Body Talk

So there’s this new project called Body Talk in Edinburgh which is right up Project Naked’s street!

“Body Talk Edinburgh is a feminist photography campaign designed to give all women and non-binary people on campus and beyond a platform to send out their message and raise their voices against oppression.

Our bodies are weapons and all too often they are used against us, not by us or for us, but we can and will take them back.”

They asked women and non-binary people to come along to their safe and comfortable session and express a message with their bodies. The results have been amazing! Although the fight with facebook for them to be able to post and show the pictures seems to have been quite a struggle. With photos being reported and removed, and the page being temporarily shut down. Which just proves how important projects like that are!!

As those at Body Talk have said
“The majority of photos which have been reported and/or removed have contained women and non-binary people topless but in bras and showing breasts but otherwise clothed from the waist down. Far fewer have contained full nudity,which indeed has not been pornographic or sexual in any way.

Photos of topless men do not receive any controversy on FB. However, photos which show the gender oppressed reclaiming their bodies and empowering themselves in whichever way they choose – topless, naked, or indeed mostly clothed, as the majority of our photos show – have so far been under attack.

Women and non-binary people on and off the internet are facing not only censorship but also abuse and violence in the fight to reclaim and celebrate our bodies and in the fight for the right to full body autonomy. This is wrong. This is the result of patriarchal double standards and sexism. If you agree, shout louder. Keep talking, keep spreading the word.”

Solidarity and respect of all the work you are doing from us at Project Naked.

HAVE A LOOK AT THE PHOTOS HERE! Flickr Albums

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Let’s talk about consent baby.

I am supposed to be writing an essay, but I just went to a really interesting workshop about consent by Edinburgh Sexpression. It brought up a few emotions for myself as I have had an experience regarding consent which still to this day can make me angry, and I can’t seem to let it go. I thought maybe writing it down and getting it out my system would help me a bit. Also, although it’s horrible to say, I imagine a lot of people can relate to stories and experiences around consent and it’s an important topic that needs to be talked about.

So here goes.

This summer 4 years ago, I was single and enjoying myself – to a certain extent. I had come out of a pretty horrific, emotionally draining, relationship that left me feeling like shit and so I made the most of being single and was sleeping with a couple of guys. One of whom was fine (that sounds bad cos it was more than ‘fine’, it was what I needed at the time, but we had nothing in common. ‘Drunken fun’ maybe better describes it), the other guy happened over a much shorter period of time and is whom I had the consent issues with.
At first it was also drunken fun, I think I slept with him once or twice and he was very tall but pretty small (ahem) and it wasn’t anything special but he was charming and I was single so fuck it eh. Then one time we were at the same pub and we were drunk and so I went back with him and realised as we were walking to his that actually, I didn’t want to. But how should I say this to him? He was expecting me to have sex with him, I mean that was all our relationship was, and I was already nearly at his. I decided as we got into his room that I would lie and say my friend had just text me saying she had an argument with her bf and needed me to go see her (in reality the text was from the other guy I was shagging and I’d rather be at his). I remember rolling a cigarette to stall time, he was getting into bed and I was sitting on the edge just saying I should leave. He kept telling me to stay, and I felt guilty cos I had gone to his. I just kept saying “no, it’s my friend, I need to leave” I felt like I needed an excuse, that “actually, I don’t want to have sex with you anymore” was not enough. He just kept pushing it, kept pushing it. He then sat next to me until I just stopped saying no, and I let him. It was easier that way.

I was disgusted at myself. Why couldn’t I stand up for myself? I left almost straight after. I did in fact go to the other guy’s house. And my god I felt like a slag.

You know, after that I never responded to his texts (he text a lot which I found weird). I dunno if he got it or not. He probably kept texting me cos he thought I was easy, or because I wasn’t responding he saw it as a challenge. I have no idea. He was a massive shagger so I assume he didn’t go without.

It took me a long time before I stopped blaming myself and realised he was to blame. It was around the time when my former friend and flatmate started dating him, about 8 months later. And he was round at our flat almost every weekend. It was pretty fucking horrible to be honest. When they first starting seeing each other she did check it was alright but I was still at a point where I couldn’t admit that I felt so shit about it, she just thought he was the guy I had slept with a couple of times then ignored for ages. I was trying to be strong and throw it off as a single fling. I myself had also just started seeing a guy, who I am now in a serious and loving relationship with, and I wanted to seem cool and chill. I wish I had been more honest about how I felt and what happened. I tried to say and explain to her that in a round about way she couldn’t have him round the flat but she ignored my pleas. We tried to explain to her that he was a massive misogynist (as a lot of people thought – and I assume still think – this about him) but she didn’t listen. So I realised she has no fucking respect and I cut that friendship. I think they’re still together. They’re each other’s problem now.

I am still angry because he got away with it. Because he probably did this to countless girls. Because I didn’t have the nerve to say to my ‘friend’ what really happened. I am angry because I still get angry about it. Why does this still bother me? I am in a much better position in life, with my relationships, with what the future (possibly) holds. And here I am getting wound up about something that happened almost 4 years ago. The whole situation makes me feel sick.

Rape doesn’t just happen in back alleys with strangers, more often than not it happens between 2 people that know each other. I don’t really get why someone would want to have sex with someone that doesn’t want to have sex with them, but then I’m not a rapist so I don’t know what goes through their minds. Consent is so important, we teach people (women usually) not to get too drunk or wear revealing clothing, or walk home certain ways. When in fact we should teach people not to rape. There should be more awareness on how to speak up if there’s feeling of discomfort (I definitely would have benefited from that). But more so, that it is not the victim (or as someone pointed out today – can we stop calling them victims and start calling them survivors?) to blame.
Consent by all parties involved makes play fun.

Sexpression are a society across the UK that have discussions and workshops about sex and all that comes with it. They have a fb page and Tumblr so check them out because the work they do is important, interesting and also good fun.
Edinburgh Sexpression

– anonymous, 25

“My unfortunately convenient way of avoiding confrontation with the reality of my body was my sexual orientation. I shielded myself from the idea that nobody loved me because I wasn’t attractive with the fact that I didn’t know any other women who liked women. “

How do I feel about my body? What do I think of it? I’m impressed that it works, I guess. Considering the years of total…i was going to say ‘abuse’, but i’m not sure that’s appropriate. The years of total…unhealthiness I’ve subjected it to? Doesn’t have the same ring to it though. As I’m sure anyone reading this will understand, my answer to this question very quickly got very convoluted.

I grew up loving crisps and hating exercise. The older I got, the heavier I got, and the more unfit. The more unfit and heavy I was, the more I disliked exercise. This was down to two things: getting out of breath and sweat. I hated sweating. It’s not easy to describe, that humid, damp, sticky feeling. My limbs slid about on my body like parts of a loose hinge with too much oil. It was uncomfortable; I was ashamed and self-conscious. I felt dirty. Losing my breath to exertion was more severe but I minded it less. It would sting my throat to inhale so sharply, and I couldn’t help but notice the only other people gasping like me were the fat ones.

I was a fat one. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t really care. Of course I dreamt of six-pack abs and slimmer ankles and women swooning when I looked at them. Love. That’s what I wanted – I think it’s all I’ve ever wanted – and in my young impressionable mind, you had to be attractive to make someone fall in love with you. My unfortunately convenient way of avoiding confrontation with the reality of my body was my sexual orientation. I shielded myself from the idea that nobody loved me because I wasn’t attractive with the fact that I didn’t know any other women who liked women. I self harmed, I tormented myself, I convinced myself I’d never be loved or I lived happily in day dreams. None of this was rational; it was my life before the age of 16. Indeed, later diagnoses and treatments have attributed a lot of that behaviour to mental ill health (and of course, general teenage existential crises). But my heart felt much older, and lonely. Then for some reason – unplanned and welcome – I lost some weight. I still felt fat, but I grew into my body and started to think I looked alright, though forever insecure.

Puberty started at 10, followed closely by my period. That, I fucking hated. I still do. Menstruation is inconvenient! As a child I thought my hairy legs were cool – the tomboy I was enjoyed some subconscious perception of masculinity about them, perhaps. At 13 I shaved the words “arse” and “hell” in my hairy shins. Thug life. Then, at PE, I was so self-conscious that I hid them as much as I could. This is an awkward task in ‘shorts’ (aka granny pants in school colours), let me tell you. Oxters, I’m still haunted by the memory of what my armpit hair must’ve looked like at the swimming classes at 13 when I remember how long it was the first time I shaved. My minge fascinated me. I kept it trimmed but hairy. When the world told me that bald was best, I shaved it clean. I had tits. I can’t have been much older than 12 when the 9 year old son of family friends on a trip to the beach looked at me, bloated white cetacean, and proclaimed “NICE BOOBIES BY THE WAY!” to all and sundry. I pushed him in the sand and ran away to hide my hideous mammaries. He’s an accountant at a fairly major [read: evil] firm now.

My nice boobies were a bane from day one. Stretch marks on them from appearing seemingly overnight, having to either wear a bra (OH GOD NO! NOT A BRA?! I’M 11 FFS!) and risk being teased for maturing too fast or wear a cropped top which doesn’t support them and risk being teased for not wearing a bra. Basically there were some mean cunts at my school, but I guess they are/were everywhere. Then there was the mantra ‘big boobs don’t count if you’re fat’. WHAT?! SO ALL THIS IS FOR NOTHING?! YOU BASTARDS! Anyway, as a young androgynous lesbian growing up in a very white straight patriarchal middle class environment, I didn’t *want* big boobs. I didn’t *want* to be attractive to boys. I wanted to be attractive to girls. And what’s attractive to girls in that context? BOYS! I wanted to look like a boy so that girls would like me.

Sadly, things did not work that way. If you are a girl who likes girls and emulates traditional masculinities to try and attract girls, you don’t actually attract girls. You attract homophobia/transphobia/sexism/general shite. What did i think of myself? I don’t know. It’s impossible to know what I thought or would have thought autonomously because I still can’t untangle all those other people’s attitudes from mine. I’ve always resented – and still do – the association between me wearing chiefly non-traditionally-feminine attire and the whispers of ‘is that a boy or a girl?’. Not that it should matter; not that it’s any of their business, not that it should make a difference. Either i’m a boyish girl or a girlish boy in their eyes. Is one worse than the other? Depends on the observer, I guess. Mind you, I’ve reached a vaguely zen stage of quite genuine pathos for people who actually think that gender can be identified through such inconsequential factors as clothing, haircuts, hobbies, interests; a sad and blinkered existence.

Is there more to say? Yes; probably more than I could ever say, probably FTL;DR amounts.

“Their Dream Future is Very Bright”

I need to say that FGM is a sin against humanity. It is a cliché, I know, but I had to say that anyway. We must know that not only does it break the confidence of women, it also breaks their souls. Please, if you are in a society where it is practised, educate the people on the need to leave souls untouched, in order for them to help the bodies grow. This poem is dedicated to all women who had to suffer through this canker. I need you to know you rock but you must help with your voices so that your children will not suffer same fates. Thank you.

Their dream future is very bright
But they have been given such fright
Who butchers pleasure tools for love?
Who sees blood without looking above?
Who dares to hurt a pure white dove?
There are no sanitizers, let alone glove
A cut, pain, tears, and they are left
Yes, left maimed in inner souls
Bereft of hope for fulfilment
Could this be seeking equality
For pestles shaped to attract and fit?
Aren’t mortars perfect as they are?
Their imperfections grow with age
Why then must they be pushed to age?
My heart bleeds for you who weep
My soul hurts of all half yous
My voice will sing freedom for yours
In years soon to come
Just be assured
And free yourselves from the chains of shame
I care
And I know many also care

Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia (c) 2014
(Inspired by fola’s blog on Female Genital Mutilation)

You can read more of her poetry at http://amoafowaa.com/

I have felt a change occurring inside of my mind. Maybe a transformation

After many years of pain I then came on a time of suffering so unforgiving, it appeared my body would not make it out alive. But finally, I feel an awakening is upon me. In some ways, I believe my brain is renewing itself.
The putrid smell of physical rottenness dissipated. The illness and ongoing pain have not left me by any means, yet over this past year I have felt a change occurring inside of my mind. Maybe a transformation.
I did not realize how large a gap I had put between myself and my body these past years. I suppose the traumas experienced under medical care contributed to my drifting. My complete and sudden loss of physical independence surely didn’t help. However, there was no crueler attacker than my own body. To endure this unending physical pain and other debilitating maladies, I must have cut so many ties between me and my lump of person. To live under a physical betrayal so strong you realize no sense of personal willpower can guide the outcome- was an enormous blow. The only way to survive it was to drift beyond my physical self.

~Free My Self~
After the damage to my brain.
After disengaging from my great betrayer: my body.
After the pain went from unspeakable to so immeasurable,
I could no longer speak.
After there were doctors who were unafraid
To use uninvited hands on my body in its weakened state.
After family members had to dress and clean my flesh.
Yes, “my self” liberated from “my body.”
It had to, you see?

This recent awakening began with feeling present again. And new creative thoughts and senses followed. More than my only thoughts, “just breathe, drink, eat.” After years of survival alone, something new surfaced, like a tiny green sprout pushing its way through heavy concrete.

For the past few years, eating has been an uncomfortable chore. Although I have little appetite, I notice the smell of foods with a new curiosity. And my tastes have changed. I favor different foods and savor scents, flavors and textures I never enjoyed before. I linger over my meals appreciating the aroma– even if my body isn’t hungry.

All of my life I have been a sort of “Tom Boy.” Collecting bugs and rocks as a child, preferring to play outside with boys, spending far less time thinking of my appearance than most girls and women it has seemed. The only lotions or perfumes I own have been gifts. But coming into this renewal of myself, I have become acutely aware of my skin. For so long I didn’t have any connection to my flesh-I have even detested it in some ways. The betrayal, the dying body I could feel slipping away from this world. But it fought! It held onto life! And now, I dab a scented lotion onto my living body in appreciation, and in celebration. I inhale the mild fragrance all day knowing I am the bearer of this pleasant lingering smell.

When did my eyes become attracted to jewel tones like fuchsia and purple? I long to shop for clothes and home decor some day. What!? This is unlike me altogether. Then, as I practice my handwriting, it appears much more feminine than before (my scribble used to be a family joke). Reuniting with my body has brought about a womanly change in me. A curious femininity I don’t want to ignore. And I do feel different. Aware of new things. So much has occurred; I don’t think I can go ever back to being that person I used to be. I may as well transform into someone new.

My brain is making connections and is attempting to make friends with my flesh once again. Obviously, there are some new connections, as well. It is challenging to make friends with a body that constantly bites back, but some friendships are difficult yet still rewarding, right? I’m learning a lot about Neuroplasticity and how much the brain renews itself. I hope in time I will be making even more connections to myself; whomever that self is becoming.

*********

a Body of Hope
https://abodyofhope.wordpress.com/
Stories of survivors. Stories of hope.

The Body Hair Project

Ailsa Fineron is a photographer based in Bristol and Edinburgh who is currently working on a project about body hair and people’s attitudes towards it and its removal. The Body Hair Project has collected some great photos of women and text of them discussing their attitudes to body hair. Check it out! She’s looking for more people to get involved as well, so if you’re interested her contact details are on her website. Hannah, one of the women who runs Project Naked, participated and it was a lovely afternoon.