education is king. We are one race, the human race.

I will be arranging some at home and studio sessions in the Autumn so please get in touch if you feel you’d like to contribute to this project which I will be aiming to exhibit at some point in the future.