Exploring female identity

November 2, 2012
Raina Delisle
Darcy Turenne

When professional mountain biker and filmmaker Darcy Turenne was working on her thesis for her MA in Intercultural and International Communication at Royal Roads University, she discovered that fear of being ugly is the biggest barrier to women getting involved in sports.

“There’s this perception that sports make you too masculine,” says Turenne, whose thesis was a documentary film, The Eighth Parallel, which explores the lives of female action sport athletes in Indonesia. “Women have a fear of bruising and scarring their skin and getting dark.”

For her part, Turenne felt pressure to feminize her image earlier in her career. In 2008, she graced Rolling Stone clad in a bikini top and Cowichan sweater.  

“It’s exciting to have been in Rolling Stone magazine, but now I would probably present myself differently as a more mature and established athlete,” says Turenne, who’s based in Victoria. “At the same time, it’s difficult to put it in that context because that photo also helped launch my career and it probably got some women to start biking. The power of that photo was potentially very high, but it’s not something I’m super proud of. I definitely felt pressure to portray myself in that way; that wasn’t from within.”

On Nov. 17, Turenne will speak at TEDxVictoria about how sports are excellent development tools for women’s personal growth and social development as well as the role of femininity in getting women involved in sports. “I don’t think it’s a topic that has any concrete answers,” she says. “I think the beauty of TED is it’s not aiming for solutions, it’s just aiming to create a dialogue and that’s my main goal with my talk.”

Another member of the Royal Roads community, School of Communication and Culture associate faculty and BA in Professional Communication alumna Jaigris Hodson, will also be speaking about identity at TEDxVictoria. A former burlesque dancer, Hodson will discuss coming to terms with the two sides of herself and learning to be open about her life outside of the classroom.

Jaigris Hodson “I started to realize that burlesque taught me a lot about how to be successful in life and I apply those lessons every day,” says Hodson, who lives in Toronto and also teaches at Ryerson University. “By being open about burlesque, not only can I be more accepting of myself, I can hopefully teach others to be more accepting of the little things in their lives that they might want to keep secret. Also, I’m then able to share those lessons with everybody, from my students to my colleagues to all the people at TEDx.”

In her talk, Hodson will share some of the lessons she learned as a burlesque dancer and how they apply to other aspects of life. One of her lessons is, don’t be afraid to wear a moustache. In burlesque, she says, many performers want to be feminine, but Hodson learned she can have just as much impact by doing a comic routine – and wearing a moustache.

“You’re shaking it up a bit, you’re making people laugh and you’re making people think,” Hodson says. “The idea of don’t be afraid to wear a moustache is a reminder to not take yourself too seriously. In burlesque, as in life, you don’t have to be serious all of the time. You don’t have to be sexy all of the time. You don’t have to be what you think everybody else wants you to be.”

Royal Roads is the exclusive educational sponsor of TEDxVictoria. The TEDxVictoria team will be given the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills through the university’s Centre for Applied Leadership and Management.  

“TEDxVictoria and Royal Roads University share similar approaches to building community through the spreading of ideas and by inspiring positive action,” says John Mardlin, TEDxVictoria director of finance and curator. “Our alignment of values makes this a great fit for partnership that we look forward to building on in the years to come.”

Photo of Darcy Turenne by 朱剑波 .