“What makes you so special? Why they would choose you?”
Was she really asking me what made me such a special person that I would have the honour to be set up, drugged, and coerced into sexual activities, then unknowingly filmed and blackmailed? Every woman has a story, that one was mine.
Months before being faced with this traumatic event in 2017, I was inspired to get back to my roots in art and create a project from the heart. I decided that I wanted to create a tasteful, powerful photojournalism book on diverse breasts and the stories that come with them. I thought it would be a great project to help me grow in self-love as I had struggled my whole life with loving my breasts. Three months into my project, my biggest insecurity, my breasts, were threatened to be exposed to the world in the worst way. Coincidence or divine timing?
I decided after taking a step back from the intense and life-altering situation to see the moment for what it was. Divine timing.
Situations we face where someone is abused we too often let fear and depression get the best of us. I did too for six months as my best friend and I received encrypted phone calls early in the morning threatening and taunting us, but I was determined to take the worst of a situation and transform it. The second I decided I was done with fear taking over me I had never felt so powerful. Revisiting my project after many months, I had an entirely different view on how I would approach it.
I had received overwhelming support from my previous photos and interviews published online, this allowed me to have a foundation to create a campaign called #ThisOnesForMe. With my team of eight women from around the world, we designed this campaign to allow people to take back their power over whatever has oppressed or challenged them in life relating to their breasts. We asked people to take an image of their chest from neck to belly button, with or without clothes, however they identify. Then have them share the image with the hashtag #THISONESFORME across the chest and a personal story. That first week we reached 120,000 people which connected us with individuals from around the world that were willing to share their stories and images. These stories bring up important and relevant topics that we face today, such as social conformity, discrimination, all forms of mental illness, body image, rape culture, LGBTQ, breastfeeding, gender equality, abuse and more. I believe the more people that share their stories, the more chance we have of inspiring change.
Why not? Breasts are the most contradicted, feted, sexualized and taboo part of a woman’s body. They are also one of the most defining parts of a cisgender woman. I realized when starting this project that women rarely speak nicely of their breasts, let alone their bodies and it’s not a surprise – they have been trained that way. There is a system of oppression manipulating our feelings about our bodies through millions of tactics like beauty standards, movies, music videos, and games. Breasts play a huge role in this and are extremely underrepresented. There is no diversity and only one type of breast is consistently shown (caucasian, perky and round). The common exception is of the black woman, who in movies often plays a slave being raped and exposed on screen with usually more natural looking breasts. This is troubling as it sets a standard for what is acceptable in the media (what is the standard?).
There is a whole generation of women being raised to equate their bodies to their value. We are made to feel uncomfortable in our own bodies and often shame other women about theirs. These instances are amplified to a greater extent when including the unique experiences of women of colour, women with disabilities, or LGBTQ people. In these experiences, we lose our sense of self. This problem results in women feeling disempowered.
Self-objectification and self-hate is an international epidemic, the consequences can cause rifts in all aspects of life. From shame and anxiety to depression, eating disorders, lower ambition and lower cognitive function.
We want to change this and give the power back to the people. As a society, if we acknowledge and educate ourselves on how we are oppressed, we can stand up in opposition and regain power. Our project wants all ethnicities, all that identify, all ages, shapes, sizes and forms to join our mission by participating in, and supporting the project therefore swaying public demand to support the body positive movement through changes in media, models and more. The world, advertisers, and the media will adjust. This is a revolution that is already happening all around us. (Sonny Turner is a great example of this already happening).
This book is not a photographic book full of anonymous topless women. It is a book to inspire global change and self love. It is a gateway to new life for oppressed women and a safe haven to liberate and share anonymous stories. It is a social instrument that will be used for political change and empowerment.
This book will consist of 100 diverse women, diverse breasts and diverse stories, including, women of status who have created social change, feminist movement leaders, celebrity activists, women making waves today and a variety of others from all walks of life. Once the book is published we will tour with the book and exhibition to 8 countries to show the diversity that exists and share important stories. We will also educate people on social issues facing women in each location we visit such as reproductive health & rights, gender based violence and female genital mutilation.
This project will push boundaries, challenge laws and allow necessary stories to surface that would have never had a platform. We will also create a documentary that follows the progress of the project and the real social changes made as a result of it.
During this global transformation of self-love, awareness, and empowerment, we will disrupt and dismantle the current narrative of breasts from the foundation, and organically restructure a healthy relationship with our bodies as a united front. This will help us to move into our full potential and out of oppression.
Are you ready to bare it all?