Finnish Photographer Asks: What Is "Femininity"?

Courtesy of iiu Susiraja.
Finnish photographer Iiu Susiraja uses herself and her home to speak to larger dynamics at play between domesticity and women. In her series of self-portraits, Good Behavior, Susiraja poses with household tools like brooms, oven mitts, and rolling pins — getting about as intimate as possible with such items. In an interview with Dazed Magazine, Susiraja cites a few messages she hopes her art sends: It says that "the abnormal may be normal" and that "at home, you can be yourself, wild and free."
With these artistic intentions in mind, it's somewhat surprising that "wild and free" Susiraja does not crack a smile in any of her self-portraits. But, rather than detract from her message, the stone-serious face she shows the camera actually drives Susiraja's point home: Her photography, like much of life, is just the right amount of absurd.
Whether posing with food or with kitchen appliances, Susiraja presents image after image of a woman being herself, in her own home. Depicting herself with a broom under her breasts and a rolling pin between her legs, Susiraja examines domesticity, femininity, and sexuality, and the ways in which these concepts are intertwined. The photographs are jarring because of how easily Susiraja highlights stereotypical expectations for women — the idea that they must use their bodies to bear children and to maintain a household.
Traditionally considered a feminine environment, the home allows women the freedom to wield a limited kind of power. They can hold dominion in this private space because it is just that — private — and does not exist in opposition to any other, more public (and therefore more male) spaces. But Susiraja does not let the antiquated idea that women "belong" in the home prevent her photos from being questioning, satirical, or playful. In fact, she turns tired tropes into hyperbole, insisting that a woman may (and does) choose how to behave while in her own home.
Click through to see a selection of images from Good Behavior.

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