The title for this work “It’s not about you” isn’t entirely accurate. What it means is this work is about the things you have said sure, but it’s not about me calling you out for saying them, it’s not about you coming to me and telling me you’re sorry. The title is meant to share the idea that this action is about me.
With this work I created a series of videos that focus specifically on the negative words I have experienced and how those linguistic relationships have affected me. I often think about communication within my work and this is the first time I have focused on the power of words with such specificity. The first piece I created with black text, has the most emotional weight for me. It is things said to me by the men closest to me. These are words I began to accept at a young age as normal forms of communication and an acceptable way to be treated. The next image with words in red are things I tell myself. This category also has a significant weight on me emotionally and is a direct result of the way I have been spoken to by society and those closest to me. The third image, words in blue, are things that were said to me by lovers during the course of a relationship. Putting these words on the outside of my body I was able to wash them with a bar of soap. This cleanse did not come easy it was difficult to scrub the text from my body but it led to a feeling of catharsis that I felt compelled to share with other women I know. The act of sharing something so personal opened a dialogue for communication about healing from toxic cycles and it allowed me to really examine how I have been impacted by these words. When I tie this back to knowledge and the passing down of something through generations my hope is to pass down the idea of catharsis for self preservation. How do we assign worth to ourselves and how does that idea of self worth carry into our culture?
With this I want to submit a call to action, to all the women I know. I urge you to participate in this project. The healing I experienced during this project was unexpected and I would love to see other women heal this way. Please take this on.
For this project you will need something to write on yourself with. Through experimentation I found that water color paint works the best, or paint in general. A little bit goes a long way. As the paint dries it becomes hard to scrub and the scrubbing is the most cathartic part of the project.
In front of a mirror begin to write those phrases out onto your face and chest. I found that starting with a single phrase was the easiest way to get started. That one thing someone said to you once that you carry with you forever. As I was writing I naturally grouped the words in things that men in my family have said to me, things I say, and things lovers have said during our relationship. The grouping allowed me to visualize a path of self hatred and devaluation that followed me from my familial relationship to myself and how that has carried into romantic relationships.
The next step is to photograph yourself with these images written all over you. Get every angle you can. Make sure you take at least one image where you are looking directly into the camera. This is important because it represents you seeing what is there and acknowledging that. It asks you to own up to the fact that you are carrying these words around with you, it forces you to see them.
The final step is to wash these words off a bar of soap and water. The bar of soap is important as well because it allows you to scrub them. This act of self cleansing is both literal and metaphoric. I encourage you to also video the act of removing the words as well, whether in a bath tub, lake, pool, or just over the sink are your choice. I found being submerged to be the most helpful and successful.
If you feel compelled to share these images on social media, please do and use the hashtags #itsnotaboutyou, #teishakh and add a link to this page. The goal here is to create an awareness for women that they don’t have to live with these words. We have been taking these things in and carrying them with us our whole lives and it’s time to let them go. Your plight is not invisible, those words are real. It’s time to create healing for all of us. We are worth it.
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