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AN exhibition has opened in Southend as part of a campaign to ‘rebrand’ the Essex girl.
The display, called ‘This is What an Essex Girl Looks Like’, opened at the Beecroft Art Gallery on Saturday, November 9.
It has been organised in conjunction with the Essex Girls Liberation Front (EGLF), which was founded by bestselling Southend author Syd Moore.
The group fights to challenge and undermine the negative stereotype of the ‘Essex girl’.
The exhibition saw Essex women with interesting stories sit down for professional portraits and explain how they smashed the stereotype.
The portraits have been taken by local photographer Tessa Hallmann, whilst Elsa James – a member of the EGLF – is also screening a film as part of the collection.
Syd said: “We all got together and decided to show lots of different types of fantastic Essex women. Each of the women we’ve shown completely turns the stereotype on its head.
“We have a street vicar. We have a circus strong woman. We have the Deputy Lieutenant of Essex, Sidra Naeem, who is the Queen’s representative in Essex.
“All of these women are talking about what they do and how they feel that that stereotype is really old and outdated.”
Syd, who writes supernatural novels set in Essex, has been on a mission to end the stereotype for more than 10 years.
She was inspired by problems her female students reported to her while she was lecturing at South East Essex College in the 2000s.
She told the YA: “Girls were coming back from university interviews and saying that the interviewers would look at them and say, ‘Oh, so you’re an Essex girl, are you’? They would open the interviews with that question.
“The dictionary definition of an Essex girl was a woman or girl who was ‘promiscuous, unintelligent, materialistic, vulgar and lacking in taste’.
“So when they ask you that question, you don’t want to affirm all of those negative stereotypes. But you also don’t want to say that you think that’s an offensive, outdated stereotype, because that marks you out as trouble.”
Syd has written numerous articles about the problem and is currently engaged in an online campaign with the ELGF to try to shift the definition.
She said: “We’ve had t-shirts made with ‘This is What an Essex Girl Looks Like’ written on them, and we’re asking women to take photos of themselves and send them to us. We are tagging them all, hoping that eventually they will be the first thing that comes up when you search online for ‘Essex girl’.”
The exhibition at the Beecroft, in Victoria Avenue, will run until October 2020.
The Essex Girls Liberation Front have pages on Facebook and Twitter.