Being a woman means having a conflicted relationship with one’s body.
Our bodies are objectified, harassed, glorified, shunned, desired, hidden, exposed, criticized, judged, worshipped, and finally cast aside by others, leaving us struggling to understand and accept how we feel about them as we grow, become sexual, enter our child bearing years, and then begin to age.
For Mormon women, that relationship is even more challenging.
Because of strict patriarchal religious beliefs, all of the typical, frustrating body issues for women become grossly magnified, leaving female followers of that faith feeling disconnected and alienated from themselves.
Katrina Barker Anderson, a one time congregant of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), has decided to take her own power back, and has invited any Mormon woman who is brave enough to join her.
Her visionary project, Mormon Women Bare, gives female members or former members of LDS a platform, both with pictures and with words, to honor themselves, their bodies, and their spirits.
Her plan is simple: To represent these women through her photography with non-sexualized and unapologetic images of their flawed and beautiful naked flesh—flesh they have been taught to hide and fear—and to accompany their pictures with their stories. What stories they are.
As we read the raw words of these ordinary souls, we are sure to see ourselves.
One woman is tortured by a pregnancy out of wedlock and punishes herself for being a sinner, another is groped by a trusted teacher, called a “slut” when she asks for help, and then spends years trying to hide her sexuality behind androgynous clothing while simultaneously having a chain of meaningless sexual encounters. A third gives thanks to her body for creating her child and publicly releases her lifetime of self-hatred.
Their eloquent words and frank exploration of a taboo topic filled my heart with joy.
It is hard to imagine the courage it took each of these women to literally lay themselves bare, in all their un-photoshopped, un-posed, un-sensationalized glory. It feels to me like the antidote to what is wrong in our culture— the glossy unattainable fantasy which is shoved down our throats, relentlessly eroding our faith in ourselves and our understanding of what is real.
I will carry their courage with me as I try to muster up my own, as I try to love my own imperfect flesh and shut out the ceaseless chorus of voices which tell me I am not enough.
Mormon Women Bare helped me hear another voice, and this voice speaks to me of possibility…the possibility that women—all of us—can be free.
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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons
Photo: elephant archives