Let's try a thought exercise together, and I'll even do it with you. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think of a woman. The idea of woman, the perfect woman. What do you see? Do you see someone classically feminine, someone able-bodied? What race or ethnicity do you see? What pronouns do they use? Now open your eyes. You might have thought of our western, stereotypical, heteronormative depiction of womanhood: slender, cis-gender, long-haired, young, maternal, delicate. Now give your Facebook friends list a scroll. How many women actually embody that image? Chances are your answer is "few"—and that's exactly Billie's point.
Billie, the razor-turned-lifetsyle brand, is celebrating International Women's Day by questioning our preconceived notions on what womanhood actually means in practice. In a stunning, perception-shattering video directed by artist, filmmaker and creative director Quinn Whitney Wilson and narrated by Indya Moore, viewers are invited to challenge their own biases, instincts, and beliefs about what it means to be a woman in hope to expand our collective definition and understanding.
"A woman is a woman because she–or they–know themselves to be one," Georgina Gooley, co-founder of Billie, explains of the video's messaging, which can be watched in its entirety here. "To try and define something that is fluid, constantly evolving, and holds a different meaning to every individual is not our place. Instead, we're out to challenge perceptions and let womankind define itself. Our work is about broadening that definition to make room for more expressions."
To bring that messaging to the masses, the team devised the Billie Brain Scan, an interactive, virtual experience available today that helps users understand their own biases or even subconscious concepts of gender identity and womanhood through though exercises. "We worked with Gail Tolstoi-Miller, an expert on unconscious bias with over 20 years of experience in the field," Gooley tell us. "With Gail’s expertise, we were able to craft a narrative that specifically challenges our perceptions of women, with the goal of ultimately broadening our lens in which we view womankind."
A central tenant of Wilson's film is built around destroying ideas of cis-gendered womanhood, when the reality is far more specular. In the film, a participant casts the camera a half-smile: "Don't assume my pronouns!" Gooley says the Billie team spend months speaking with people of assorted and varied gender identities and discovered that "that many non-binary and gender-nonconforming people feel connected to the idea of womanhood, just as cis-women do. Even though someone might not use the pronouns she/her, or use multiple pronouns, they may still identify as a woman and should be included under the term 'womankind' if they want to be." Partnering with Wilson to bring that vision to life was a natural choice for the Billie brand, with Gooley summing up the perfect fit:
She has the innate ability to capture authentic representations of her subjects while simultaneously marrying humanity with artistry."
While this film and campaign are new to Billie, the messaging isn't. The brand was built around dissolving stigma and societal pressure women face, and championing inclusivity and solidarity among anyone who identities as part of womankind. After the runaway success of their body-positive razor line, Billie expanded into a full-fledged lifestyle brand that includes everything from colorful, creative makeup to dry shampoo, skin, and body care. One thing has always stayed consistent however: an "everyone's invited to this party" vibe that can mean a lot to anyone who's been marginalized or unaccepted by the beauty world.
"By challenging people to view the word 'woman' in a new light, we hope to include and celebrate the full spectrum of womanhood, while simultaneously relieving all women from the limiting traditional gender roles and societal pressures that 'being a woman' or 'looking like a woman' has entailed," Gooley tells Byrdie. We might have a ways to go, but we can certainly go farther together.