Women Artists Present a Video to Inspire Young Women to Dare Be the Best They Are

Women artists who contributed to making the video “Women Dress Code” pose with women who helped set up the screening. From left, artist Tan Vatey; Ms. Phearot who helped set up the event; Marina Pok, a sponsor of the event; Ms. Tola who helped set up the event; and artists Sao Sreymao and Neak Sophal. Photo provided.

PHNOM PENH— Women artists joined together to produce a video to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 and empower women from all walks of life to take a lead in their lives and dare jump out of the box.

This video is meant as an invitation for all women, as the situation for women in society gradually improves, to take this as an opportunity to serve as role models for young girls in the country.

More than 10 Cambodian female artists gathered at the collaborative space and gallery tiSamjort on March 8 in Phnom Penh to present the video entitled “Women Dress Code” in which they used the issue of the women’s dress code raised in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to illustrate the situation and challenges of women in the country. If approved, a proposed law would have dictated what was appropriate for women to wear, making it illegal and punishable by law to wear dresses or skirts considered too short or other clothing considered in violation of that law.

Pok Marina, a supporter and sponsor of tiSamjort since its establishment in 2020, said on March 8 that the video features a woman dressed in a skirt of medium length strolling around the city of Phnom Penh. The woman has her legs painted with pictures of eyes.

“We want to show that women, while walking on the street, are often stared at,” Marina explained. “It’s the stare of the others. The problem is not caused by whether women wear short or long clothes. It’s the matter of how people perceive women.

“That’s the idea,” she said. “How do you feel yourself when you look at the others? How do you respect the others? Do you have your own judgments and perceptions?”

Sao Sreymao, a co-founder of tiSajort and the organizer of the video-screening event, said she sees two contexts regarding the way women dress.

“If we dress in the Khmer traditional costume, they will stare at us and will make fun of us,” she said. “People in society have the habit of mocking.” Women who wear shorter clothes will also be criticized, she noted.

With gender equality improving, women must move on

Marina, who is also director of the Annica Foundation and works closely with artists, said that more women have become artists in recent years, which has enriched the world of art in the country and added sophistication.

“Women are more connected with their emotions and intuition,” she said. “Women artists may be more organic. They go to the center of the theme, the emotion. I think they’re very connected to their emotions.”

According to Marina, more women artists are starting to gain recognition for their work, especially since the COVID-19 outbreak during which women artists became stronger in support of each other. They are bringing new perspectives and hopes through their work, Marina said.

As she explained, she is very optimistic about the future of female artists on Cambodia’s art scene, and is encouraging women artists to keep on working to produce to the best of their ability.

Sao Sreymao, whose multidisciplinary practice ranges from comics, digital drawings, painting, photography, and performance noted that today, women are having more freedom than in the past to pursue their passion.

However, they should be certain of their passion and be ready to fight for what they believe in in a rational manner so that they can take hold of the opportunities that come their way, she said.

“In the past years, I have seen many women come into the industry and work internationally,” Sreymao said. “It’s not only because we are women but because we have talents and skills, making our work stand out.

“Freedom is given, but the question should be whether we dare to accept the freedom,” she said. “So, I think we should perceive freedom from a new perspective.”

Marina and Sreymao encourage not only female artists but also all young girls to take a firm stance and maintain their beliefs while striving to excel in what they are doing.

2023 marks the 112th anniversary of International Women’s Day, which was held this year under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” to promote gender equality and developmental needs of women and girls through innovative technology.

The film screening event on March 8 was sponsored by the company Auskhmer in Phnom Penh.

For information on tiSamjort:  https://www.facebook.com/tiSamjort/

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