Two Women Are Showing How Damaging Stereotypes Can Be With These Powerful Photos
The "I'm Tired" Project was started to raise awareness of the debilitating impact of everyday discrimination.
"We're so often told that many social problems are disappearing: homophobia, racism, sexism, victim blaming" Akpan told BuzzFeed News, "but our subjects and both myself and Harriet are still facing problems like these on a daily basis."
"For us, if this project changes even one person's mind about the preconceived notions they might be holding, or 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."
Here are some of the photos and testimonies that have been shared as part of the project.
I'm tired of being the angry black woman...I'm tired of my feelings being regarded as simply a consequence of my race...I am strong, I am opinionated, and sometimes, maybe, I'm a little quick to anger, but I will not conform to your stereotypes.
I'm tired of my intelligence being associated with my ethnicity...The tendency of some to reduce my achievements to a mere by-product of my race undermines the level of sacrifice that I, and others around me, have invested into my upbringing...People should not underestimate the ability for this persistent subtle undermining to alienate as effectively as aggressive and overt racism.
I'm tired of #thinspiration...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.
I'm tired of people telling me to 'JUST' eat more...Each day is a struggle to eat a reasonable amount, let alone that little bit more. 'Just' eat more ignores the fact that it is a mental illness and NOT a lifestyle choice.
I'm tired of being shamed for having natural body hair...Through pressure from the media and through everyday interaction, I am constantly, consistently, subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) told I must adhere to a sexist beauty standard which deems the natural state of the adult woman's body unacceptable, even disgusting...My choices about my body, as a woman and as a human being, should be the concern of nobody else but me.
I'm tired of being told I'm too skinny for a guy...I have always been naturally slim...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...Why? Because I don't fit a particular masculine image? I don't understand it.
I'm tired of men thinking they have the right to catcall me...To me, catcalling is an issue that lies on the same spectrum as violence against women, which no woman should ever feel that she should be forced to endure. Of course, the majority of these males may not have sinister intent: but as strangers, how are women supposed to be able to distinguish between who is making harmless comments, and who is making abusive threats?
I'm tired of people being surprised by my ambition...When my father's friends ask me about what I plan to do after university, their surprise at my plans and aspirations is genuinely quite offensive...It's almost as if relationships and marriage are still what women should 'focus' on, and that anything else will inevitably be 'difficult'...I think this shows that, although society has progressed (and this is something that we should not forget), we still have a way to go before we can finally celebrate equality.
Akpan told BuzzFeed News the pair took their inspiration from the "Free The Nipple" movement and began the project to "make a difference".
"Harriet and I were bouncing ideas off of each other and thought that we could have quotations of some sort written on people's backs. This way it's anonymous if the person chooses, as you never see anyone's face, but also synonymous with the idea that someone has been labelled by society."
They also took inspiration for the blurb from Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York.
"We thought it was great to have a picture that told a story on its own, but also important for the person who's sharing their story to be able to explain their lived experiences and why it is important to them".
Reaction to the campaign has been "mostly positive", Akpan told BuzzFeed News, "with some appreciating that there are other people out there who have been on the receiving end of similar discriminatory behaviour.
"Others have commented on how they didn't realise that some of the seemingly harmless things they were saying or doing were actually serving to alienate another individual".
The project started in June and the two aim to get as many people involved as possible.
"Like with any project or campaign that attempts to highlight controversial issues, there will always be critics," Akpan said. "However, myself and Harriet are merely glad to be helping instigate more discussion and debate around these issues, whether or not we personally agree with the opinions".