Juliet Davis’ web-based polemic, “Pieces of Herself,” is a journey into ideas about sex, gender, and female identity. It is also a drag-and-drop type of game inspired by Elizabeth Grosz’s theories about embodiment. There are more than 400 photographs included in this game. In order to load this project, Flash is required on the computer.
Before you enter the game you are given a quick backstory. The intro page reads as follows: “Her friends said she needed to “find” herself. And sure enough, when she started looking, she found pieces of herself everywhere...” This opening statement is important both thematically and in terms of the narrative—thematically, in that it suggests a fragmented female identity; and narratively, in the sense of understanding the objective of the work, which is to assemble a coherent identity. It also suggests the idea that real people often feel fragmented or dispersed and must search in order to find themselves, a challenge made even more difficult due to the fact that one’s ideas about identity are often in conflict with how other people think they “ought” to behave.
When entering the game you, the player, start with a blank outline of a female body which provides an open canvas, awaiting transformation. At the top of the page there are different rooms that you can explore by scrolling through each individually. As you do, images pop out in color. These images can be dragged onto the blank outline of the female body. Everything is in black and white, except for these images that pop out. This lets people participating in the game create the “type” of person they want to be, using the different icons or images that are provided. They can choose to add as little or as much as they would want. For example in the “Bedroom” there is a bright green image that can be dragged and dropped onto the outline of the female body. This screenshot is the opening screen before you enter the game. In the top of the photograph there is an example of a final product.
It’s hard to decide whether this is a game, a story, or even a poem. Since there is such a broad spectrum of possibilities you can create with the image, no two players will have the same exact appearance. “Pieces of Herself” lets the reader create a unique person since no two people are exactly the same. Looking at this through a feminist perspective one could view this as a presentation of how gender roles are viewed. One could think of how women are viewed in certain ways in domestic and public locations, both by society and by their individual selves. The idea of institutionalization demonstrates how these ideas are embedded into the individual brain so that certain things become categorized according to certain genders. By Juliet Davis naming this game “Pieces of Herself,” she is showing how there are many different elements when it comes to having a true identity. There is not one thing that makes a person a certain gender; instead, this game shows how identity is very fluid and up to the individual to create.
Melody Monroe was a student of Dr. Lisa Swanstrom for a course in Literary Theory taught at Florida Atlantic University in the Spring term of 2014.