Keepers of the Home looks at issues of identity and gender roles and questions how other cultures perceive freedom of choice within a conservative social environment.
This project is the story of Hollie, a 14-year-old Markham Mennonite girl. I started photographing her when she was 11 and will continue taking her pictures until she's an adult when she must make her decision; get baptized, get married, have children and take up the role of motherhood, or leave the church and find a career. Community members believe a working mother can never give her full attention to her family.
Gender roles within those communities are clearly defined from a young age. they live according to a strict interpretation of the bible. Girls are taught how to quilt, cook, clean and are given dolls to learn how to look after babies. Boys are taught how to farm and drive tractors. Children are given their future identity from the day they are born. Girls are conditioned to believe their main duty is motherhood and home care. For the outsider, this social hierarchy is seen as patriarchal with limited choices. For the Mennonite community, it is seen as having lots of choices with distinct roles and responsibilities that complement each other.
By exploring themes of mother / daughter relationship, coming of age, freedom of choice and gender dynamics, I investigate what does it take for Mennonite girls to make such an important life decision at a critical period in their life.
At the beginning of this project in 2016, Hollie’s mother asked me ‘What makes you think your life is better than mine?’
And so this project begins. It’s a look into the life of Markham Mennonite teenage girls where I can connect my own experiences to theirs allowing myself to understand how my own life is shaped by elements larger than me.
I believe when we begin to understand other cultures, we begin to question our own. We can also start to have a better understanding of how we can change those larger elements to develop empathy for others and promote social justice, women’s empowerment and equality.