A continuation of research that has been examining the objectification and animalization of women throughout our society, the screen work GRIN (three films) takes a turn toward the physical attributes that play part in a woman’s historical path of navigating “a man’s world,” while asking questions about choice, survival, and rebellion. The precursor films, entitled The Distaff Series, told stories and highlighted the issues of language through literature and everyday language. GRIN acts as a response. How do women adjust, re-adjust, break the mold, and forge ahead under vexatious situations? Are we changing the world, or putting bandaids on problems, while letting the waves of feminism continue their cycle?
Two of the catalysts that play a role in the creation of GRIN: shoulder pads and smiles:
Used since the 1930s, shoulder pads, which essentially create the illusion of having broader and less sloping shoulders, became essential to women in the workplace in the 1980s. The masculinized shapes were adopted by women seeking success in the corporate world and became an icon of women's attempts to smash the “glass ceiling”. They became a power statement, bestowing the perception of status and position. In one argument, some could say that women created a workable solution for the inequality, turning it into a positive, in demand, fashion statement. In another argument, some could say that women perpetuated the stigma of masculinity in the workplace, and giving in to that idea only puts a bandaid over the unrelenting notion that the only characteristics of someone “strong”, “capable”, or a “leader” is someone masculine.
The idea of women needing to smile, in the workplace and beyond, has been a more recent topic of continued discussion. There’s an expectation that women are only meant to be happy, pretty, or passive, in a crowd or conversation. Even worse, the belief that women would be "so much prettier" if they smiled has become regular language in our culture. This feeds the notion of entitlement that many men feel they have over what/how women should be. However, this concept is fairly recent. Into the 19th century, smiling women were often considered suspicious or sinful and smiling was considered dangerous and degrading for women. This was due to sexist thinking about women's supposed inconstancy and irrationality. So when was the switch, why, and who decides when it’s okay to smile?