-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*
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.”
“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.”
“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 ❤