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The Humannequin Project: Rethinking Gender in a Global World

By Kaitlyn Thompson
Humannequin Displays on Campus

Women’s History Month provides a time to remember the strides women have made while acknowledging that women still have a long way to go before reaching equality. The Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) campus celebrated Women’s History Month with a variety of events, including a poetry slam, mask making, the second annual Women’s Conference, a showing of the film series “Stop Calling me Girl”, a performance of “The Vagina Monologues”, and a political art display of “humannequins.”

“The Humannequin Project is a representation of the Woman’s Right’s Movement,” commented student Angelique Martinez. The Humannequins are designed and created by EMCC students after intensive research on their assigned topics. “There is a different theme for the humannequins every year, and various classes participate in the project. Students have to do a lot of research to create posters and design their political art,” said Dr. Olga Tsoudis, originator of the Humannequin project.

“I came up with the idea that mannequins could be used to represent social structures for people, after seeing displayed mannequin art at First Fridays,” commented Tsoudis. 

Angelique Martinez talks about the process: “We had to do a lot of research and create posters about our topics before we could begin the actual creation of the humannequins.  I learned a lot about gay rights that I was not aware of before. It was really informative.”

Each humannequin is very different. “We all had various topics to do with woman’s rights; mine specifically was on gay families. I discussed the disadvantages of being a gay parent and how many states have laws and legislations against gay couples, making it difficult for them to adopt,” Martinez commented. The range of topics for the Humannequin Project made it so that the students viewing the political art had the opportunity to learn about multiple issues regarding gender, politics and the law as related to women.

The actual creation of the humannequins allowed the students working on the project to be creative with their visual arguments. The students were given blank humannequins, which they were allowed to decorate in any form they wished. Martinez created her humannequin with the intention of bringing realism to the project. “I created my humannequin to look like a mother, and not like a typical stereotype. I wanted her to be seen as someone who could be a real person.”

The students reuse the humannequins every year by painting over the previous students’ alterations. This year’s humannequin theme focused on gender, politics and the law.  Past topics included women’s rights across the globe, women’s rights in the United States, and gender issues in relation to family.

Tsoudis is glad that Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to enlighten the minds of EMCC students through political art. “Women’s History Month is about more than just celebrating accomplishments; it’s about recognizing that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done,” stated Tsoudis.

The display of humannequins attracts the attention of many students. While some humannequins are dressed as mothers, military officers or brides, others are more symbolically dressed in dresses made of condoms, portrayed as both female and male, or wearing a chained infant attached to an ankle.

The Humannequin Project display lasted throughout the month of March, giving EMCC students the opportunity to engage with the art and research. “I enjoyed working on this project. It opened my eyes to a lot of gender related issues, and that women have to work really hard to get what they want,” said Martinez.