Inspired to do something that would make a difference, friends and recent college graduates Harriet Evans and Paula Akpan created The I’m Tired Project aiming to highlight the significance and lasting impact of microaggressions and stereotypes people encounter in their everyday lives.
The images feature quotes, which reflect the microaggressions the participants have faced. They are written on the backs of the subjects to offer anonymity, and represent the idea that someone has been labeled by society.
“We’re so often told that many social problems are disappearing: homophobia, racism, sexism, victim blaming, but our subjects, and both myself and Paula, are still facing problems like these on a daily basis,” Harriet told WYSK. “If this inspires someone to ask more questions or even for someone to feel more confident in themselves and think ‘hey, there’s someone else who goes through this too, I’m not alone,’ then we would be extremely happy.”
Taking a cue from the photo/essay project Humans of New York, each image is accompanied by a blurb written by the person in the photo, giving them the opportunity to share their experience and how the words have affected them and their self-esteem.
“We’re tired, tired of being ‘the angry black woman,’ tired of being told ‘I’ve never slept with a black girl,’ tired of being called ‘bossy,’ etc. If we can just change one person’s mind about the preconceived notions they might be holding, The I’m Tired Project will be a success.”
“The media continues to draw on tired and irrelevant stereotypes when portraying black people – we are violent, we are criminals, and we appear to have only a basic grasp of the English language. The portrayal of black women is no different, the media persistently choosing to portray that sole black woman as the ‘angry black woman.’ These women are stubborn and unreasonably quick to anger. They enjoy emasculating the men close to them and are exceedingly upset and irate. It is a creeping stereotype that seems to shape the way we view the black women we encounter. But a black woman’s feelings should not be considered lesser simply because we are maybe more openly emotive or naturally ‘sassy’ than our white counterparts.
I’m tired of my feelings being regarded as simply a consequence of my race. The reasons for my rage and my anger should not be pushed aside and belittled simply because of the colour of my skin. I am strong, I am opinionated, and sometimes, maybe, I’m a little quick to anger, but I will not conform to your stereotypes.”
“Over the last two years I have been asked this countless times, however this is not a question to which I believe there is a definitive answer – it was not a process of turning, it was a process of falling in love. Fixating on the notion that to be gay, you must have at some point ‘turned’ from being straight is nonsensical and society’s obsession with forcing people into neatly labelled boxes is unproductive. Everyone should be free to simply be who they are and find happiness however they wish on the basis of who and what they are drawn to, not on the basis of which quaint little box society has decided they ‘belong’ in.”
“I have always been naturally slim, never enough to be deemed clinically underweight, yet have heard this statement countless times; largely as just an offhand comment, sometimes as an insult, usually followed up with ‘eat more,’ ‘go to the gym,’ etc. Essentially I’m told that I need to change. And to me, what was initially just my genetics, and indeed something I was very content with, starts to become a source of insecurity. Why? Because I don’t fit a particular masculine image? I don’t understand it. You wouldn’t draw attention to an individual’s obesity, so in a similar vein, it is exhausting to repeatedly hear that I am ‘too skinny’.”
While I’m sure from this you could infer as to the wider misgivings of society, this doesn’t seek to comment on ‘skinny-shaming,’ the supposed ‘crisis of masculinity,’ or anything of the like. Rather, I quite simply wish to suggest that nobody, male or female, should be judged on their body.”
“My Dad always taught me and my sister that if we worked hard we could do anything that we wanted to do and nobody could stop us if we put our minds to it. Although he never specifically referred to gender, his words, now more than ever seem to resonate more strongly with me, due to the number of occasions where I have been dismissed due to my gender. This past year, the attention that the press and media have paid to women and their rights has been phenomenal, however there is still work to do. Time and time again, young girls and women are told that they can’t – the reason? Simply that they are not the ‘right’ gender.
Girls grow up in a society which if they are not careful can teach them that they are a second class sex, this notion is ridiculous. Men and women need to work together, appreciate one another, and strive to teach the next generation that men and women are equal and deserve the same opportunities.”
“Growing up, in a mostly Caucasian area, I had not realised until I was much older that the image of a black boy or man is often one of anger or aggression. In many ways I can understand this given the often aggressive media portrayals of frankly large black males in music, TV, video games and films. However, what I do not appreciate is the way that this portrayal has come to define the presumption of my character and who I am from individuals who do not know me or who see me in a club and assume that I have an aggressive character. Through my career choices I hope to show them wrong. #John15:7”
“The ‘ideal body’ is an elusive thing. I am often plagued with doubts about my body; I think most young men and women are. I have had a fuller, curvier figure and been labelled fat. I have also been very thin and told I look ill and have been questioned as to whether I’m anorexic. There are always doubts, flaws, imperfections and many of these are put out there by society. A happy medium doesn’t seem to exist. Social media has for a long time been accused of encouraging such unrealistic ideals. Hashtags such as #thinspiration now come with an explicit content advisory warning on sites like Instagram.
Only now are we seeming to recognise the very real dangers in promoting the ‘ideal body’ as an unachievable goal. I am tired of a society that encourages me to feel uncomfortable in my own skin, that I will never meet the ‘ideal,’ not even come close.”