Negative body image messages, be gone! Body positivity, keep it coming! Because the narrow standards of beauty which have been plaguing women for decades, many campaigns to combat them and revolutionize the way we think of the concept of beauty have had to get creative.
And who needs millions of marketing dollars when you have social media that can enable important messages to go viral with just one click?! This is exactly what happened with New Jersey-based photographer Jess Fielder, whose “Project: Self Love” is hitting all the right notes among a number of women who have felt the sting of body-shaming at some point in their lives.
Jess photographed 17 women who each held up signs detailing the remarks they have been given over the years about their appearance. But it didn’t stop there. All of the women, dressed in black tank tops and short shorts, also held up a second sign laying out their response to the comments as a way to empower those looking at the images with the idea of fighting back against the way we are shamed.
In the description of the images published on Facebook, Jess uses a quote from Erin McKean that has become a viral sensation in itself on social media.
“You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother. You don’t owe it to your children. You don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked female,” it reads.
In the description about the series, Jess says it wasn’t just about the physical aspect of these women she wanted to showcase, but also something far more important.
“These women were willing to bare not just their bodies but a little bit of their hearts for this project. I asked them to write down something another person has said to them in their lives about their bodies that impacted their self confidence negatively. Then I had them write down something they know to be true of themselves that has nothing to do with physicality,” she said.
“I loved the moment of seeing their faces and demeanor change when they held up the second card. They are all beautiful. period. I hope that for at least those couple hours, they knew it to be true,” she continued.
Among the many sign cards held up, some of the comments include being told to lose weight, to gain weight, to stop wearing so much makeup, and one stating that a woman was “too plain to be pretty”. Yep, that “pretty isn’t a rent you pay…” quote REALLY applies here and to many of us who can identify with the images shown.
In an interview with Babble.com, Jess told writer Leah Groth what the point of her message was.
“We are ALL so much more than our appearances and so much more than others’ opinions of us,” she said.
She also wanted it to be a lesson she could impart to her 6 year old daughter as she grows up and navigates the body images messages that impact her.
“This is something I don’t want her to question. I want her to grow up with body positivity everywhere. I want her knowing her worth. I don’t want her getting caught up in society’s expectations for her appearance. It’s a waste of time and she’s better than that. We all are. I feel this profound responsibility to teach her how to be a strong, confident, and brave woman. This project was her first big lesson,” said Jess.
Every single one of the women featured is amazing, unique, powerful and beautiful. We do, however, wish there were more women of color and differently-abled women included, as for us, intersectional feminism and body positivity go hand in hand. For many women, body image isn’t just a form of physical oppression experienced by itself.
For some it goes hand in hand with racial discrimination, economic discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination and even ableism.
Having said that, we really admire the discussion Jess Fielder has added to the growing conversation about revolutionizing body standards and hope it will inspire and empower many more women to know their worth is NOT determined by what they look like and how the world views their appearance.
You can see the full photo series by going to her Facebook Page.