Playing Dress Up: An Exploration into a Woman’s Identity

“Pieces of Herself” by Juliet Davis is an exploration into the ways women identify with their gender through their relationships to public and private spaces.  The user explores the public and private spaces and discovers various objects in each space that can be dragged and dropped onto a woman’s body (a doll) that is on the left side of the screen.  By dressing up the doll with the objects, the user is able to experience audio clips from interviews with women, music loops, and sound effects. As each audio clip is selected, the game reveals issues of gender identity in each space that a woman embodies.

The game begins with the following statement: “Her friends said she needed to “find” herself. And sure enough, when she started looking, she found pieces of herself everywhere.”  This quotation invites the user into the game to discover these pieces, and to learn that a woman’s identity is connected to everyplace, activity, and person with whom she comes into contact—she leaves a trace that influences her peers and family, but is also influenced by these spaces, which in turn controls her identity. By allowing the user to explore the inner thoughts of a woman and to gain insight into the forces that influence her identity, we begin to hack into the issues with which women struggle (issues that women try to keep private), and we begin to understand why women have these conflicts of identity. While this is a good way to understand and bring to light these topics that are often considered taboo, it also contradicts the idea of privacy within private spaces. This game demonstrates that while we may think our homes are private and identities safe, there are many objects that can unveil our secrets.

Below I provide an analysis for spaces in the home, work, and community. This analysis is not comprehensive, but provides insight into some of the issues with which women struggle.

Community: The Shower room is one of the public spaces that provide insight into how women feel about their identities in society. In the Shower room, women try to hide, and try not to be seen by other women. The game interface communicates this act of hiding by showing toilet stalls with objects that are only revealed if you hover over the door and the stall opens.  This is the same with the shower curtains, and there is a woman trying to hide behind one of the curtains. The objects all communicate a sense of uneasiness about physical image and beauty, especially when in the presence of community members, and people who may judge them.  Women are very concerned with their appearance, even around other women. For example, after moving an object that looks like hair onto the doll, the audio clip is of a woman telling the listener that she colors her hair because she has a gray streak, thus revealing that she is uncomfortable with aging and the effects of aging (she is trying to look young again).

Home: The Kitchen is one of the private spaces that provides insight into how women feel about their identities inside of the home. In the Kitchen, women can express themselves through their cooking.  For instance, the audio clip of an object that looks like some sort of spice is of a woman saying “Sometimes I wanna be spicy.” Also, a grocery list plays a music loop that is upbeat and creative, to illustrate a woman’s creative talents, but also the tune is a bit jumbled and chaotic, perhaps to represent that sometimes it can be a hectic task to make dinner for a family, especially if the woman has a full time job. While cooking may enable women to express themselves in a constructive and healthy manner, and to provide sustenance for their family, the idea of cooking and eating also creates sensitive feelings about weight and being critically judged for their weight. The audio clip of an object that looks like some sort of liquid pouring onto a plate is of a woman telling that her mom is obsessed with her (the daughter) looking skinny again.

Work: At the office, women try to not show emotion because it is inappropriate and unprofessional. Thus, women cannot always speak their mind for fear of losing credibility and responsibility.  If she shows emotion, or is open about her opinions, her coworkers might not take her seriously or they may not think that she is capable of getting the job done. The paper clips communicate this idea, illustrating that women can sometimes seem to have split personalities.  Interestingly, an audio clip associated with an object that flashes “where are you?” is of a woman discussing liposuction and $300 shoes–things that women believe will improve their appearance.  Perhaps this is what women wish they could spend their money on, or it could be communicating the types of things that women try to save their money for so that they can be noticed and so that they can stand out.

Creative Response #1