All my life I’ve been taught to behave in a certain way. From my experience and research, I understand that culture and society prioritize my appearance above my intelligence. That my looks are more important than my humour, assertiveness, and personality. That I am perceived based on my ability to fit in, and to abide by the rules of society. That speaking out is unfeminine. That the way I appear and behave determines how others see and judge me.
And I judge myself too. I look at my body and all I see are flaws. I survey and criticise myself and others. Women’s bodies are objectified by the male gaze, and I, like other women critique my body and the bodies of other women in a continuous search for imperfections.
Yet my flawed body is perfect. In its own unique way, it is perfectly imperfect. And I can do what I want with it. Charlotte Brontë, writing in 1847 under the male pseudonym Currer Bell, wrote to the “carping few” dissenters in the preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre: “Conventionality is not morality” and “appearance should not be mistaken for truth” . Behaving in expected ways does not make me moral. But society tries to tell me so.
Gendered roles are socially constructed, and enforced by the dominant patriarchal society. Domestic inequality prevails, with women generally still undertaking a greater proportion of housework than their male partners. When visitors come to my house, they (consciously or unconsciously), judge me, and not my husband, on the standards of our house.
Domestic implements connote housework, and in turn; women’s work. Subverting the viewer’s expectations via the use of performance and humour are critical elements of Perfectly Imperfect. Drawing upon the strong link between women and nature, I further distort tradition, by placing my feminine figure in the landscape. The culture/nature distinction is itself a construct, like gender and the concepts of femininity and masculinity.
Cultural constructs can be overcome, and through my performance in Perfectly Imperfect I seek to do just that, with the aim of brief personal liberation from constraint.