This is the image I’m referring to in the title. I’m not posting it here for two reasons. One, I’ve asked if it offends you, implying that it might, and my intent is not to offend. Two — and, honestly, way more importantly — it’s copyrighted.
And maybe there’s a third reason, now that I’m thinking about it: I’d love for you to check out all of the images in the gallery, not just one.
Okay, are you back?
The other day, I shared that image on my personal Facebook via Jade Beall (you remember, I told you about her) the other day, and I was honestly shocked to receive a comment from a dear friend stating that she “hates images like this” and feels that modesty is beautiful too and that: “They are asking for people to judge and objectify them – and every human is above that and worth more than that!”
To be honest with you, I was floored when I read this. I had ball of anger well up in my chest, and I wanted to respond immediately. But I didn’t.
Instead, I reflected on what my dear friend said, and I held my typing fingers.
A few days passed, and I realized that I still felt generally the same way. So this is how I responded:
I’ve reflected on it the past few days and see where you are coming from. I have a different perspective though. I agree modesty can be beautiful, and the point of this particular photo project is to highlight the reality of cancer, how it can ravage a body but not a soul, and to illuminate the beauty in individuals whom mainstream society might not generally consider beautiful. I think that it does that when I look through the gallery, at least for me. I also don’t think that anyone can make another human being judge or objectify them. They, as adults, have chosen to share their human form with the world (and I think have done so in a stunning, artistic, and tasteful, non-sexualized way) and others can choose how to respond. If others choose to “objectify”, then that’s on them. Objectification is a process that occurs in the observer. If we start to say that we’re “asking people to judge and objectify,” I fear it comes far too close to “blaming the victim” and putting the onus for discrimination on the discriminated. Those are just some of my initial thoughts.
I hit “reply” and it was done. I felt strongly about what I had responded, and I could have gone further – much further. But I refrained because I worried that maybe I was missing something.
And so I ask you, dear readers, to help me reflect even more on this issue.
I go on and on about the sexualization of youth and how women are portrayed in the media and how we need to have respect for our own bodies. Could supporting images like this actually perpetuate the objectification of women and girls? Maybe it’s not different just because they have cancer?
But when I look at these images, I see women with respect for their bodies — even their “imperfect” ones. I see women who are defying the cultural norms of hiding behind layers of cloth and are taking a stand to acknowledge that their bodies, the home of their soul, can be a vehicle for inspiration.
And I think about how we’re all scarred, even if not physically. And how brave and vulnerable it is to share those scars with the world.
But again, I have this nagging feeling that there’s more to the story. And I want to hear what you think. So, if you will, share your thoughts in the comments below.