Dear Daughters


Banner image: Vida and Ray

A dialogue on feminism today.

In their wonderful new series ‘Dear Daughters’, Marzia Messina and Sham Hinchey, otherwise known as Mars & Sham, explore feminism through father-daughter dialogue and touching, empowering portraits.

Parents to a 10 year-old daughter themselves, women’s rights have always been a discussion point in their family. Intervention, ‘calling out’ and education remains reliant on adults even in the most advanced and democratic societies, and it’s a role that parents must embrace to ensure that equal opportunities and equal rights do not run the risk of being underestimated and absorbed as tradition, culture or religion.

Using an invented board game (a collaboration with their daughter Penelope) as an accessible stimulus, Mars & Sham met with 22 men and their 8-11 year-old daughters, and explored concepts, definitions and everyday scenarios relating to feminism. In doing so they encouraged reflection, empathy and discussion beyond ordinary conversation – a short but intense adventure into challenging themes. In some cases it was clear that it was the first time the fathers had broached these topics, but each conversation left the pair united and happy.

The accompanying images evoke old family portraits, evolved to highlight the confidence of the girls and the close familiarity of modern-day relationships between father and daughter.

We present a handful of those portraits alongside snippets of conversation. You can see the full video here.

David and Stella

What lessons have you learnt by bringing a daughter into the world?

Stella: That I’m amazing

David: Yes other than Stellar is amazing… I think I had never thought about the hate speech, that there are certain words, a whole lot words for women but there aren’t the equivalent words to describe the same behavior in men and the double standard, the way women are not treated the same way in the workplace.
I grew up in a very traditional house and my dad was not the most liberal-minded in terms of the roles of who did what. Now I have Stella and Valentina and Nicole my wife who is a very outspoken person.

Stella: She curses a lot.

David: Well she curses a lot but she is also, she gets things done and I think I’ve gained a lot of respect for women living with so many of them now around the house.

“Behind every great man there is always a great woman”. What’s your opinion on this phrase?

Stella: I think it seems like the men and women should be equally treated and they are both the same as men. They both play baseball, they can both do soccer they can both drive cars, open a cooking show…

David: What do you think that means “behind every great man there is always a great woman?” Do you think it could be a wife or sister, his mum or a good friend? What’s your opinion? Do you like that expression?

Stella: No I don’t like it, it sounds sexist

David: It does in a way doesn’t it?

Stella: It says behind every great man there is always a great woman but I feel like it could be kind of sexist because it says behind every great man and we all know that men are great, men have big muscles working out at the gym.

David: but it’s the physical position in it too right, the woman behind the man. Why isn’t it the other way round? Behind every great woman there’s a great man supporting her!

Max and Amira

Some still say “A woman’s place is in the kitchen”. What do you think about that?

Max: Do you know what that means?

Amira: At home you should have a meal in front of you. They do all the dishes, do all the laundry and make all the beds. That’s just terrible – that’s 70 years ago like being in the 1930s.

Max: Historically women were considered property.

Amira: That’s like in the 16 or 1700s.

Max: So the fact that we are in 2017 and people still say that it’s ridiculous… it minimizes everything you stand for, your ability to do anything outside of staying home.

Amira: That goes back to when women didn’t even go to school.

Max: That minimizes your abilities outside of the kitchen. You can’t say that in this day and age.

Brian, Bailey and Alexa

What do you think it means to be a feminist?

Bailey: I think it means to stand up for your rights and not judge people by their looks.

Alexa: I think it means being something that you want to be and somebody tells you that you don’t want to be and you can do what you do.

Brian: I think that being a feminist means demanding that women are treated equally to men and not accepting that they be treated less than how men are treated.

Pretend you have superpowers. What are they and how would you use them to seek justice?

Brian: How about a magical ray that stops people from judging one another based upon things other than the quality of their character?

Bailey: Yeah that’s cool!

Alan and Cleo

If for one day you could be a male and vice versa, what would you do?

Cleo: I would take my shirt off at random moments because I think that would be kind of fun.

Alan: I would experience being a mother and being pregnant maybe.

Today you are in congress and a new law for recognition of women’s rights is being proposed. Tell us briefly what the new article is.

Cleo: If someone abused or was not fair to a woman, they should get a bigger consequence. I feel like if that happens you get the consequence but I think if that happens they should get a bigger consequence.

Alan: Explain that again…

Cleo: That if someone abused or was being unfair to a woman they would get a bigger consequence than they do now. I mean not if it was just a small thing, if it happens once in a while but if it was a bigger more important thing then they should get a bigger consequence than they do now.

Alan: So they don’t just get a slap on the wrist but more consequence, like lose their job?

Cleo: Like go to jail or something. I mean not for a long time but until they know what they’ve done wrong and swear not to do it again.

Alan: They should outlaw any sort of ad in public spaces that targets women’s bodies. They actually passed that law in London.

Cleo: Good for you London!

Ray and Vida

Some still say “A woman’s place is in the kitchen”. What do you think about that?

Ray: I haven’t heard that in a long time.

Vida: I have! I have a great example – I was reading this book about girl inventors and this girl when she was in high school taking a test and there were separate tests; a girl test and the boy test. She took the girl test and it said “you are going to be a stay at home wife and be in the kitchen” and she said that is so unfair and then she said “I want to take the boy’s test” and then she finished it and the options were, you can be a doctor or a scientist. And so she picked a scientist because she wanted to be a scientist.

Manu and Nandini

What do you think it means to be a feminist?

Manu: I think it means standing up for, believing in and asserting the rights of women and girls wherever and however possible. I think it’s difficult for men to be feminists without having been touched in someway by their daughter, their sister, their mother and for those men that are not in some respects I feel a little bit of sympathy for them, not sympathy I would say a little sorry for them because they don’t have that ability to empathise and see through the eyes of that woman or girl who touched them.

Nandini: has her own ideas.

Manu: Why did you support Malala (Malala Yousafzai) at the Brooklyn Museum?

Nandini: Because I thought that what Malala did was a brave thing, she stood up for what she thought was right and nobody else joined her but she felt that she was right and she kept on doing it and she didn’t care what other people thought about her.

Manu: standing up for what you believe in, yeah I think that’s fair.

Chris and Christina

What worries you about bringing up girls in a chauvinist world?

Chris: A lot worries me. Number one I don’t want my daughter to lose her confidence, to lose hope and say this is what we have, this is the way the world is, there is no hope. With the recent political events it’s almost like we’re going back again. We’re here and all of a sudden women are being objectified again, they are losing all the ground that has been gained since the dark ages. I still want you to have confidence, we can still win this battle, we’re still in it.

What life advice do you give to your daughter?

Chris: I always tell you to be independent, never rely on anybody. Put yourself in a position where you always have choices, you’re not forced to do one thing because you didn’t do another thing before. For example, you didn’t get enough education to be able to pick the right job. My advice to you is always educate yourself, be independent, be confident, always have a choice. You have to put yourself in a position where you have options all the time.

Sham and Penelope

You have just been rejected at a job interview. They chose a boy who was less qualified than you. Find a reason that prompted them to choose him.

Penelope: Because people in the world are sexist.

Sham: Who was probably deciding who got the job in that moment?

Penelope: Probably the same person who was being sexist because if they weren’t sexist they would have chosen me over that dude. This guy doesn’t care if I’m more qualified or not more qualified than that guy – he is going to choose the boy.

Sham: Why?

Penelope: Some people just think that men are better, stronger, smarter than women. Maybe they are scared of the women, maybe they are scared that the women is going to be really strong so maybe they are thinking the woman is going to be really strong and that she is going to get to a higher level than me and I’m going to be fired.

Sham: Maybe that. Do you think in work men like taking orders from women?

Penelope: I don’t think they like being under a woman’s control.

Sham: Maybe, a lot of men don’t like taking orders from a woman. They’ll say “who are you? I’ve always had this privilege, I tell you what to do.” He’s always been used to giving the orders and all of a sudden one day a woman is making the decisions and maybe he is not comfortable with that or maybe even simpler than that a lot of men feel uncomfortable working around women.

Penelope: Maybe they feel uncomfortable being under a woman’s power, having to be on a lower standard than the woman.

What do you think it means to be a feminist?

Penelope: I think it means standing with women and standing by their sides to help them stand up for women’s rights. You can protest for these things.

Sham: Basically demanding…

Penelope: Freedom for women to have the same rights as men. Whatever gender you are it doesn’t matter. Everyone is different a man could be so good at something that a woman would not know how to do but that woman has to have something that the man is bad at, so we are all different.

Sham: Yeah we all have different capabilities but that doesn’t mean we should have different standards right?

Penelope: Yeah.

Sham: So I think that being a feminist means we are trying to create equality and have the same standards.

Penelope: Between men and women. Yeah I agree, even though I stole most of your words!

See the accompanying film here

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