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His Gaze Owns Her

'His Gaze Owns Her' is an event spanning two evenings that questions the male gaze in modern society. The first evening will be a female-led exhibition; the second an intimate group discussion and self-defence class in a safe space, which seeks to empower and equip women. Organiser Treeney Harkin shares with us her reasons for curating this event.

© Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos

So why the male gaze? There are more women in high paid jobs and in government than ever before, the reformation of the abortion bill in Ireland, the Isle of Man is fighting for the same change. Women are calling out every industry from film to fashion to bring an end to sexual discrimination. We’ve seen the #metoo movement, the disgrace of Harvey Weinstein and the powerful and inclusive women’s marches all around the world.

Yet why do I still see negative effects of an ingrained male gaze in society every day? Why was my friend sexually harassed in the workplace and then made to leave? Why I am constantly told not to walk home alone and my flatmate walks with her keys between her knuckles?

I’ve listened to endless stories of girls being afraid for their safety. The cat calling, crossing the road to avoid groups of men, heads down to avoid attention. This has created a negative effect on the way women view, compare and judge themselves, and each other.

Have you ever viewed yourself in the third person? Are you constantly aware of how you are presenting yourself to others, aware of how you are being watched, how you quickly become your own spectator. It’s a perceived need to be careful of the way you present yourself that doesn’t need to be there.

I want to give female artists a space to claim back their bodies, to show the female form as it is - not passive but powerful, not an object but a person.

A life drawing set by The London Drawing Club will comment on the power play that surrounds the female body, drawing attention to the media’s manipulation of our objectification by providing porn magazines as art materials. A nail bar by Boys in Polish will twist the gender stipulations of popular beauty regimes, it isn't just for girls.

By curating this exhibition in a bar - the quintessential hunting ground of the modern male gaze, (and not a gallery or academic environment) I want to push the viewer to consider the ideas as an everyday question in their own life. A realistic setting where the topic cannot just be thoughtfully mused over and then left behind with the white gallery walls and agreeable conversation. Through subversion and creative commentary, we see it where it truly exists.

Action Breaks Silence, will be joining the second evening in collaboration with the event. Action Breaks Silence is an amazing charity that works to fight gender based inequality and violence around the world. Since 2013 they have taught over 50,000 beneficiaries in the UK, South Africa, India and Curacao. Founder of the charity, Debi Stevens was the recipient of an ‘International Women of Change’ award and was awarded the “Point of Light” by David Cameron in recognition of her work.

By working with Action Breaks Silence I hope we can in some small way spread the important work that they are doing. If a small group of girls leave feeling stronger and empowered and they teach another small group of girls the cycle of strength grows. Then hopefully one day soon, we can talk about gender equality in the past tense.

She is passive, he is dynamic, the conqueror, the usurper, the spectator-owner. His gaze owns her. It's time to change that.

His Gaze Owns her will be held at The Taproom (365-366 Warburton Street, Hackney, London, E8 3RR). Running over two nights, the first evening (31st May) is a free exhibition event from 7pm till late. The second evening (1st June) includes an intro talk and self-defence class with Action Breaks Silence. This element is ticketed and for women only, from 7-9:30pm.  Please click here for tickets.

Treeney Harkin is 24 years old. Having been brought up between the Isle of Man and Donegal, she now lives in Hackney and works in the fashion industry. "I've been really fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly strong friends, who have all become like family to me, and found amazing female teams within the creative industry to work alongside.  Working in this positive environment his has strengthened my belief that everyone has to take their own small actions to make the change happen."

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