This is my body of thesis work, Nemesis She. I worked on this project from September to about mid-December of 2019. It's a deeply personal project that helped me express a lot of emotion that I don't often do in my work, and although my relationship to the topics I discuss in this project have changed since, I still have a lot of love for the work I did here. My relationship to femininity and gender, at the time of writing this post, has softened some and departed from the intense binary that I once felt, which was part of what drove me to create this work at the time. Looking back, it came from a place of venomous anger for the bonds of womanhood and stubborn passion I had for finding a way to break them for myself, which I have now shed in releasing myself from the need to be completely a "woman". I am a woman, but my definition and understanding of the term, for others and for myself, has broadened considerably and I no longer feel so tightly bound by my gender. Cheers to healing and personal growth.
I created a total of 8 pieces for the project, 5 illustrations, a swords, and a pair of twin handbound books that include my process and the writing I did to accompany the work. I will attempt to present it here, similarly to how I do in the books. Enjoy.
For all the women who find kinship in rage.
Thank you to my family and friends, your immeasurable support means the world to me.
This body of work is an attempt to unpack some of the complexities of womanhood. There are a great number of ways to feel about being a woman, but I find myself feeling enraged more than anything else. It is infuriating to have spent my whole life becoming a woman in the way I want to be, and to be told that I am not doing it right. To experience archaic patriarchal customs that have survived in the insidious tradition of oppression, resulting in a modern culture that systematically marginalizes women simply for being women. Despite my best efforts, I still find myself affected by the societal standard that women are less than men. My femininity is a source of personal power and I love it deeply. I feel fury when it is disallowed by others without invitation, interpreted as incorrect because they are uncomfortable.
I do not exist for you and I will not apologize for my wrath.
Traditionally bladesmithing has been a masculine craft, practiced by men who create weapons and tools to be wielded by men with the purpose of asserting masculine power and dominance. Bladesmithing is an unlikely source of femininity, yet it has become part of how I define myself as a woman. I find a great deal of personal power in the art of making knives, in the processes and skills needed to make a great blade. Pursuing this hyper-masculine craft and realizing that it has become a source of my feminine power has transformed how I identify with my womanhood. This sword is a landmark in my learning about the craft of bladesmithing but also a great personal milestone in my relationship with my femininity.
Since I started making knives, the prospect of making a sword has been in the distant, dreamy future. I desperately hoped that one day I would be skilled enough to execute such a project, and produce an object that would bear my power. Not a masculine power, but a great feminine one, one that I have since spent years forging. No longer a childhood dream, this sword is representative of the definition of my personal femininity, an object symbolic of my power and my triumph in learning to love my womanhood.
Special thanks to Malgorzata Zurakowska
and Matthew Hincman.
Copyright © 2019 by Claudia Martin.
All rights reserved.