Happy Birthday, America. Despite all of the bad things I say about you, I’m glad to be here. In some other countries, I could get killed for this post. Killed! That’s insane. I can’t even imagine such a society. Because of you, America, that idea seems unreal! Call me reluctantly grateful, but I am grateful nonetheless.
As I mentioned, I posed nude. The photographer sent me forty photos today. Forty! Here are the ones I like the best.
The photog doesn’t have a professional website that I know of, but he does have a Model Mayhem profile. He’s moving to Austin so if anyone in that area is interested in being shot nude, hit him up.
I think this was one he took while shaky balancing in the window sill. Neat-o. I’ve felt a variety of reactions to these since receiving them this morning. Sometimes it’s difficult to see exactly how you look in the buff, particularly from unflattering angles. I’d rather know than not know, however. Seeing photos of myself should not be a shock. The experience has, as hoped, led to further self-acceptance.
Why did I want to pose nude?, people have asked. The urge began in 2006 when I first learned of Frank Cordelle and The Century Project. I think these two B&W photos of me standing are the most “Cordelle” of the bunch.
Basically it took me 6 years to gather up the courage to do this. For years I had a boyfriend who said he’d dump me if I posed nude after he found out about my urge. (I never posed nude as a result. He dumped me anyway.) My conservative family would consider these pornographic and “filth.” Of course there are the men and women who assume only “sluts” pose nude and will judge me accordingly. Then there are the many businesses who won’t hire someone if they know nude photos of the person exist online.
It took me 6 years to listen to my voice over all of those voices. As grateful as I am for the good ole USA, my culture is even freer than the dominant one in this place.
If a guy won’t want to date me because I’ve done this (and plan on doing it again), great! That’s important information for me to have. I don’t want to waste time becoming close with a dude only to later find out our values systems are entirely incompatible. As for my family and potential employers, well, I don’t plan on sending the link to this out, but if this is found? So what. If you have a problem, it’s your problem and you can go stew on it by yourself, away from me. I feel happy and free and more comfortable with myself than I have in a while.
From Frank Cordelle’s website: One of the project’s goals, through the book, exhibitions, and this website, is to effect change in societal attitudes towards women’s bodies. Its method is to give voice to women through pictures and words, which project, among much else, courage, vulnerability, strength, diversity, multiplicity, and uniqueness.
Prior to finding Frank Cordelle, I too had for the most part accepted the cultural lie that nudity necessarily implies sexuality and that female nudity generally only exists in order to attract or please males.
I don’t see it that way any longer. Nudity is our natural state. A society in which the majority of people feel uncomfortable with their physical bodies is sick. Hopefully not ill beyond repair, but very, very sick. Knowing so many people see culture as fact–which is not to see it at all–saddens me.
Rather than a desperate attempt to please males or culture or what-have-you, I see nudity as a way to push back. You want women to look like that? Well guess what, shit heads? We actually look like this. I think of it as being in the same vein as xojane’s real belly project or “fatkini” gallery.
I don’t think my body is perfect, but I do think it is beautiful. Perfect things usually aren’t beautiful to me, I’ve realized. A physical “flaw” such as cellulite or stretch marks is not a direct reflection of who I am. Thinking something minor (and largely uncontrollable) is “me” would be a flaw much larger than the mark or bump.
And even though I’ve accepted my own beauty (for now–I’m sure at some point it will become a struggle once again), that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I’d like to improve. I know my tattoos look bad and when I can afford it, I plan to have them touched up. I know my stomach could be flatter and more defined so I’m eating and doing exercises toward that end. Striving toward improvement doesn’t have to mean disliking myself now, however.
I also dislike that I can’t afford a better apartment or car, but I accept those things and don’t stress over them as I work toward improvement in my finances. It should be the same with the body, I believe. “Accepting” how something is right now is not in any way becoming complacent or giving up. I’ve just recently figured this out. I’d thought if you wanted change you had to be upset! Worked up! Angry! Disgusted! In fact, if you accept how something is right now it is much easier to make the changes you desire because your foundation is honest assessment and an non-judgmental attitude. I believe this is true far beyond the personal.
These last ones were from the “sexy” portion of the shoot. Funny how women are often “sexier” in clothing than without any, isn’t it?
Speaking of sexy, I’d be remiss if I did not mention Raymi the Minx. I’m sure that seeing her post self-taken nudes on and off over the past 8 years had an impact on me. Just the other day she wrote something that I found particularly quotable:
I am not ashamed of nudity nor do I feel like I should be obliged to feel your shame for it.
Iliza Shlesinger has a joke about how women don’t like doing it doggie style (Speak for yourself, Iliza!) because when we’re in that position our breasts hang down like cow’s udders. I guess it’s sort of true, huh? My argument would be, “Hey, so what!”
This particular photo was a rough one to shoot. I was a little (okay, a lot) paranoid about my vagina touching something dirty during the photo shoot so in each pose I figured out a way to maneuver myself so it wasn’t actually touching anything but just looked like it. It was difficult to do that with this pose, but I pulled it off! My tail bone is what was actually touching the bed.
I recently came across a wonderful quote from Margaret Cho that I’d like to end with. I added the boldness. (I do want to note, however, that I don’t “follow” her and this is not an endorsement of her political views or comedy since I know nothing about either.)
If you are a woman, if you’re a person of color, if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, if you are a person of size, if you are a person of intelligence, if you are a person of integrity, then you are considered a minority in this world.
…And it’s going to be really hard to find messages of self-love and support anywhere. Especially in women’s and gay men’s culture. It’s all about how you have to look a certain way or else you’re worthless. You know when you look in the mirror and you think ‘oh, I’m so fat, I’m so old, I’m so ugly’, don’t you know, that’s not your authentic self? But that is billions upon billions of dollars of advertising, magazines, movies, billboards, all geared to make you feel shitty about yourself so that you will take your hard earned money and spend it at the mall on some turn-around creme that doesn’t turn around shit.
When you don’t have self-esteem you will hesitate before you do anything in your life. You will hesitate to go for the job you really wanna go for, you will hesitate to ask for a raise, you will hesitate to call yourself an American, you will hesitate to report a rape, you will hesitate to defend yourself when you are discriminated against because of your race, your sexuality, your size, your gender. You will hesitate to vote, you will hesitate to dream. For us to have self-esteem is truly an act of revolution and our revolution is long overdue.