It’s no secret that women traditionally endure far more rituals when it comes to beauty maintenance than men.
The act of constructing femininity ― taming your mane, lacquering your lips, erasing your blemishes, cinching your curves ― has historically been an intense process. The apparent purpose of which, Canadian artist Allison Morris says, has been “to shape and alter the authentic female form and maintain a firm grasp on an otherwise fleeting youth.” Yikes.
To tackle this frustrating reality ― that individuals who identify as women feel pressure to adhere to certain unattainable ideals pertaining to the perfect female image ― Morris created a series of self-portraits. She calls the series “Pretty, Please.”
With vibrant colors and hypnotic prints, Morris places herself at the center of her photos, adorned with the sometimes absurd products marketed toward women in ads and pop culture: acrylic nails, fake eyelashes, velcro curlers, padded bras and distracting baubles. They are the byproducts of rituals women and men have every right to partake in, but that women often feel pressured to use as a means of achieving perfection. Feminine perfection, to be exact.
But femininity doesn’t have to be tied to self-improvement measures. On her website, Morris says she uses self-portraiture “as a tool with which she can control her images and challenge the male gaze by consciously performing for the camera and herself.” Her drastic poses and exaggerated situations point out just how preposterous forced beauty ideals can be.
Ultimately, Morris hopes to challenge the ways her viewers understand things like female representation, the construction of femininity, beauty, youth, identity and performance ― all from a feminist perspective. She elaborated in a statement: “This series of photographic self-portraits intends to emphasize and question the outlandish and nonsensical nature of ‘feminine’ objects and traditions ― everything from hairstyles to body modification.”
If, after gazing at Morris’ lush images, you’re left feeling even just a little liberated ― that you can choose to partake in hairstyling and body modifications on your own terms, not the ridiculously idealistic terms of others ― then the photographer has done her job.