Red is the color of whores.
That’s an opener, isn’t it?
A little jarring, no doubt. My mother told me early on in my life that I was not to wear red clothes or red lipstick, lest I look like a whore.
In my 30s, I realized she was wrong. I realized of course that her idea of the word “whore” was more a sexually confident woman, an empowered woman out of fucks to give.
She was trying to protect me, I know.
Mom was a quiet, tea-totaling wallflower. She had no idea the woman her daughter would become.
A red-shirt-wearing, foul-mouthed sports writer turned dog photographer.
The red shirt was maybe the most shocking.
The psychology of red
Red is a color that draws attention, something she shied away from. It signifies strength, power and courage.
It’s an energetic color that is often associated with passion, lust – emotions that good Catholic girls should never convey.
I’m passionate. I’m lustful for life, adventure.
And I see red, the red that’s associated with anger and danger.
The color of love
Red is also the color of love and affection. Roman de la Rose, a 13th-century poem composed by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, referenced a search for a red rose, symbolizing the search for the woman of their dreams.
Meh, men can have their roses and the search for the woman of their dreams, can’t they, girls? When I think “love” these days, I am all wrapped up in the way I look at Bella, my (almost) 10-year-old Maremma sheepdog.
And the way she looks back at me.
This isn’t just floofy woowoo bullshit either. There’s science that backs the way women love their dogs. One research paper published in the Journal of Ethnobiology in 2022 suggests that dogs were always women’s best friend.
And the relationship society has today with dogs is a result of the way we evolved together, woman and dog.
“Humans were more likely to regard dogs as a type of person if the dogs had a special relationship with women,” said Jaime Chambers, an anthropology Ph.D. student at Washington State University in Pullman, just down the road from me. “They were more likely to be included in family life, treated as subjects of affection and generally, people had greater regard for them.”
The research goes on to note that when dogs interact with women in any given society, they are more likely to have names, be treated as family and to be buried and mourned with they die. Across 144 cultures, dogs that interacted with women were 220% more likely to be treated like people in comparison to dogs that didn’t interact with women.
Oh, dogs that interacted with men? Yeah, only 63% likely to be treated like people.
Dogs are a woman’s best friend
No doubt, dogs respond to that innate tendency we women have to nurture and care for other beings. (Had you told me 30 years ago that I had that tendency, I would have laughed at you … but here I am.)
In our house, I know Bella is more attached to me because of the frequency and ways we spend time together — hiking, exploring, being at one with nature.
It is there we were able to form a bond of trust and connectedness.
In the woods, we both get a wild sensory experience … the sights, sounds and smells of nature can trigger our dogs’ awareness and engagement, allowing them the opportunity to feel like they are protecting me.
As a livestock guardian dog, of course Bella is. I am her flock.
The ladies in red
Ugh, I hate the word “lady” but how could I write a blog post about women in red and not side-reference that Chris deBurgh song?
Damn near every woman I’ve spoken with in the last eight years since I started this dog photography business has told me their dogs have allowed them to feel safer.
In a world in which we are grappling with issues like gender inequality, wage inequity, violence against women and our health care rights being stripped away, our dogs become symbols of empowerment and safety. Larger breeds can help us deter unwanted attention from two-legged beasts, and they help us feel a sense of control and self-reliance when we’re out in the wild of urban society.
I couldn’t wait to get Kathryn in my red tulle skirt for her session on the river in downtown Leavenworth.
When we chatted via text and got to know each other, Kathryn let me know she’s not the type to wear a dress or a skirt or anything too fancy.
I wanted her to go all out, be bold, be wild.
A dog trainer who spends her days covered in fur and slobber (like that sounds so bad), her rainy morning was an opportunity to step outside of her norm.
She smiled the entire time and looked far more comfortable in a skirt than I know she would admit.
The queen of the world
Christine asked me how she wanted me to pose.
I said, “Stand like you are queen of the motherfucking world.”
And she did.
Christine is all power, a weightlifter and a lawyer in Spokane Valley.
Her external strength hides the ball of nerves she is on the inside. Just like her little pitbull mix Sam.
“Sam is a lot like me, not very courageous and very very anxious but resilient and full of grit,” she said. “With her by my side, I feel loved, I feel powerful, I feel strong. I feel capable doing the scary things, adventuring in the backcountry and pushing my boundaries with her by my side.”
She said Sam has empowered her to be more like a dog: more patient, more loving, braver, attentive to the small things.
Being part of Into the Wild made Christine reflect upon her life with Sam.
“Having her constant presence in my life made me take her and the lessons that she’s taught me for granted,” Christine said. “But taking these photos with Angela at Plantes Ferry, telling funny stories about her, talking about how we met, and seeing the love in her eyes, made me think about all the ways she’s enriched my life and has made me a better person.
When I wear red
I’ve put both the red tulle skirt and the slinky red dress on myself.
Something changes in me when I do.
I become a little more fiery (that’s possible?), I stand a bit taller, my shoulders become a little bit broader.
No matter what Mom said, I love the color. I probably started wearing red out of defiance to her.
I wore red on the day I pledged citizenship to the United States in 2018, an homage to my country of birth and our very red Maple Leaf flag.
I wear red to inspire me into a day where I need to kick some ass.
And there are some days to kick ass this year.
Let’s get wild together
Into the Wild is a project dedicated to the strength women gain from their dogs, to the lessons we learn from their love and companionship.
I’m taking women and their dogs into the wild of the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Alberta, putting them in beautiful dresses — the women, not the dogs — and celebrating the unbreakable bond we build.
If that sounds like you, grab a spot.