WNOIL is about unrestrained expression. It is intended to give a voice to an issue that is silently felt and shared amongst women. Today we live in a culture that objectifies and sexualizes women daily. One main symptom of the internalization of these attitudes is self-monitoring. To put it simply, because we are taught that our bodies are objects to be viewed and consumed, women are often caught in the daily struggle of ensuring that the way we look, walk, talk, smell, eat or even sit is “up to par” with the expectations of others. Often we can be limited in what we do by the fear of judgment and criticism. Because of this WNOIL has been created. It is a safe space to showcase our talent, skill, passion. Our uniqueness. It is a space to be who we are When No One is Looking.
When No Is Looking or WNOIL is an Instagram page. I created it because I was inspired by so many of the body positivity IG pages that I followed myself. As a psychology major I was also heavily influenced by some of the research I was already participating in regarding self-objectification and objectified body consciousness. Outside of GWST 200 I had taken a personal interest in women’s self monitoring (or body monitoring). All of my ideas and interests put together gave birth to my activist project.
In the first steps of my project I began building upon my research of objectification and self-monitoring. This was guided by several research questions. The question that held the most importance was: How does self-monitoring show up in the lives of everyday women? (i.e. women on UMBC’s campus and the general community). To answer this I came up with a few interview questions. From there I began interviewing women on campus to see what they had to say about self-monitoring in their own lives. With the goal of uplifting women, I took the answers that my interviewees gave and crafted them into (what I hoped would be) inspiring messages about what it means to live as if no one is looking.
I will admit that executing this project was not easy. While working, it didn’t take long to realize that I may have taken on too big of an endeavor. As a college student with several jobs it was hard to find time to coordinate interviews with other busy college students. With so much going on in my day-to-day life, it was frustrating to realize that my project had taken a backseat to other projects that were constantly in front of me. I feel that collaborating with other student on this project would have made it much easier to carry out. With several people contributing, a lot more could have been completed at a faster pace. When I was able to sit down for interviews, the results were extremely positive. I was almost surprised by how open and honest they were. Every woman I spoke with had something different to say about self-monitoring in her life. Though it manifested in different ways for each person, they all experienced it on a daily basis.
From this project I have learned that activism is only limited by one’s own imagination. It can take form through protest, facilitated discussion, pictures, poetry, or even an Instagram page. Before this I never would have considered myself an activist. The image I held of myself did not align with the stereotypical images that come to mind when we hear the word. I still wouldn’t say that I consider myself an activist but this is because I now understand that it is not just a label. It is action. It is the act of expressing ideas with the hopes of creating change or understanding. I am not an activist but I can do activism.
Though I may not have reached the high expectations I had for this project and myself, I would still consider it a success. I was able to share the stories of women with the world (aka my 30 followers). Even more importantly, the project does not end here. I am just as interested in understanding self-monitoring and its effects on women. I view this project as a starting point for even more research, investigation, and empowerment.
Follow When No One Is Looking on Instagram @wnoil_umbc