Happy International Women’s Day! As a CT Photographer who specializes in working with women to help them embrace and love themselves and use that to empower WHO they are and make an impact on the world I struggle with the hyper-sexualization of women’s bodies. If you have worked with me recently, or your daughter has, you might have heard me discuss body positioning, hand placement and how the tip of a chin up or down has lead to an image or view that now is viewed as sexualized because of media portrayal. Our bodies are constantly being scrutinized to how we present ourselves sexually. Too many clothes, we are a prude, to little we are Sl*ts. WHY? I remember as a child, growing up with a Mother from Spain and having been born there myself, that in the summer little girls only wore bathing suit bottoms to the beach or pool. When we came to the US my mom sent me to an in-home daycare with just my bathing suit bottom to play in the sprinklers. I remember that hot July day when I was 5 years old and having to sit out because the woman running the daycare said my mom forgot my top and I couldn’t go out naked! NAKED?!?!? I was 5! My chest area looked the same as a boy but because of my genitalia it was considered to me improper and so the hyper-sexualization began.
Working with girls of all ages I find myself constantly re-evaluating if the posing I’m putting her in is actually sexual or promiscutive OR is it the media and society that has brainwashed me to think this way? If let my 8 year old do a photoshoot with a black dress and makeup for fun, am I sending a wrong message about her being too grown up or risqué or is this society brainwashing us?
What does it mean to empower your daughter or to be a feminist? Does feminism mean that we need to be completely covered from head to toe, not wear makeup or enjoy it and make sure we never focus on our bodies? Does empowerment mean that all we should teach our girls is to focus JUST on WHO you are and never to put focus on WHAT you look like? Does female empowerment mean to act more like a man and dress like them? Don’t wear dresses or skirts to work, skip the heels, makeup or hair done? Does loving fashion, makeup and dressing feminine make you any less of a feminist? These are questions that haunt us everyday from society, media portrayal, politics, school and mothering in general.
Recently in the News, Emma Watson, one of the UN’s Women Goodwill Ambassadors and a fierce fighter for feminism and women’s rights was criticized for an image from a photo session for Vanity Fair magazine. People all over the world accused her of hypocrisy because of the image and how much skin was showing, here is the image being spoken about.
I think Miss Watson said it best with her response, ““Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality. I really don’t know what my t*ts have to do with it. It’s very confusing.” Yes Emma, Yes it is VERY confusing. WHY do we have to have such an emphasis on what we wear having anything to do with WHAT we believe and WHO we are?
I know for me, I want my daughters to know that WHO they are is the most important part of being a woman. Their Strength, Courage, Critical Thinking skills, Perseverance, Resilience, Compassion and so much more are characteristics I strive to build up and enforce. At the same time, I want them to learn to respect and love their bodies. I want them to learn to care for themselves, to eat well, to move and exercise but at the same to to indulge and enjoy the guilty pleasures in life. I want them to respect the amazing things our bodies let us do like dance, ski, do gymnastics, run, jump, climb, swim and chase our dreams. I want them to EMBRACE that they are female and have the ability to CREATE, CARRY life and feed their babies because of their anatomy. I want them to investigate their own femininity and sexuality in a healthy way and learn to express themselves in a way that is most comfortable and reflective of them. Make-up or no make up, dresses or slacks, heels or sneakers. Cleavage or no cleavage, skin showing or covered up. THIS IS THEIR choice and NO ONE ELSES and we need to teach them to make these choices in a healthy way.