I have always had a strained relationship with my body. On the one hand, I love my body because it allows me to experience the world. I have a fairly-well functioning body, with two working legs, two hands, and good eyes, that lets me interact with the world around me. But on the other hand, like many, I have been taught that my body will never be good enough. I will never be thin enough. Never be thick enough.
I have been shamed for having hair in natural places and for not having boobs large enough to please men. I’ve been embarrassed because my breasts are different sizes and my ass isn’t "juicy".
I have fought tirelessly against the idea that my worth comes from my appearance. I, like many others, have struggled with this for the majority of my life.
I first shaved my legs in grade 7. I came home crying to my mother that I needed to shave my legs because earlier that day I had been shamed by a girl in my gym class. “Don’t you shave your legs?” she said as she looked at my hairy legs in disgust. That day I realized that my body would be looked upon and judged. In grade 7, I had no idea just how destructive this knowledge would become to me.
In the past few years, I had become more confident in myself. I started to let myself enjoy my life, instead of always worrying about what other people thought of my appearance.
I took a much-needed job in the summer of 2019 where wearing makeup was in the dress code, along with other requirements such as: “skirts and dresses must be no more than 4 inches above the knee if suitable for body type” and “bare legs must be hair free (women)”. Working in an environment where how you look seems to be more important than how well you can do your job had a massive negative effect on me. I was complimented every day on how pretty I was and how thin I was, but never on my work ethic or on how I interacted with customers. The stress of needing to look perfect for a job I needed became too much to bear. I became more self-conscious than I had been in a long time. I woke up one day, and to my relief, I loved the person I saw in the mirror. She was beautiful without her hair done or makeup on. I went to work natural that day. The first thing my boss said to me as I walked in was, “Go put on some mascara and lipstick”. I had just been told that I needed to be 'beautiful" to do my job and that I just wasn’t pretty enough without makeup on. I realized that being able to pay rent that month wasn’t worth loathing myself, so I quit.
My worth does not come from my appearance. And if you disagree, ask yourself why? Why does my leg hair bother you so much? Why is body hair, especially pubic hair, so vile to you? What does the size of my breasts have to do with you? Do my dark circles and uneven skin make you uncomfortable? Why do you care how I look? Do you feel that I owe you something? If you answered yes to that last question, you can go fuck right off.
We’ve all grown up being taught that the way we look is of the utmost importance, by media, strangers, classmates, and even loved ones.
This photo series is my way of tackling my fear of others seeing my body. I’ve been terrified for people to see my naked body because I have been told my whole life that it isn’t good enough. This series is to show myself, and everyone else, that I now love my body. I love my weirdly uneven boobs, my tummy pooch, my hairy legs. I am here to say that I am finally proud of my body.
I was so excited to post these images for everyone to see. I posted them to Instagram, where I can reach the largest amount of people, and my body was immediately censored. I had gone against Instagram’s “nudity or sexual activity”. For some reason, I was shocked. It didn’t even occur to me that these images of my body were sexual, and to be told that they were upset me, for a few reasons (I want to note that only the image containing my pubic hair was censored, even though the others showed nudity as well, therefore I assume it was removed for being “sexual”).
Firstly, nothing but my pubic hair can be seen. Had my hair been replaced with flowers or cloth or anything else, would it still have been taken down? Why is pubic hair not allowed to be seen?
Secondly, I am upset that my body has been sexualized. These images are not sexual. My body is not a sexual object to be gazed upon. What makes an image a “sexual image”? Is it an image with nudity? Is it an image that evokes sexual thoughts in others? Or is it an image taken with the purpose of being sexual?
I understand why Instagram errs on the side of caution and removes images that they deem sexual; I’m not upset with Instagram itself. What I did find interesting, rather, is why Instagram felt the need to censor my image in the first place. If society didn’t sexualize a nude body (one that the owner of didn’t want to be sexualized), then there wouldn’t be a problem. If society didn’t have a strange objection to seeing body hair, there wouldn’t be a problem. I am so tired of being, and seeing other women and femme-folk, be told how to look.