"Senshi" Multi Channel Version
"Senshi" Single Channel Version
Senshi: Women's Day Premiere
I decided to work during the women’s strike. I am not wearing red. I am resuming my week without interruption. I am working alongside other male professionals. I am sitting across from other women that cannot feasibly support taking a personal day.
I don't need to display my worth by my absence; I prove it in my presence. My colleagues, man and woman, do not doubt my talents. The amount of time and dedication I’ve put into my practice have made me undeniably invaluable. I’ve worked hard to sustain my foothold in a male dominated industry. I hold myself and my work with the highest esteem and pride that others cannot discredit my worth. I am here, like so many ladies standing beside me, because I’ve earned it.
I started my career in photography when I left high school. Work was scarce, and I had to balance jobs unrelated to my profession to pay for tuition and rent. I worked for little to no pay, and was told that bartering over exposure and gaining experience was a common practice when building your portfolio. To all of it, I said “Yes”.
Saying “Yes” became a way of life, and it was exhausting. I became angry, jealous, and upset when I saw my male colleagues earn money (and at a greater sum that I would) as a photographer. I was forced to polish props, scan negatives, and work in the background of a photography studio with no room to step on set. I was denied access on set, and told that assisting was a safe bet at earning a living, and to not seek anything else beyond.
Finally, one day I had enough. I said “No”, and things began to shift.
I tell young women entering the workforce that "Yes", you are rich with talents. "Yes", you have a supportive community of women who have been in your place when they started. "Yes", you are expected to work hard. “Yes”, you can achieve your goals and have the life you desire. I also have to tell them, "Yes", you will be overlooked. "Yes", you will have to mind your manners in the beginning, and often in the presence of men who can't sit still to save their lives. "Yes", some people will only want you for your body. "Yes", they will try to push you out to make place for hiring someone less skilled and out of nepotism.
I tell them this, because it allows them to tap into the inner well of strength that only comes through struggle. A suffering that you can never prepare for, but is inevitable. No matter how much you cover up, as a perverse hand of patriarchy slides up your spine convincing you that your plight is of your own doing. Women of color, you are at greater risk the second your skin touches the moonlight. Every industry will stuff you in a tight box fill with stereotypes, and will exoticize the parts they can ingest. You will be asked “What are you? Like, what’s your makeup?”, because your racial ambiguity makes people uncomfortable. Your rich heritage will pale (no pun intended) in its important to white male history. Women are dark, light, slim, stacked, strong, fragile, and just as entitled to everything that her male counterparts possess.
But you will be told to wait your turn. To that, you may say “No, I was here first.”
I work today as a symbol for others and myself. So, ladies: do not wait. Abolish the cautionary tales told by men, and listen to the women you seek as role models. Teach yourself how to get what’s rightfully yours. Seek opportunities in your setbacks. Find hidden doors leading to the successes you wish to achieve.
… and, mostly importantly, show up.