Kelsey Higley is a photographer and video artist earning a B.F.A. in Media Art at the University of Oklahoma. She describes her works as being influenced by issues of feminism, gender equality, and body image. You may have seen her project Manipulated, which explores the concept of ideal beauty and how it has changed throughout time, making its way around the web.
Inspired by the feedback she received on that project, Kelsey has continued to examine the societal pressures that women often face, which is reflected in her new project What Binds Us, a series of self-portraits taken in professional settings while wearing a scold’s bridle. It’s an incredibly profound series of images and visual commentary on women in the workplace that we’ve never quite seen before.
In her artist statement, Kelsey explains:
This medieval device was used to shame and punish women who were deemed gossips, too outspoken, or troublesome. It resembles a metal cage, which would be fastened around a woman’s head with a piece inserted into her mouth, often sharpened or covered with spikes to inflict pain if she attempted to speak. An officer would then lead her around town on a chain so she could be publicly humiliated.
This photographic series links the present and the past by bringing the scold’s bridle into contemporary work spaces to create a comparison between medieval ideals and modern societal expectations for women in the workplace. Although this device was outlawed in 1856, women are still punished for their words today.
My goal is purely to encourage conversation, leading people to contemplate our dated mindsets and gender roles while working to correct them.
To learn more about this series, you can read Kelsey’s thesis paper here. All images ©Kelsey Higley