Guatemalan Peek-a-boo

Guatemalan peek-a-boo_tif480
Permalink to this Image | Gallery of Rachel's Works

One Essay Response

  1. Emilie Dubois | 2010 First Prize Winner says:

    The young Guatemalan girl captured by Rachel Tanur’s lens sits in almost direct opposition to my photograph of a young American girl. Tanur frames this young girl with the tidy chaos of gloriously colorful yarn, perhaps, to draw attention to the strained and somewhat defensive posture of her subject. What this young girl does have in common with the young girl that I featured in my photograph is a relationship to set of overarching patriarchal power structures. This girl’s bodily posture, with tightly crossed legs, interlaced fingers used to shield half of her face, speaks back to the viewer, asking him politely but insistently to go away.

    At the very least, this image tells us that someone has educated this Guatemalan girl about her approaching womanhood through her appearance in proper and “womanly” conservative attire. In addition, her reclined, passively resistant posture shows some willingness to control her body to conform to cultural gendered norms. In this way, she shows some similarity to the woman depicted by Marianne Wex’s typical female subjects. Photographed “with arms close to the body, hands folded together in their laps, toes pointing straight ahead or turned inward, and legs pressed together … the women in these photographs make themselves seem small and narrow, harmless; they seem tense; they take up little space.” The young girl pictured here is almost a textbook example of one of Wex’s subjects. Her defiant gesture should not, however, go unnoticed. As she purposefully covers her face to block the camera’s line of sight while simultaneously peering out under her hand mask, this girl expresses a conflicted bodily discipline. Though she polices her body to conform to lady-like carriage and dress, she is seated, unconcerned for her clothing, with one eye winking at the camera.

    In closing, it should be considered that her resistant gesture could be partially related to an amplified sense of power she has experienced as the proprietor of the yarn in the marketplace. Mary Crain has argued that the increased earning power that the informal economy often times affords women in developing countries facilitates women’s redefinition of traditional gender roles. Participating in a public, fiscal, and historically male sphere, these “market women” speak and gesture in a far more “assertive and powerful manner” both in and outside the market.

    (1)Wex, Marianne. 1979. Let’s Take Back Our Space: “Female” and “Male” Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures. Berlin: Frauenliteraturverlag Hermine Fees.

    (2)Crain, Mary M. 1996. “Ecuadorian Andes: Native Women’s Self-Fashioning in the Urban Marketplace” in Machos, Mistresses, and Madonnas: Contesting the Power of Latin American Gender Imagery. London: New Left Books.