"From a young age I have been aware of both my female and male side," artist Daantje Bons told The Huffington Post. The Dutch photographer channels aspects stereotypically associated with both genders in her series "Features of Femininity," thus breaking down the rigid boundaries often thought to separate the two.
"When I was around 14 years old and started to develop my womanly form, I didn't feel fully comfortable in this 'new' body, mainly because I couldn't deny I was a so-called 'tomboy.' This made me extra conscious about this female malleability. I became especially aware of the choices I could make towards looking or acting feminine. I find it interesting to question gender roles, ideals and expectations. My inspiration comes from my own experiences, and I research these through creating images intuitively."
Bons' images are surprising, funny and often risqué -- like a guide to puberty mixed with an untrustworthy recipe book with a surrealist twist. One photograph captures a breast with hairs sprinkled across the areola, an image that many of us see in our own showers or bathroom mirrors, but rarely encounter in a printed image. Another depicts a chili pepper splayed open to resemble a vegetal labia, the spilling seeds hinting at the spiciness waiting within. A third image captures a sloppy pyramid of used makeup remover pads, dirty Q-tips, empty pill packets and clumps of hair, revealing all the effort that goes into (and the junk that comes out of) achieving the seemingly inherent state of "femininity." Although Bons' images are far stranger than most of the feminine depictions we encounter day to day, they are, in reality, probably even less fabricated.
"'Features of Femininity' is about the struggle I experience concerning the manufacturability and staging of femininity," Bons continued. "In my idea, femininity as I know it in Western society, is limited to a simulacrum, a construct. It's not just about what the media show as the ideal image, but also the implicitly taught rules that are considered to constitute female identity. With my work, I like to provoke and make people think."
Most of all, Bons' series shows how femininity is a gesture, not a way of being. And often it exists in close proximity to its masculine counterpart. "I want the viewers to question themselves, how they relate to my subject. I get a lot of conflicting comments about my work, there is often a debate whether I should show this 'male' and 'unladylike' side of mine, as if it should remain secret. These reactions and discussions tell me that there is a reason to continue my work. I also think it's important to incorporate humor into my pictures, it lightens the subject matter and it gives me a fun way of combating the 'narrow-minded' idea of femininity."