Illustration by Carly Childs
"It’s easy to say “just share your work, it’s no big deal” and it really is that, no big deal; but it’s hard to erase a lifetime of being conditioned to be 'humble'."
Within the creative community there is a tendency for women to feel reluctant when sharing their work or achievements online. Whether it’s shame or insecurity, there’s a strong feeling of imposter syndrome that makes women shy away from sharing their work.
Historically, creative success has been dominated by men, and even in 2020 there are still a number of areas within the creative industries that remain male centric. With an industry that is only slowly beginning to offer more opportunities to women it is perhaps inevitable that creative women may feel a degree of imposter syndrome, as they are operating in worlds that are often dominated by cis men.
While insecurity in your work isn’t a problem that is exclusive to women, there is the additional effect of misogyny at play that makes the creative woman choose to downplay her work rather than proudly display her accomplishments to the masses. We are quick to define our work as a failed venture unless profit is being gained from it, whether this profit be defined as followers, or commissions or actual financial profit. But what if you want to share a rushed poem you’ve written or a book you’ve published that hasn’t reached a mainstream audience and level of popularity?
One look at the creative industry and it’s quite notable at how many creatives choose to create a private and anonymous type of profile. Of course, this could be a deliberate choice made to ensure the focus is on the work presented but for others this is a move to ensure that no one can easily access their creations and be able to see the work that goes created behind closed doors. But, why is it that we choose to do face reveals at 1000 followers or share artwork when you’ve gained commissions, is it an unconscious belief that the only time we can feel confident and proud to be linked to our work is when it is at some arbitrary number that society believes to be a measure of success. Many feel that unless they downplay their work, they’ll lose some kind of social desirability, or be seen as overbearing. Paired with the pressure placed on creatives, which makes us feel inadequate and underachieving if we’ve not published a book by our early 20s, or commissioned artwork for big brands, even though this is a completely unrealistic goal for many.
The forces of internalised misogyny also play a hand within this realm of being a creative woman, as it would be a lie to claim that you’ve never seen another woman's work and thought “why is she sharing this'' or “this isn’t THAT great really”. Internalised misogyny is the byproduct of the patriarchal belief that women are inherently inferior to men and unfortunately exists within ALL of us. It’s a thought mechanism that operates out of a desire to conform to societal beliefs and leaves us picking holes or questioning women’s achievements. We’ve been brought up to believe that being humble about your achievements is the best form of celebration, that it’s ok if someone is praising us, after all that way we can giggle and smile demurely but when we choose to praise our own work it becomes a sign of arrogance. A woman proud of her achievements poses no threat to you and is no criticism of your own work, making your distaste towards them a reflection of yourself and your own insecurities, encouraged by the society around you.
It is common to pit women within the creative industry against each other, only encouraging these behaviours. Comparison of women is practically the lifeblood of the music industry, leading to an inability to focus on one woman’s achievements without instantly comparing them to another. Comparison of women becomes a means of control where individual creative practice is belittled, and both women's work goes devalued as you begin a process of thinking, “who copied who” or “who did it better”. Under this idea we are essentially being told that there is only space for one woman who is going to be a rap singer or write a book or create a brand when there is enough space for a number of women to be successful in any creative field. Think about it, have you ever found yourself comparing your work to another similar creative and thought about how you can make your brand better than theres or reach the same level as them? By facilitating structures where women are in competition with one another the patriarchy is further strengthened, after all, attempts to create divisions within women are borne out of a realisation that a unified set of women is a significant and powerful threat to patriarchy.
It’s easy to say “just share your work, it’s no big deal” and it really is that, no big deal; but it’s hard to erase a lifetime of being conditioned to be “humble”. Yet ultimately, life is way too short to worry about what a guy you haven’t spoken to in years is going to think of your work. So if you find yourself conflicted about sharing your achievements, ask yourself what you gain from focusing on what other people think (nothing right?) and go plaster your new website on your insta stories or Grandmas facebook wall. The only method of shifting the unequal gender balance within the creative field, is for women who are choosing to take the plunge and create pieces of work to be vocal about their achievements and to be assertive about their talent.
After all, a woman that is assertive and takes pride in her work is crucial in taking on the patriarchy and a whole lot of things in life.
Article by Rachella Lartey