Gender Based Photography Groups – WHY?

Mar 18, 2015

Kevin E. Newsome

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Gender Based Photography Groups – WHY?

Mar 18, 2015

Kevin E. Newsome

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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The first one I ever saw was “Chicks Who Click.” It was years ago and the photography industry was predominately male. I didn’t think too much of it, but wondered (aloud at times) the wisdom of, not only creating a gender biased photography group, but giving it a cutesy name like “Chicks Who Click.” By naming it that, they downplayed the seriousness and professionalism of their chosen profession. They demoted themselves from “professional photographers” to “middle school sleep-over photography club.” I envisioned a bedroom of giggling girls, braiding each other’s hair, talking about boys, and occasionally using some derivative of the word “passion” and “photography” in the same sentence.

A few years later, I was at a national convention and met a woman who handed me her business card. On it, was the name of a photography group she’d founded – “Women Only Workshops, She’fari Photographers.” Whaaaa? Yep, she was very proud of the group and said business couldn’t be better. Of course, I, possessing the wrong genitalia, was not allowed to attend any of her workshops or go on any “She’faris” so I’m not quite sure WHY she even bothered to give me her business card unless it was just to rub it in. She seemed very nice, so I doubt she meant it as an insult though, but still. Helloooo? Common Sense???

About the same time, a few others started popping up, “Clickin’ Moms,” “Momtogs,” “Confidence Workshops for Women,” and many, many more. Some of these groups were never meant to be anything more than a playgroup with cameras. Harmless enough, I suppose. But others were targeting professionals, or more accurately, aspiring professionals, which is where I began to scratch my head.

Is there something I’m missing? (besides the obvious, of course). Are there dials on my camera that only the female genitalia are capable of operating? Does my possession of a penis prohibit my ability to adjust my fstop or something? Please. I want to know.

I wondered how a “Male Only” photography group would be viewed by the female population. But then I laughed. I laughed hard. Men would never join a “male only” group, for one reason… “no women.” I even searched the Internet and only found one. It was largely a group of gay male photographers and models who were “all about erotic exhibitionists.” There ya go.

So here we are, many years into the digital era, and the industry has evolved from old men to young women. No longer are the females among us a “protected minority.” They are clearly the majority and the trend-setters of photography. They are the leaders of our profession, of our industry. And yet, these “female only” photography groups not only still exist, they’re growing. And it boggles my mind that they are STILL giving themselves “cutesy names.” Professional photography is not “cute.” Professional photography, as a BUSINESS, is serious BUSINESS. And professional associations should NOT be practicing gender discrimination, nor should it be demeaning the value of the female perspective and female contributions to professional photography.

And I know I’m not alone. Many women I’ve spoken to feel the same way. My good friend Missy Mwac put it very eloquently when she said “I think “men only” photography groups are just wrong. I don’t think it’s right to exclude a group of people simply because of their gender. I mean we are all photographers, many of us are parents, and we all face the same problems. Yes, men only groups are wrong. And everyone in my WOMEN only photography group feels the same way. xoxo”

It’s time for that bedroom of giggling girls to grow up and behave like true businesswomen. If you’ve got a business name, take yourself seriously. Get out of the kiddie pool and swim with the grownups. The deep end of the big pool doesn’t care what your gender is, only that you can swim. And if you’re running a gender biased photography group, you’re not doing my profession any favors – so stop targeting those who aspire to be serious professionals. You’re a “playgroup.” You have no business talking business.

About The Author

Kevin E. Newsome, from Tampa, Florida, is PPA Certified, Master Photographer, whom, along with his wife, Kaye (yes, also a photographer), has run Newsome’s Studio of Photography, Inc. for nearly 30 years. You can find him on Twitter,  Instagram and G+, as well as his blog, where this article was published originally, and shared with permission.

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21 responses to “Gender Based Photography Groups – WHY?”

  1. Gill R Avatar
    Gill R

    It’s hard to know where to start with this other than to say it expresses some of the attitudes that gave rise to women-only groups in the first place.

  2. Tom Adam Avatar
    Tom Adam

    Amber Jannusch – you know I’m inclined to agree, but do you have a really good counter-argument?

    1. Amber Jannusch Avatar
      Amber Jannusch

      Usually the people who complain about these things are the ones in the positions of privelege, who don’t realize that the default is a boys’ club. Even if women are significantly more common in photography now, they still do business in a masculine dominated world, which can be very challenging. Something like this is a kind of “Lean In” aporoach, where women attempt to use the feminine stereotypes to their advantage and support one another.

    2. Tom Adam Avatar
      Tom Adam

      Would that remain true if all they did was gossip, talk about the cutest camera bag, and how scary strobes are?

  3. Gill R Avatar
    Gill R

    . My response …

    1. mike Avatar

      Your response is to link to your twitter where you post your comment.

      Well that was useless.

      1. Gill R Avatar
        Gill R

        Actually, I didn’t post that here: I didn’t know that it would appear here as well.

        But thanks for the critique.

  4. Bazie Avatar

    Disgustingly insensitive. It is precisely because of attitudes like this that women might well enjoy women only photography groups.

    What is the absolute worst case scenario here, that more women enjoy photography because of the avaliability of an environment conducive to their interests?

    The obsession with not just women’s groups but the names used is amazing. I think the only one thinking these names make it seem it is about bedrooms of giggling girls in slumber parties is you. No, saying “chicks who click” is not meant to be a springboard for your sexual fantasies. Indeed, it doesn’t take a genius to wonder why women might enjoy expressing their creativity in an environment that doesn’t have people openly talking about such nonsense.

    Shame on you.

    1. Suz Avatar

      I don’t think anything in the article implies “sexual fantasies.” He was simply describing the image “chicks who click” conjured up.

    2. Sandy Avatar

      I’ve read the article three times and I still can’t see how it denotes the author’s “sexual fantasies”. I think he raises a very valid point in that we as women do want to be treated as equals, yet are perfectly content eliminating men out of the picture (pun totally intended) instead of welcoming their input in our photography groups.

  5. Suz Avatar

    I can understand both sides of it. I understand that women have long been disenfranchised in the workplace and are trying to find their voice by banding together. However, as a female photographer who is neither married nor a mom (except to my dogs), I don’t quite fit the demographic of these groups. Especially when I receive emails from them with the subject line “You should forward this to your husband!” No joke, that’s an email I actually received. What about all the “clickin” moms who aren’t married. Way to go gender and marital status biased group.

  6. nonF Avatar

    OMG! Stop it you guys!! It’s 2015!! Don’t you know it is not discrimination if you only exclude MEN?!?!

  7. Corey Ann Avatar
    Corey Ann

    I understand where the woman only groups started from 10 years or so ago but now that we have an equal voice in the industry it baffles me why people think they are still needed. It’s not like women photographers can’t learn the same things men can. I went to school with boys and managed to learn just fine despite those pesky distractions with penises – I think I can apply the same to photography.

    Then again while married, I’m not a mother so 90% of the Woman Only topics do not apply to me.

  8. Morgan Glassco Avatar
    Morgan Glassco

    I have to agree with this.

    To me it seems like an acknowledgement of defeat to have to create protected class. Want to participate in a specialty group to hone specific skills, great. But “women’s photography” is not a specialty skill.

  9. Ahmet Avatar

    How can you achieve equal rights if you exclude the ones you think have more than you? Why do people think that it is easier for the other gender because they are in the other group?
    We are so equal we can’t tell females if they are not good but they are very happy to rub it in for males? Didn’t we go too far? I just realized – this is the first time I thought it over – that through out my life I had 8 female bosses and 4 male (one place the boss was male on paper, but really it was a couple). So what are we talking about???

  10. Danielle Avatar

    Based on experiences of discrimination, bullying and manipulative exclusion in the past; I can see the appeal of a group that has gone through a similar path. Once you’ve been through the first environment a more supportive and self esteem building environment would be much appreciated.

    Sex (the biological makeup of an individual’s reproductive anatomy) is only one of the many reasons / possibilities for this need though, there is also gender (social roles based on the sex of the person, usually culturally learned), sexuality, race, socio-economic status and how they all intersect.

  11. ext237 Avatar

    Quote: “… you’re not doing my profession any favors – so stop targeting those who aspire to be serious professionals. You’re a “playgroup.” You have no business talking business.”

    Volunteer to speak at the next Women’s Business League breakfast with this speech. This isn’t about YOUR profession, it’s about networking. My photog social club events are not gender specific, and more than once I’ve watched male photogs approach female photogs asking them to “come model for me”.

    When male photogs stop shooting with their genitailia, our profession won’t need gender based interest groups.

  12. mike Avatar

    This sort of thing isn’t for me (obviously), but I don’t see the harm. If people want to get together to discuss a thing and make it gender-specific, whatever, it is quite literally not my business. If they want to be taken seriously by the industry, they may want to be more inclusive, but nobody is forcing them to.

    My guess is if there was a male-only photography club, conference or workshop, you would see people protesting and plastering it all over tumblr.

  13. pixeljammer Avatar

    Have you ever considered presenting your ideas in a less assholey way? You’ve got some good points, but belittling the very people you are trying to convince really purges the value from the whole thing.

    Your idea that serious business has to be serious is patently untrue, as you prove in your own essay, when you point out that women are dominant in (in reality only in parts of) the industry, and it is these very women (you say) that are the ones with the silly names. It seems to me that dissing the winners for not being the cool kids is kinda sad.

    On men joining “all-male” groups: First of all, and this is the REALLY important thing, there is no need for men to “join” anything. We’ve been *the* exclusive group in most industries forever.

    Second, there are, and have been, explicitly all-male groups of all kinds. The idea is gradually dying out, but not fast enough.

    Remember your own point: These silly Chicks-who-Click dingalings are taking all the work and leaving you behind. If you’re polite to them, they might just leave a few pennies in your begging cup as they pass you by.

  14. Jason Alvarez Avatar
    Jason Alvarez

    This sounds like it comes from the mind of a teenage boy. Women decide not to include men get over it! Women give their workshops playful names get over it! Women might feel uncomfortable around male photographers and i don’t blame them. Women should be able to create an environment where they feel comfortable. If you don’t like it then stop thinking about it whats it to you? Did they start with your satisfaction in mind? No, they make these for themselves so it doesn’t pertain to you! Get off your high horse and write about something useful.