“Not For You”

-Delighted to share this powerful and totally badass project called Not For You. Shared with permission from the artist, and with some stories from the women who took part. 
*CW: mention of rape and abuse*

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Artist Mike Arrison: “”Not For You” grew completely organically. I never imagined or intended for it to be what it is now when I first started. I didn’t even have an idea of it when I first started. It all goes back to my love of the work of Lauren Rinaldi, a painter based in Philadelphia. I had been wanting to collaborate with her for some time, to recreate her paintings as photographs with her as the model, yet our schedules were never able to sync up to one another. Eventually she told me that I could use another model if I wanted, so I didn’t have to put the inspiration on the back burner. Once she told me that I had one major question. “Do I try to find a model that has her exact body type?” And before I even finished that thought, a new one popped up. I didn’t have to focus on just one specific body. I could tie this into my longest running photo project, Reclamation (password: freethenipple) and have this be a statement on female body image. I thought I would be lucky to get three, maybe four of my friends to participate. I would throw it up on instagram, and within a week everyone would forget about. The project has taken over my life since the new year. At last count, (2/15/17) 47 women have participated, ages range from 19-50+, of all sizes, shapes, ethnicities, nationalities, beliefs, so on so forth. Many have shared stories about why they chose to participate and what it means to them. It has been a truly amazing and humbling experience to be able to facilitate the empowerment of so many women through something so simple as a photograph.” 

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Some of the stories that have been shared through the project:-

“I wanted to do this project because I have received negative comments about the size of my breasts since I was 9 years old. The first two ridiculing me were older girls from school. This is for them too.
I wanted to do this project to say “fuck you” to the ideas of the human body relating to adequacy.
I wanted to do this project to say “fuck you” to myself for still feeling ugly.
I wanted to do this project because the very idea of it is provocative to many when it’s just a body.

But it’s my body.
Besides my mind, it’s all I have.”

_____________

“Women are told from day one what beauty should look like. But I believe all girls should feel empowered by their bodies.
I’ve never done anything like this before.
I didn’t feel embarrassed at all.
I felt pride in my body at that moment. 
It felt amazing.
I am proud to say I love the way I look.

It’s not for you, it’s for me.”

_______________

“I wanted to be a part of this project because I thought that at 32 I was too old to be raped. I thought that a night out with a trusted friend couldn’t possibly end with a huge violation of my trust. I thought that the people I surrounded myself with knew that no means no. And that I wouldn’t even have a reason to use the word “no” it let alone plead it. My body is not for him.

I wanted to be a part of this project because of the cruel stares in public just for feeding my child. Because the most natural way of feeding a child has become sexualized. My body is for creating and feeding my child. My body is not for their criticism or gratification.

I wanted to be a part of this project because of the necessity to teach my daughter at the age of 2 that NOBODY has a right to touch her body in an inappropriate manner because 25% of female children are molested and of those that are, the majority percentage happen before the age of 4. Her body is not for anyone’s gratification.

I wanted to be part of this project because at a time of great political turmoil, a time when birth control and other women’s needs are not covered by insurance or publicly supported but male sexual enhancers are, a time when pro-choice is confused with pro-abortion, a time when a misogynist who “grabs ’em by the pussy” is leader of the free world, I want the world to know….My choice is mine, my mind is mine, my body is mine. Not for you.”

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“When I think of this project and what it means to me, I unfortunately can’t help but reminisce on some of the negative things that I have experienced because I am woman. It is disturbing that we live in a society where sexual freedom is only really granted to man. I can’t count the number of times that I have been ‘slut shamed’ or made to feel disgusting about myself simply for doing what men are often praised for – expressing myself creatively, sexually. I was a part of an abusive relationship in which I was made to think that I was fat, ugly, a slut, inadequate. I was emotionally tortured and broken down to nothing, allowing myself to believe the things that were being told to me. This lasted for 6 years. Once I broke the glass into freedom and re-identification, I soon began to realize that there is nothing more special than being woman. I am proud of my sexuality, my body, my experiences, my journey. We are looked at to be the object of a man’s attention, there to please visually, sexually. I can think of at least 5 times in my life in which a man on the street/subway grabbed or touched my ass. I didn’t’ fully grasp how much women were looked at as objects until this happened to me. I didn’t know that I could feel so violated, so empty. To think that someone that I didn’t even know, let alone ever met, could feel that it was okay to touch me as they pleased is fucking disgusting. It has to end. There is no better time than the present to stand together (men and women), fight back, and send a huge FUCK YOU to the capitalist hetero-patriarchy that is trying to break us down. They can’t, and they never will”


More of Mike Arrison’s work can be found here and you can follow him on intsa @120ish  ❤

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Natural Beauty by Ben Hopper

I came across this project by artist Ben Hopper called Natural Beauty and loved what the women had to say about their choices around their body hair. Ben has captured their portraits in such a beautiful and striking way, and their words pack a real punch. Shared with permission from Ben. Here are a couple of the photographs, check out the rest at Natural Beauty or his facebook page here ❤ 

*Maya Felix photographed in London as part of Ben Hopper’s “Natural Beauty” project. June 19, 2014.*10397112_10152478609591462_9035494075087611570_o

“I am mixed race and have quite fair sensitive skin and thick dark hair. This made shaving a very difficult and often painful process. Stubble would always grow back within 24 hours, and trying to shave the stubble would end in bleeding and rashes. My underarms were never ‘pretty’ or ‘feminine’. I hated it and was made miserable by it. I remember wearing t-shirts with sleeves when swimming and jumpers on hot days just to cover up my prickly, irritated pits. I certainly couldn’t afford regular waxing at the age when societal pressure kicked in. I desperately wanted to have skin and hair like my friends and be accepted – not only by them, but also by myself. When I was 15 I even asked my mum for laser hair removal for my birthday (luckily my mum is a badass feminist who has never really conformed to ‘beauty’ standards or bothered with non-essential grooming and firmly said ‘No. your body is beautiful, you don’t need to burn it with lasers’). When I was about 17 and in my first serious relationship with a boy who loved my body a lot more than I did, I decided to try something radical. I decided to stop putting myself through pain, to stop being angry with my body for not being the way I wanted it; I stopped shaving.

I’d like to say I never looked back but I definitely have. I’ve shaved a few times since, normally because I’ve still been unable to shake the ridiculous feeling that I won’t be able to look feminine in a ball gown with armpit hair. I’ve been self-conscious when people glance or whisper or make a comment to me. I’m ashamed to say I’ve apologised to a few people about it, feeling embarrassed and nervous and wanting to make a point of excusing it before anyone else can comment. I have still sometimes covered them up in summer, and definitely made an effort to hide it during my year of working behind a bar. I didn’t think tipsy, overly forward folks (usually men) would withhold comments on them when I reached up to get a wine glass. However, during this year, I was contacted by Ben Hopper, and eventually and slightly cautiously agreed to let him photograph me for his Natural Beauty series. The experience completely changed my feelings towards my armpits and my overall confidence increased massively. The cat was out of the bag to all of my friends and a rather wider audience than I ever imagined (over half a million!!). After reading the comments on the Facebook post I felt proud to be an example of how beautiful women’s bodies are, no matter what they choose to do with them. I felt indignant about the nastier comments, and developed an ‘if you don’t like it, I don’t give a shit because it’s not for you, and your opinion on my or any woman’s body is irrelevant’ attitude. I’ve now realised that underarm hair acts as a really great asshole deterrent – just another reason to love and appreciate it. I do love it now. I may still shave from time to time, just as I may wear lipstick, or dye my hair – but like the latter two, it would be for the sake of personal choice and expression, rather than to conform to a standard I have no interest in upholding or contributing to in any way.

I think everyone should try going without any non-essential grooming at some point in their life. It will shave (pun intended) lots of time off your routine, and it’s really interesting to see what your body naturally does. You may find it freeing and empowering. You may even find that you like the way it looks as I did, and if you don’t you can always just go back to shaving, no harm done.”
– Maya Felix, December 2016.

*Amanda Palmer originally photographed in London as part of Ben Hopper’s research phase of “Natural Beauty” project. April 25, 2010.*

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“I realized at one point, when I was about 18, that I was shaving because I’d been doing that told what to do. I can’t remember being ordered to shave my body, but the message was singular and omnipotent when I was 10 years old – YOU WILL SHAVE, IT IS A SIGN OF MATURITY AND WOMANHOOD! It came from my sister, from her friends, from television, from teen magazines, from every corner. And there was no voice, from any corner, telling me NOT to shave (expect maybe my mother, who was horrified that I wanted to shave so early because my sister was doing it). But: I hate being told what to do. So I decided to grow it out and see what happened if I stopped doing what people were telling me to do. And nothing bad happened. So I left it. 

I felt like I was back in control of my body without having realized I’d lost control.

Interestingly, very few people ever made comments about my armpit hair. Children would sometimes stare, and I found myself thinking “How interesting! They have a sense elf what’s ‘normal’ gendered behaviour by the time they’re three years old!” And in the relationship department, it probably attracted more men than it deterred. I was emanating a power and a self-confidence that lots of men (and women, I’m bisexual) found really attractive. I remember my friend Emily, who also didn’t shave her legs, always defending herself against anyone who commented that her leg hair was “gross” by throwing her hands up and saying “I’m still getting laid!!” The most fascinating thing to notice in retrospect is that negative comments and judgements from adults almost always came from women. Men, or at least the kind of interesting, intellectual, hip guys I like to attract, never really seemed to care whether there was hair under my arms or not. But women would sometimes take my armpit hair as a personal insult, like a breaking of an agreement that we are all supposed to groom ourselves according to a standard. Obviously, fuck that.”
Amanda Palmer, December 2016

 

I realize no one’s perfect, we’re all just trying our best

I used to be so bothered by not having a flat tummy.
I wanted slimmer thighs and tamer hair.
It wasn’t until last winter that I came to truly appreciate my body.
Once I suddenly lost so much weight I was finally what was considered the ideal size.
But I’d be sitting in the metro, eying curvy women, truly seeing the aesthetic of it.
I love these “love your natural hair and body” movements today, because growing up I never saw anyone famous that looked like me, who I could identity with.
I now realize there are a few things my parents believe(d) that I just brushed off when I was younger, but came to on my own as an adult. But there are a few other things, comments from family about my physical appearance, that did stick with me in a bad way.
I realize no one’s perfect, we’re all just trying our best, but I sometimes ask myself, “if I were a parent, how would I explain that to my child?”
I have a friend who says her family teasing her helped prepare her for the harshness of children at school. I never let that stuff get to me, but when it came from someone I loved and trusted, I listened.
This is something that’s been on my mind for years now and the conclusion I’ve finally come to is this: tell children “The world will judge you for how you look. You can change your appearance if you chose to be perceived differently, but there is -nothing- inherently wrong with the way you naturally are!”

by Wandering Misadventures 

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My Body, My Hair – a short film.

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This short documentary looks at body hair. Starting off with asking the public for their opinions and to discuss assumptions around women with armpit hair, it moves on to talk with women specifically about their hair choices – some lovely accounts of why women have chosen to not shave and their thoughts and feelings around it. And it features our Hannah as one of the awesome interviewees!

With credit to Camilla Øhren Danielsen for creating this great short film! ❤

 

My Thighs

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*trigger warning: discussion of mental health issues and self harm*

This is a picture of my thighs. I spent a long time hating them when I was younger.

I’m 26 now. I was 25 when I got my first tattoo – it’s small, simple and took longer than I expected but hurt less. I travelled about 100 miles via train to be tattooed by someone I had studied with at university who was now a tattoo apprentice. I was anxious and the tattoo was of such emotional significance I was worried I would cry, which is why I chose to have it done by somebody I knew – I felt it would be less embarrassing to cry in front of her and easier to explain why. I didn’t cry. I really enjoyed the experience of investing some time and money in such an act of self-love and it was great to catch up with my former course mate. We studied Embroidery together, so she was used to working with sharp needles.

The tattoo itself is of a Sad Ghost – the logo of the Sad Ghost Club, a creative project producing comics about mental health and running workshops and talks. When I discovered the Sad Ghost Club at a comic convention, it was the first time my mental health problems had ever made me feel like part of something positive – being a member of a ‘club’ instead of hiding away my problems feels empowering. I don’t wear my depression like a badge of honour (I talk to most of my friends openly about it but try to avoid discussing it unnecessarily and am wary of who I can trust to discuss it with) but my tattoo reminds me that I’m far from alone. Depression is something I’ve struggled with for a long time and I think it is probably just an inevitable part of my life and part of who I am. Marking my membership of the Sad Ghost Club in a permanent way is a reminder to try and be accepting of, or even embrace, the things I cannot change about myself.

Its position is important too. My tattoo is on the site of some (very faint) scars I am left with as a result of self-harm. I would always self-harm in the same place and my logic was that I would not want to ruin my lovely tattoo by scratching it up. This has worked in a sense but I have had moments of relapse and simply moved over to the other thigh. My plan has always been to get another tattoo there to compliment my Sad Ghost, something I decided as soon as I saw my tattoo in the mirror, before I even left the studio. Whether this will help me stop self-harming, I don’t know. It’s a long and complicated process and this is only a minor part of that. I could just keep moving on until I am covered in tattoos. But the thigh has always been an obvious place for me as it’s so easy to conceal, (when I was younger I would never have dreamed of showing my thighs, even in tights,) it’s easy to cut and so easy to direct your hate towards when you’re a chubby woman.  I hope that once both my thighs are tattooed it will just help me think a little more about what I am doing instead of just having such an easy and automatic place to cut and scratch.

I don’t hate my thighs any more. Since getting my tattoo, I feel that my cute tattoo makes me feel like I have cute thighs. When I don’t have any visible scratch marks on my other thigh, I love the way my Sad Ghost peeks through translucent tights when my skirt is short enough for people to see. I feel guilty that my thighs are basically a punch bag for me when I relapse, as I actually love them for the most part. Then again, they say we always hurt the ones we love.

My thigh tattoo empowers me. It is an acceptance of who I am, it is a celebration of a part of my body I have learned to love, a middle finger to everyone and everything that tells us we are flawed and we should not love ourselves, it is part of my journey, part of my healing and… well, it’s just pretty fucking cool, too.

Anonymous – 26

My body is my fortress

My body is my fortress. My body is my home.

She carries my thoughts during the day and cradles my dreams at night.

We swim together, learning each other’s secrets while the ocean whispers hers.

We fight together, endless exhaustion where crying shakes us on the bedroom floor.

We love with such fire, racing to catch up with each other.

Once awkward strangers.

My body is my fortress. My body is my home.

But sometimes she must rest.

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Kathryn Pearson 

DON’T FALL FOR THE NEW H&M CAMPAIGN

I came across this post by Gemma Clarke as it was shared a gazillion times on my facebook. It’s a great critical piece that considers the darker side to the body positive H&M advert. In case you haven’t read it, here it is for your consideration…

A new breed of feminism has been rearing its big, beautiful head. The fourth wave has swept in on the tides of the internet the last decade, and though it isn’t yet as defined or action-based as its older sisters, it is more inclusive than them in nature and diverse in its messages. As well as traditional feminist issues like unequal pay and domestic violence, fourth-wave feminism tackles a new host of problems, from online misogyny and slut shaming to campus rape and the rights of women in developing countries. It’s also marked by a strong emphasis on the body positive movement, particularly the reclaiming of female bodies, which is fucking awesome considering how much razor heads cost these days.

The movement is championed by Millennials who, thanks to the multitude of platforms the web has spewed forth, can communicate with and express themselves to a limitless following. Prominent artists likeFilthy Ratbag and Frances Cannon use their drawings to spread the message. Creatives like Big Dumb Pissbaby and social influencers like Adele Labo do it by exercising control over their bodies. In an even bigger spotlight, there’s Nakkiah Lui, Lena Dunham, Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj and Emma Watson– the list goes on.

Then there’s H&M.

About two weeks ago, the Swedish multinational brand released the video for its autumn 2016 Collection. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here. The ad is set to a (particularly glorious) Lion Babe cover of Tom Jones’ ‘She’s a Lady’ and features a wealth of phenomenal women challenging stereotypes of what it means to be ladylike. Muay Thai boxer Fatima Pinto admires herself in a little black dress, hairy-pitted model Arvida Bystrom reclines in a bed, musician Jillian Hervey picks her teeth in a restaurant, model Iselin Steiro sits spread-legged on a train and business mogul Pum Lefebure chairs a boardroom meeting. A shaven-haired Casja Wessberg, 72-year-old model Lauren Hutton, trans model and actress Hari Nef,  Gurls Talk founder Adwoa Aboah and plus-sized models Paloma Elsesser and Katy Syme also play a role.

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The media, of course, exploded.

Predictably, dunny-roll tabloid The Daily Mail wrote about the campaign video’s “wobbly bottoms” and “far from demure scenarios”, but the Sydney Morning Herald, TIME, the Huffington Post and Pedestrian TV applauded the clip, some going as far as to call it “stunning” and “awesome” and all giving the multinational corporation a wet-dream’s worth of free publicity. The Twitterverse was equally stoked.

But while the video is undeniably fabulous, there is one looming problem. It’s an ad. It’s an ad that, at its core, is designed to promote the idea that H&M stands for something great. By championing an empowering feminist ethos, the retailer hopes to sell the shit out of its latest range and make consumers feel good about themselves when they buy it.

According to a spokesperson for H&M, “The latest campaign celebrates diversity as well as inspirational women from various backgrounds, encouraging women around the world to embrace their personal style and take pride in who they truly are and what they stand for.”

But H&M doesn’t stand for women.

Earlier this year, a report compiled by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance found that the fashion giant was routinely exploiting its employees. Based on 251 interviews with garment workers, the report alleged that staff from 11 out of 12 Cambodian supplier factories claimed they had witnessed or experienced employment termination during pregnancy. It also claimed that every single one of the 50 staff surveyed in India said that women were often fired when they fell pregnant. In a predominately female industry, this is a colossal problem, particularly when coupled with the workplace sexual harassment that was also reported as commonplace.

Heck, H&M doesn’t stand for basic rights in general. Syrian refugee children were recently found working in its factories in Turkey, and last year’s Human Rights Watch report into Cambodia’s garment industry found factory staff were not allowed to refuse excessive overtime, but were not paid any overtime wages. Speaking of income, despite the Fair Wage Method project that H&M initiated in 2013 and rolled out to 20 of its factories in Cambodia, staff in the south-east Asian nation are still earning below the stipulated industry median of $178USD per month.

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As for its purported stance on diversity and body positivity, one look inside a H&M store will tell you that’s puffery at best. Plus-size models may have rocked their bods in the autumn vid, but most H&M stores don’t even stock a plus-size range. Sydney’s Pitt St store is one of many without a plus-size department, andthis month, every New York store pulled its plus-sized garments from its floors because, according to a H&M spokesperson, they don’t have room for it. Actually, come to think of it, maybe the plus-size models in the ad were only wearing underwear because they couldn’t find any H&M clothes that fitted.

So I guess what that H&M spokesperson really meant was We sat down with advertising agency Forsman & Bodenfors to discuss what would help us sell our latest range of cheaply-made, poor-quality clothing. We settled on feminism and body positivity, because we’ve noticed it’s trendy and popular at the moment.

H&M doesn’t care about women. They do not care to muddle the feminist message in their campaign with affirmative action in their garment factories. They just want to capitalise on the idea of empowering females in order to sell their clothes. But feminism isn’t a trend to be enjoyed for autumn 2016, nor is it a privilege that is only supposed to be accessible to women who can afford to shop. It’s a longstanding commitment to equality in both the developed and developing world.

And another thing. Though the reach of H&M’s campaign is incredible (the video has already clocked more than two million views) and the conversations it has spawned make it a welcome catalyst for female-centric dialogue, girls, come on: we don’t need an unethical multibillion-dollar apparel company to tell us that it’s okay grow our armpits out and order hot chips for dinner, just like we don’t need our soap telling us we’re beautiful a la Dove’s #choosebeautiful campaigns. Greatness of the video aside, H&M will exploit anythingto make a sale – just ask the women who work in its factories. I’m not buying it: the sentiment or the clothing.

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*So basically WE DON’T NEED CAPITALISM TELLING US WE ARE BEAUTIFUL. You already are and you don’t need to spend money to feel it.
For original article visit here — Don’t fall for the new H&M advert