Over the last year or so, I’ve gained a little weight. I’ve been blaming it on trips to Germany, Atlanta, and New Orleans, on my 10-month stint working a dreadful, sedentary desk job. But no matter where I direct my blame, I remain no thinner nor do I return to the shape I was in when I was working weddings and tending bar every weekend.
What’s even more embarrassing to me is that, through this weight gain, I’ve been desperately trying to fit into my old wardrobe. I’ve stuffed myself into too-small shirts and jeans that leave me looking like a busted can of biscuits (definitely ripping a few items in the process). This blossomed into months of denial; I just couldn’t bring myself to admit that with that 25 extra pounds, I had also gained a pant size.
But I had.
Yet, ultimately, so what? “The only person who sees the size on your tags is you” a friend said in passing one day, and something kind of clicked in my brain. She was right. Nobody could see the specific size of the clothing I was wearing, but they COULD see if I wasn’t fitting into my clothing properly.
So after those months of denial, hating myself, and a whole lot of crying, I set out to feel better about my new, fatter self. I bought new, bigger pants and I scheduled a boudoir shoot with the so, so talented Rebecca Caridad of Manzanita Photography. (I’ve posted some of Rebecca’s pictures of me below so you can see what beautiful work she does!)
I. Was. Mortified.
We’re all force-fed an ideal that there’s only one way in which to be considered beautiful and that that consideration even matters. This is what Naomi Wolf calls the “Beauty Myth”: A changing, capitalistic ploy to keep women obedient and distracted.
“Just as the beauty myth did not really care what women looked like as long as women felt ugly, we must see that it does not matter in the least what women look like as long as we feel beautiful.” This is not, as one Huffington Post author suggested, a push to use “beauty as a paramount marker of worth” (that’s what the Beauty Myth is already doing!) nor is it a suggestion that every woman ought to feel “physically perfect and sexually irresistible”. No. This is a call-to-action, an effort to step outside the concept that beauty is currency and instead embrace it as a feeling.
We need to find a way, somehow, to make women feel beautiful without making them feel indebted.
We need to figure out how to give all of us a strong sense of identity that has nothing to do with our physical appearance.
We need to understand that serious and sexual are not mutually exclusive.
Posing nude, or, rather, semi-nude, is kind of liberating. The same way that, a few years ago, modeling nude for figure drawing classes was liberating. I really do think that we, women, could really stand to see each other naked more. We’ve all been in a gym locker room and averted our eyes from the other bodies around us, but as Jennifer Armstrong said in an article that revisited Wolf’s work, “seeing other women’s bodies, in all their non-standard, non-pornified variations, is a revelation.” A revelation!
And I think this, in so many words, is what attracted me to Jillian Powers’ I Woke Up Like This project so much.
It starts with presenting real women’s bodies of all ages and shapes and really listening to what these women in these non-standard, non-pornified bodies have to say.
Their life experiences.
What makes them, well, them.
We need to strip away the societal pressure to be and look and act a certain way and present ourselves as we are: naked, imperfect, and human. We need to knock off that competitive obsession that’s been ingrained in us. We’re all in this together, ladies.
“While we cannot directly affect the images, we can drain them of their power. We can turn away from them, look directly at one another, and find alternative images of beauty in a female subculture.” – Wolf
We’re all in this together!