Man up?: A photo documentary
Like a camera shutter, a bone takes milliseconds to snap.
Entering into the last season of my collegiate rugby career, I was in a never-ending battle with my body to heal. I was tired. I needed a lucky charm.
While traveling through Poughkeepsie, NY on a photo assignment, I came across a necklace etched with a Celtic ruin. The definition key listed the words 'strength, health' next to the symbol. For $6 and a little good faith, I was sold.
In later research, I learned of the symbol's deeper meaning. Health? Raw physical power? I could use a little bit of that. But as I read further, I was confused by the mention of male athleticism as an attribute that may be found in women. I had never considered myself to be 'manly'—simply, I considered myself to be an athlete. Could I not be a proper athlete and a woman? Was I a woman who was trying to be masculine?
The foundation of sport is one historically cemented in the societal-bound values of masculinity. Often, the merits of female athletes are not assessed based on their characterization as active or passive participants, but rather judged favorably (or not so much) on how they balance their delicate and demure expectations as sanctioned by society. The navigation of the cultural script is a loaded one.
Man Up? A Sports & Gender Photo documentary was my senior thesis project. Looking at female participation in the world of 'hyper masculine' sport, the book featured interviews from more than 70 female athletes. It gave voice to the women fighting back—no longer wanting to 'man up' or 'play with the boys'; rather, these women strove to be autonomous, independent of male comparison in their athletic prowess and actualization.