Did that title pique your curiosity? Was it the kind of curiosity that you have when you're watching a famous person strip down for a sex scene during a movie? The kind that feels good? The kind that made you hope you'd see a sexy image of a naked woman? Or was it the kind of "morbid curiosity"? A curiosity that has you thinkin', "Oh dear god, I hope I don't see some saggy, wrinkled, old lady boobs, but I'll look anyway." When it comes down to it, does it really matter what kind of bare breasts with nipples it is? Ever?
The reactions I received about this most recent image for The Body Project was incredibly interesting. Some were fully supportive (no pun intended ;P), giving all kinds of kudos to the woman in all her glory. Some, however, were shocked to come across that picture in their feed.
- "Couldn't she have at least covered her nipples?"
- "It looks like a Playboy shot."
- "What is she even insecure about?"
- "Her face is not as serious or gentle as everyone else's."
I could go on, but I don't want to.
Why is seeing this woman any different than seeing a picture of a topless tribal woman or even a woman who recently went through a mastectomy? Why does that image make one's insides stir when it showed up in the newsfeed? Is it because she's skinny and has big boobs, which is often the stereotypical sexy woman in our society, and you think you shouldn't look? Would it have made people more comfortable if she stood straight on with the camera and didn't smile? Would people have applauded if she was fat?
The point? We need to stop sexualizing bodies and start opening our eyes to what they look like in normal, every day life. We're so sheltered in our culture from what bodies look like when they are not associated with sex scenes or pornography. So stop letting those old ideas in and open your mind to the new.
This woman has been insecure about her breasts since fifth grade. Her pose and sass face are a big middle finger to the past insecurities about her early development and the acceptance of her womanhood now. This is why they're out there, nipples too! Now, I understand that we didn't add an affirmation (which has already been addressed and was something I told her to work on before publishing this post) because we had a hard time coming up with something that truly spoke to where she stands today, but letting the ladies fly was her best way of accepting their size and deciding not to hide them anymore, not just behind a sports bra, but behind her tomboy persona, too. Here's her story:
Some of the first words you ever hear about your body come from adolescents. Not a doctor, not a mother, not a sister, or a friend. The insight you remember first comes from those with no experience, no understanding: your peers. People who are trying to grasp their own bodies; who are trying to correlate changes, physical pain, awkward appendages and foreign excretions with something they've known before. All trying to supplement their vulnerability with someone else's shame.
I was shamed for my breasts at the ripe age of 11. They made me slutty to the girls and a strange alien entity to the boys. Either way, they were un-welcomed to all and it was soon made clear that my new body made me, at the very least, different. And different was bad in 5th grade, junior high, high school. So I built a wall to hide those differences from those who inflicted shame, because let's face it, when you're young, the encouraging words from mom don't work against the atrocities of your peers. The wall consisted of sports bras. 2 a day. A t-shirt, one, often two times a day. Oh is it below 60 degrees? A hoodie. A huge one. Jeans. Overalls. Socks. Sneakers. Athletic pants. Athletic Shorts. Bugle Boy. If I didn't look like a girl or a boy, I could fit in anywhere. I chose sports with uniforms. I chose one hair length. I chose books and fantasy. I chose jokes and laughter. I chose music. And I grew. And my breasts grew exponentially. I had stretch marks by seventh grade. They sagged. I couldn't wear anything strapless, and so the bras and the t-shirts and uniforms ensued. I left my outside bland, blank, boring. The focus had become my insides- which is where I wanted people to see me. And they saw me there.
I made the escape from my hometown with three people: one being a beautiful, well-dressed, well-put together woman. It seemed at first we had so little in common, but after rooming together for a very short time, we began to teach each other things. Her and my boyfriend at the time saw my beauty and encouraged me to show it off. I was beautiful inside and it was time to reflect that. Sometimes a strong catalyst is all you need to start on a new path and new way of thinking. It wasn't a matter of flaunting, it was a matter of FEELING GOOD: inside and out. I became accustomed to the Buddhist proverb “As within, so without”. It has been my creed ever since. Even now, when I'm feeling sluggish and dumpy inside, I will put that new dress on, spend an hour on make-up and hair listening to hot pop music and remember the flaws that make me unique. So I say to you tomboys, when it's comfortable, it's good, and when it's showcasing your inner beauty at the same time, you've won.
This is what she had to say after reading this post before I published it:
All who are involved in this project or following it, please teach our young girls and women that everyone develops at different ages and in different ways and that it doesn't make them any better or less. If we don't want to see body bashing in our media as women, we certainly don't need it happening at the time of development.