How can one love a non-standard body? Three women accepted our challenge!
Translated by Giovanna Costa and reviewed by Cássia Tavares
Even though it’s mine, I have to reconquer it. I need to find it again. Love it. Concede the right to its existence, freedom to occupy the space it wants, the shapes it has and the appearance it pleases.
In the society we live, women’s bodies are the first target to be attacked. Towards the aesthetic standards imposed by the media, we’re programed to conclude that our bodies are far away from what they should be like. It’s never enough and it never will be. Even though we mutilate ourselves, make efforts and invest a lot of time, will, money, and energy aiming for the “perfect body,” it seems like we’ll never reach it. And we won’t, since it’s not the system’s objective.
The ideal model is custom-made for nobody, and it’s perfect to make us slaves to the useless cause of conquering it.
As said by the American author Naomi Wolf, “a culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” This happens because of the insistent and systematic programming inculcated in our subconscious since we were young, and its consequences surpass the physical matter.
It can turn us into an insipid, incapable and unhappy mass.
Society directly relates female beauty to success, personal fulfillment, merit, love and happiness. Simultaneously, the existence outside the standards is vinculated to failure, laziness and lack of popularity and affection. Cosmetic industry, fitness centers, beauty salons, spas, and plastic surgery clinics invest millions to sell us the “dream of perfection.” In the media, showing the real features of female bodies has become the biggest taboo. Makeup, image manipulation, and photoshop are the main ways to delude us into thinking that looking like models and celebrities is possible.
When did women’s bodies, the real ones, become prohibited? We can’t show our curves, scars, body hair, stretch marks, and wrinkles even though we all got them and everyone knows we got them. It’s a surreal antagonism: we know that our body is a body, but we believe that it’s that plastic they sell on magazines.
Honey, let me tell you: no one’s like that.
That is nothing but a lie.
Simple as that.
Destroying concepts is a process. It’s hard work, it takes long, it’s not easy and it might be painful. But nothing is worse than the constant search for an ilusion. A fight you can’t win, since according to this concept we can’t even get old. But believe me, we all will. What we want is to get old and feel fine about our bodies, our curves and our scars. And we want that because from the moment we start fighting ourselves, we’re already losing.
Truce to this body that brings us so many good things! It takes us to amazing places and allows us to feel hugs, kisses, the rain falling on our faces, the sea water, the sun, the breeze, sex, and life. Our bodies deserve to be loved!
This is the process I’ve been working through photography, a meeting process, a recognition process, a forgiveness process. Let’s all forgive our bodies for not being “perfect.” By doing that, we can all forget the guilt that society made us feel and understand that, actually, there’s nothing to forgive. That it’s ok to be real, to not be a wax doll. That it’s ok to have curves, scars, stretch marks, everything that shows the experiences we had in our lives. That it’s ok to have more pounds than what people say we should have. And it’s ok to have less, too. It’s not a competition, we’re in this fight together.
We also understand that this process is a daily fight. As we’ve been so overloaded with repressions and judgements for so long, they were absorbed by our subconscious in a very deep way. That makes the process longer. The seed is planted and it needs daily and constant care. And it’s ok when we can’t do it. When we wake up hating ourselves, we can remember it isn’t easy. Then we keep trying. And we become a bigger group. And this bigger group becomes a supporting net, a resistance net, an empathy net, because loving our bodies in a society that almost forces us to hate them is a revolutionary act.
Thus, I consider my work bigger than photography: it’s a ritual. There’s a whole process of leading the union of the woman and her own body and registering that moment through images. Powerful images, capable of making us see the beauty that even we didn’t know was there. That happens because a society composed by women that love themselves, feel capable, confident and use their time and energy not towards conquering the unreal “perfect” body, but to create, accomplish, question, and discover a series of other things has unimaginable power. A society of free, strong and fulfilled women is the biggest danger to the patriarchy.
That’s why, darlings, the revolution will be feminist.
In fact, it already is.
And we’re building it together.
Thanks to this amazing idea from AzMina Magazine and Maria Ribeiro, I had the opportunity to share moments and thoughts about the female body around the world. Objectification, aesthetic perfection demand, beauty dictatorship, low self esteem… everything we share among us, women, in our circles and meetings.
I speak daily through music, poetry, dialog and rhetoric about the freedom of the female body, feminism, empowerment, material and spiritual bias, especially in the musical environment and I suddenly saw myself there, naked, having to face what I haven’t gotten over yet: my scars, what I still see as ugly and flaccid, the motherhood marks… it was hard, I got concerned after the photoshoot and it was INTENSE!
Seeing the courage of the other girls to expose themselves, the encouragement words from the beautiful Maria, remembering that if I want freedom, I should start freeing myself beyond words. Face myself! Come on, I’m brave, we’re brave! I want to love myself more everyday, without worrying about any physical “flaw.” Look at each part of my body and don’t see ugliness, but see a great instrument of work, relation, pleasure of being here, now.
Not to shame the soul, literally and metaphorically. How it’s entirely related to the body, the process goes through the physical part, too. And that’s the challenging purpose of Maria Ribeiro, revealed to the world through what I call portraits of statement and resistance.
“How dare you?” – that’s what the voices in my head were saying, in such sync that it was almost mentally destructive. “Who are you?” – I felt heavy. “What do you intend by doing this?” – I heard and didn’t have even half an answer. I don’t need to (and maybe don’t have to) shut my internal and confounded dialogues. Suddenly, the idea is to let them go through my conscience and allow them to reprogram their courses. And try not to plunge them at any cost. But also not to adopt them as truth and remember about them every three hours.
Visualizing their own image is a challenge to many. It’s easy to hide behind angles, using super fucking filters to soften what we consider as flaws and show the world (I see social media as a universe, actually) what pleases us the most. It’s not like one thing or another that we don’t like can’t be shown from time to time (I totally disagree with people who say we only show the “good” side of us and our lives), but those uncomfortable things, that bleed without spilling, rarely submerge.
Images, colorful, mainly, captured by who can see beyond the external is a big exposition.
That was absolutely necessary and relevant to part of my process of rebuilding (or building) a minimally healthy self esteem.
This is a long path. In some cases, eternal. An eternal unlearning about everything that was imposed to women in a doctrinaire way. But that can be questioned and destroyed in small daily doses. After all, that’s why we resist. We resist to exist with meaning and change the world and its standards (beauty, but not only that) through our own universe.
We resist because only surviving doesn’t make sense.
In spite of what they want to turn us into, we exist.
See, I smiled. OMG. The joy of seeing yourself free in a photo.
Look again. Check that crooked nose. “What about that skin? Should’ve had some makeup on.” See that wrong posture. Count a series of insatisfaction again and again. Besides the crooked mouth, of course. It’s the imperfection quota we all have, after all, “nobody’s perfect.” “But that’s enough, right? A crooked mouth and oily skin is too much.” Then it stops.
Head spins ten thousand times to finally sync the personal statement voice. It’s hard to hear such shy sound when so many other voices – publicity, magazines, soap operas, religion and even politics – yell in favour of the standards and stereotypes. In favour of a fictitious and oppressive world.
But if this sound is still shy, it’s also powerful, because it feeds and grows daily from and because of the conversations, readings, debates and reflections. It changes amongst other women, into what’s called women’s empowerment, a revolution that gets real in the individual experience and that only becomes viable if manifested collectively. It also feeds of experiences, like being photographed half-naked – and, when seeing the picture, deciding to feel beautiful in spite of the deviations and judgments. In spite of expectations. In spite of.
I’m Pabline Cota Felix, I’m 29 and since I was born, I deal with “in spite of.” The lack of a nerve in the left side of my mouth makes me have a crooked mouth. “Almost normal, you know, in spite of the deficiency.” In spite of, beautiful, but “you better not wear lipstick so it doesn’t highlight that flaw”, said the makeup artist that prepped me to my college graduation prom.
Because in spite of what they decided to turn us into, we exist. Beautiful not “in spite of,” but “with” all what makes us who we are. Human shapes with intelligence and feelings, with relationships in the making, with significance. We are women who exist and we need to be respected for that; And we also need to respect ourselves. Accept the complex existence of shapes and personalities of others and ourselves – certainly the hardest part of this task.
That’s why, today, I (often) show off my red lipstick, that reminds me that differences need to be valued, not hidden. That’s the reason for the bike, that serves me as a flag for a more friendly way to circulate around town. That’s the reason for the short hair.
That’s the reason for the small boobs.
That’s the reason for the legs.
That’s the reason for the arms.
That’s the reason for the belly.
That’s the reason for the smile, crooked, with which I resist.
That’s the reason for feminism.
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