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Meet Carrie Mae Weems, the artist who first fought back against the male gaze.

"You have to make what you want to see in the world. That is basically your obligation if you're an artist."

Meet Carrie Mae Weems, the artist who first fought back against the male gaze.

When photographer Carrie Ann Weems didn't see herself represented in the art world, she took it upon herself to create that representation.

Image by Carrie Mae Weems, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

The 63-year-old artist opened up about her important career in a recent Lenny interview, explaining that her black-and-white photos — especially her simple yet incredibly powerful "Kitchen Table Series," completed in 1990 — portrayed her as she wants to be seen, not how others wanted her to be seen.


In her photos, Weems is in charge, representing her life as she sees fit. It's a beautiful example of self-expression.

She explains in the interview:

"I realized at a certain moment that I could not count on white men to construct images of myself that I would find appealing or useful or meaningful or complex. I can't count on anybody else but me to deliver on my own promise to myself. I love Fellini. I love Woody Allen. I love the Coen brothers, but they're not interested in my black ass."

​Image by Carrie Mae Weems, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

"I needed to speak to and across the ways in which women had been discussed in film, theater, and photography. I needed to speak of representation and systems."

Weems is most famous for challenging the dreaded male gaze with her photos.

She noticed that men took photos of themselves that were "deeply frontal," while women were often turned to the side in photographs, or had some of their face obscured. So she made the choice to represent herself in her work face-on, something that had rarely been done before by a woman. She tediously set up a camera, processed and printed the film, figured out what she had done wrong, and did it all over again the next day.

In her work, especially the "Kitchen Table" series, you can see her vulnerably revealing itself — in her kitchen and beyond. Weems makes a powerful statement about being present, fearless, and in control in her art.

Eventually, her work set a new standard for visual storytelling by exploring subjectivity in both domestic spaces and public spaces.

Weems isn't alone in her struggle to find herself represented as a woman in the world, especially in art and especially as a woman of color.

Other renowned female artists have joined Weems in this fight throughout the years, famously taking control of representation by making themselves the subjects of their work, too.

Cindy Sherman, for example, famously transforms herself into people from all walks of life — male or female. She relies solely on herself to create these images that challenge us to think about class, race, and gender. Marina Abramović, often referred to as the "grandmother of performance art," is also known for her gutsy risks in the art world, like her project "The Artist Is Present" where she sat across from strangers for hours at a time, sharing silence with them.

These women continually push the boundaries of what it means to be a female artist today. They are meticulous and deliberate, while constructing images of their reality as a woman in the world. There's no hiding behind their work because most of the time, they are their work.

​Image by Carrie Mae Weems, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Carrie Mae Weems boldly laid the groundwork for female artists today.

"I always thought about the pictures of myself as not necessarily of myself but as an entity, a form that could express something that needed to be expressed," she told Lenny.

She created a platform for unapologetic honesty and empowerment, and we can never have too much of that.

I often take for granted how easily I can take a selfie and send a depiction of myself out into the world. But that hasn't always been the case. When Weems started working, she was intentional and precise. She wanted women everywhere to be seen for who they really were. She was a bold risk-taker. And she changed things in a big way.

This is what happens when you stand up for yourself in a world that doesn't seem to have room for you. It's risky. It's terrifying. But it's worth it. Thank you for your boldness, Carrie!

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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