Who would you be if you really loved your body?
I would be free and I would be unstoppable.
What hopes do you have that would arise when other people see these images? When you see these images?
I hope that other people with scars see that scars aren’t something to hide, nor do they define your identity. Scars are beautiful, they are stories on your skin of trauma that you survived, but people aren’t entitled to that story. Beauty is complex and multidimensional, I hope people see that there is room for complexity and that as a collective society we do not have to accept the status quo. Representation matters.
I’m tired of the way that we police femme bodies and perpetuate the idea that men are allowed to age but women aren’t. Men are allowed to take up space but women aren’t. Flaws, like scars and grey hairs, can exist on the terrain of a male body but if a woman isn’t consistently carved, polished, youthful and radiant, then she isn’t worthy of time or respect. There’s also this idea that a woman in art exists for the gaze of a straight cis man, and that sexiness and worthiness is directly correlated to how attractive straight cis men find you. I want to demolish that idea because fuck that shit.
I hope when I see these images, I am reminded that my body is mine and that it does not exist for someone else’s approval or pleasure. For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be transcendent, I’ve wanted to look and feel like art my entire life. But I forgot that the best art is imperfect by nature, that perfection is never obtainable. When I see these pictures, I hope I see that I am beautiful as I am, that I am enough. I hope I think about how music flows through me when I dance, how piano keys feel when I press them down to play some Chopin, and all of the mundane but fucking incredible things my body does all the time.
I want to see my “brain bag”, a term coined by Carrie Fisher to refer to one’s body, as worthy of love.
What places on your body do you hope to see differently?
I hope to see that every inch of my body is gorgeous and that every part of me is enough. My legs have always been a major insecurity, I’ve wanted them to look skinny and coltish, not shapely and scarred. Going forward I want to accept them as strong and beautiful. Instead of trying to make my waist smaller and my stomach flatter, I want to accept my waist as my waist and my stomach as my stomach, whatever size they are. Despite liking small breasts on other women, I was always self-conscious of how small my breasts are: I want to embrace them. I want to revel in my beauty and hope to see that my body, without extensive posing or retouching, is magnificent.
How do you feel about them currently?
My feelings about my body range from ok to good depending on the day, right now I’m towards the good side of the spectrum. I struggled with anorexia since I was in middle school; although I never reached a point where I was thin enough to require hospitalization, I would starve myself and use exercise to carve myself into what I thought was an ideal form of beauty. “Size zero” and measurements like 36-24-36 were arbitrary life preservers I clung to because I was afraid that my queerness made me unlovable. I figured if I looked like the women who were praised as attractive, I would find happiness and comfort; I could hide my sexuality and pretend that normal was something achievable and admirable. Starvation and reduction never gave me those feelings. Thankfully, when I was a freshman in college, I had a wonderful therapist who helped me address my disordered eating and actively worked with me on starting my path to recovery. Recovery isn’t a linear process, nor is self-love. There are moments that I stumble, and instead of beating myself up for stumbling, I move forward as best I can.
It’s really difficult being in an industry that pits women against each other and that defines a woman’s worth through measurements and numbers on a scale. Ditching my scale has made me so much happier and while I can’t fully escape measurements, I do my best to remember that I am more than numbers. I am a full-bodied experience: I am a beautiful, multidimensional person who deserves to take up space. Some days are harder than others when it comes to loving all my parts, so I cherish the moments that I feel good or ok about the skin I’m in.
How do you react, what happens, when you see these parts of your body negatively?
When I see a picture of me that I don’t like, where I don’t think I look as beautiful as the photos I see on Instagram or in the media, I feel a tiny pin prick of self-loathing that injects itself into my marrow. If I don’t immediately stop that feeling from burrowing and spiraling, it drags me back to places I don’t want to return. Like when I was 14 and wanted to hide my scars from knee surgery because I thought they made me look like a science experiment, or when a partner told me that a size 26 waist is “big”, and when a different partner fetishized my eating disorder by constantly reaffirming how tiny I was and by letting me know that it was “really sexy that I starved myself”. Those moments may be past, but the pain from them lingers and emerges when pricked.
Rationally, I know that there is a lot of editing, that women in the modeling industry are encouraged to starve themselves and that perfection in general is impossible, but I still feel that tiny voice pop up that says that I’m not “enough”. Or that I’m “too much”, that I’m out of proportion compared to other beautiful women. Logic, while comforting, doesn’t dull the lingering pain from the ways I have been objectified by myself and others. The fact that these thoughts still exist, that they haven’t been pulled like weeds, makes me despondent and enraged.