Here is a teaser to a new page I’ll be adding during my website revamp! Because of the work I’ve been doing with the Chesapeake Bay Program, I’ve decided to add an environmental section to my website! Stay tuned for more to be added this July!
I’m currently applying for a job that has brought me back to a blog I drafted back in April, but never posted for one reason or another, and I want to share that with you now.
I’ve felt like my inner parts have been at war with themselves for a long time, and I felt none more poignant than that of my feminine self and athletic self. I grew up wrestling, one of two women consistently on the team in my town that was known throughout New England as a force in the wrestling world. There’s nothing, no joke or insult you could throw at me that I haven’t heard before, and it was because of experiences like this that I began to sever ties between these two parts of myself- other people said it they couldn’t cohabitate, so it must be true. I remember deciding I hated pink, I told people that it was too girly and soft (my middle school vocabulary for weak).
Going into high school wasn’t much better, except that I lost weight my freshman year and began to feel loved and wanted by people I wanted to loved and wanted by. I had boyfriends, who called me beautiful and tough, said that that’s what they liked about me. I started to stop pushing people away just because I wanted to beat them to it. It was a slow road, but I began to curb the defensiveness and caginess I felt.
By the time I got to college and cut down my athletic commitments to just lacrosse, and had become more comfortable with the idea of being soft and empathic while also being resilient and tough. Just in time to begin my education in photography and be slapped down by a predominantly male field. Getting into sports photography exacerbated the situation. I couldn’t photograph a single competition without hearing “That’s an awfully big lens.” or “Oh, are you dating someone on the team?” as if I wasn’t allowed to enjoy sports on my own, that I needed an excuse. This type of outright and yet culturally accepted sexism continued, and I learned how to politely shut someone down, or just ignore the comments and continue to do my job.
Entering senior year I found my own way to reclaim my place, finally reconciling the differences between my femininity and athleticism that have existed within me for about as long I can remember. I realized that I could embrace both to my own idea of the fullest extent. I was the director of photography for a sports media department completely run by men otherwise, an award winning sports photographer, and I had a team of nine under me that respected and appreciated the work I did. That was when I began, as I call it, hockey in heels. My own form of retribution, that maybe nobody but my friends and coworkers noticed, but made me feel powerful, in charge, and feminine all at once. I began to wear heels to every hockey game, partially to stick it to the proverbial man, partly because I just really liked my heeled boots. I don’t want to cause any confusion- I wasn’t wearing six inch stilettos that could punch a hole in a wall, that would’ve been contrary to the point of being authentically myself (you won’t catch me wearing a skinny heel unless you’ve paid me). That being said, they definitely weren’t snow boots or sneakers.
About a month after my final season as Director ended, I was at a workshop and a group of women decided to facilitate a discussion about the current climate for women in our industry. We covered topics like assault, harassment, toxic masculinity, and being “the bitch.” Just about every woman knows what I mean when I say “the bitch.” It’s the fear that standing up for yourself, asserting your well educated opinions or ideas, or simply not letting the patriarchy of this industry and society as a whole keep you in the shadows. One of the three women sitting on stage was the first to bring up the point- how so many women are afraid of being “the bitch” in their newsrooms. I took it upon myself, as a resident “bitch” to address the crowd.
“I wanted to talk about something you brought up earlier, and the fear of being the bitch. From someone who has frequently been ‘the bitch’ let me tell you something- the bitch gets things done … Let me tell you the bitch, she’s the one who usually gets the best photo.”
The whole soliloquy was a bit longer, but you get the picture. I fell into this category because I am a strong female running a team in a male dominated world. I didn’t want anyone else in that room doubting themselves or be afraid that there would be consequences for being a steadfast, intelligent female. I hoped there was someone, just one person, that needed to hear that, and they knew they had someone in their corner.
Basically, what I want to communicate is that the fear of being the bad guy, “the bitch,” or “too feminine” also keeps you from reaching your fullest potential and being your authentic self. Once I was able to reconcile my ability to embrace character traits that I was constantly told can’t work together, I began to produce my best work. And I was able to learn some things won’t change-I still don’t like pink, but because I’m more of an earth-tone kind of gal. I still feel the need to outwork the person next to me, but that’s my competitive side fostered by doing sports since I was four. But I’m going to wear heels to wherever I want (and where I won’t break my ankle) because I can. If there’s an issue, outshoot me and then we can talk.
At 5 a.m. last Tuesday I woke up with the Sun. The first rays of light were just hitting the Bay Bridge as I crossed over from my new home on Kent Island. This early morning was hard after a weekend of moving and adjusting to a new place and schedule, but it was worth it the second we were airborne.
SouthWings is a group of pilots who volunteer their time to show researchers, government officials, community members, and journalists an aerial view of environmental issues in the Southeast. Charlie, our pilot, and I shared our first SouthWings experience; his plane was a beautiful four seat high wing that had more legroom than I’ve had on any commercial airplane. Charlie spoke like many grandfathers do, softy but bluntly and earnestly.
We begun our trip by flying over the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers then venturing over the bay over Tangier, Smith, and Deal towards Cambridge where we stopped for lunch.
“My wife said ‘No more $100 burgers.’ So now with SouthWings I’m doing good.” Charlie laughed as he dug into his deluxe breakfast plate of eggs, scrapple, home fries, and pancakes. SouthWings had become his way of aiding a cause while enjoying an activity he loved. His stories of the bay–watching it move and change over time– were fascinating.
It was from these conversations and flying over that I’ve become a bit obsessed with Tangier Island. I’ve been listening to podcasts, reading articles, and searching the island’s website for more information about this interesting little place in the middle of the Chesapeake.
Stay tuned for more investigation into the island- maybe a photo story, who knows!