In response to the long history of silencing women and girls, I make portraits of women screaming. Through this project, I provide women a space where they can practice speaking up and out for themselves. I also provide a space for them to be heard, supported, encouraged and celebrated.
-Whitney Bradshaw (from website)
Stop! No! Why! You! Fuck off! Ahhhhhh!
This past Saturday, I went to an amazing women empowerment event, called The Outcry Scream Session. It popped up on my Facebook feed and the face of the woman screaming intrigued me. I’m one of those people, who scrolls through Facebook events and randomly sign up for things that interests me. So, early Saturday, I woke up at 7:30 am, fed my dog, showered and drove downtown with my cousin to this workshop.
When we first walked into The Show Art Gallery, of course I was a little nervous with all the uncertainty. But, I was quite fascinated. There were all different types of women there.
Women of all ages, ethnicities, and differabilities joined in sisterhood to participate in the powerful Outcry Scream session created by artist and photographer Whitney Bradshaw. She has already held 150 sessions since this project launched back in January 2018. This project was created solely to encourage women to speak up and use their powerful voices in all various situations: when a strange man tells us to be quiet, when we are outraged by something, when we are mistreated in the workplace, and the list goes on.
The 2 hour session consisted of an hour of talking, mingling, and sharing experiences, and the second hour was committed to capturing our roaring outcries on camera. We had the choice to scream alone or in support of the group. Many women wanted support, because, honest truth, a scream is quite powerful when all screams together.
After 30 minutes of mingling, Whitney gathered all of us in a circle and introduced herself to us. She started out by telling a story about when she was groped on public transit. She described how she felt an unknown man placing his hand on her ass. Instantly, she grabbed the man’s hand and threw it up in the air yelling “Who’s hand is on my ass!” She also shared about a time when she held a session with a group of Japanese women. They shared how strange men groping them were so common on public transit in Japan because of the crowded-ness. Due to this, pink areas for women only were created in the subways to provide a safe space for them. They also created a secret code to warn other women about handsy men. The women would wear really dark red lipstick and if a man tried to touch them, the women would smear their lipstick all over the man’s shirt to warn other women. The sad fact about these stories in particular is, why do we have to separate women just because men “can’t” control themselves.
I also shared a story about the numerous times men slapped my ass on the streets of downtown Minneapolis, and being groped in the crotch while dancing and never having the courage to use my voice to stand up for myself. I ended my story with a time in Vegas when a man slapped my ass so hard in front of everyone while we were having a no-contact dance off. I walked away at first, but was done shying away, and went back to the dance floor, looked the guy in the eyes and demanded an apology. And yes he did apologize.
As Whitney opened up conversations about uncomfortable and painful topics, and I shared my experience, I felt a tension in the room; the pain and hurt many of these women held. I saw it in their eyes and the way they looked down to the floor as if they were thinking of a time when they’ve been treated inappropriately.
These photography sessions were not your high fashion, super model type. It was made to show the authentic, raw side of a woman that is hidden behind a veil; that women can only scream, and yell when no one’s there. In society, in many women’s upbringing, we have been conditioned to be passive, silent, and to feel powerless. But we are not. These outcry sessions encourage women to let out their inner roar, that burning fire that’s been eating them up inside.
When it was my turn, I made sure to stare right into the camera as if it was the man who I wanted to say it too. “Fuck you asshole!” I needed the support of all the women in the room to tell this man, “Fuck you asshole!”
When we started the screaming session, one woman’s scream stood out to me. She was a petite women. When she approached the camera, she seemed a little shy, speaking softly and clasping her hands in front of her. But when Whitney counted 1,2,3,
she, along with the support of the group screamed at the top of our lungs. As we all stopped. She continued screaming, her eyes shut, her face turning red, as her whole body shook. Her scream, her cry, filled with so much pain and agony, and left me wondering, “What hurt you. Or more like who.” I talked to her afterwards and she said she was a mother of four, and for sure had a lot to scream about, though she doesn’t scream at her kids.
There was a cute young girl with down syndrome who was super excited about the project and being given the opportunity to say bad words, she encouraged many of us to curse our hearts out as these sessions encouraged women to say whatever was on their mind. She took photos with so many women.
What I found so powerful about this event was how the women was quite shy to participate in the beginning, began warming up as everyone took turns to scream in front of the camera. With all the women supporting each other when one needed the presence of the group to scream with her, we all screamed together: A loud divine, feminine, outcry. I felt the empowerment grow. Every woman seemed very comfortable during their second scream. There were laughs, and phone numbers exchanged so the women could stay in touch. Just imagine if women encouraged each other all the time like this. Women would be un-stoppable. Whitney will be showcasing her portraits of this past weekend in June, so please everyone, come join us to observe the raw authentic beauty of women out crying, speaking up, and not being afraid of showing our true authentic selves.
This idea of putting women’s frustration and authenticity on camera is something powerful and unforgettable. It is a great way to heal from trauma, from the times when our voices was taken from us, when our body was violated without our consent, when our voices were drowned in lustful desires of others, when we felt like we were worthless, impure because of what has happened to us. These sessions are to remind us as women, that we have the right to be angry, we have the right to use our voice in the most powerful way. We are worth it, and we as a sisterhood need to support one another through our pain and our trauma in order to raise the positive divine female vibrations.
We will have no fear to let our female-warrior cry. And let the world hear; we are half the sky. To an ever changing world for our strong, beautiful women. Dam* You’re Beautiful.
If you are interested in Whitney’s project, check out her website and follow her on Instagram.
Here is another article about the project in depth. Check it out!
Whitney’s empowering vision for this project would not be possible without the help of Women’s March Minnesota! Praise Thanks!
❤ Wabi Sabi