I got involved in the feminist group on my college campus (Students Against Sexism in Society, or SASS) fairly quickly after I started school. Last year I was involved in helping planning our Take Back the Night event that also included a nude "Love Your Body" photo shoot.
I wanted to help with the photo shoot because body image issues were one of my main motivations for getting a start in feminist activism, and this photo shoot was meant to help people see their bodies in a positive light and to help them appreciate a diverse range of body shapes.
This year, instead of combining the Love Your Body photo shoot with our Take Back the Night activities, SASS is putting on a separate "Love Your Body Weekend" February 13-15. Friday, we booked a local place to display the photos of over 60 nude models from campus. We will also be having an open mic for anyone who wants to present something relating to body issues, whether its a piece of music/art/prose by someone else, or that they composed. Saturday we will be painting tampon boxes from bathrooms on campus, having a discussion, and Larry Kirkwood will be coming for an exhibit/speech. Sunday we will be having another discussion.
Last year I decided not to participate in the Love Your Body photo shoot. This year, however, I did participate. I went into it thinking that it would be a good opportunity for me to see my body in a new way, and hopefully gain more appreciation for it instead of constantly seeing it so negatively.
My photographer was wonderful. I chose him because I had seen his work before and knew it to be quality. When I arrived for my photo shoot, I was nervous, but he struck up a conversation with me as he set up his equipment, and when it came time for it, I felt comfortable enough to go through with it.
This photo shoot is set up with some guidelines. First, poses, amount of clothing, and what was photographed was all left to the models. Second, all photos included in the display must be in black and white with no faces and only skin showing, even if the model kept some clothes on. Third, the photographers would take the photos, edit them, and then give on a CD to the model so they could choose which photo would be included in the display.
My photographer got my photos to me the day after they were taken. I had decided to leave some of my clothes on for the photo shoot, and I was eager to see them, so when I got the CD, I immediately uploaded the photos to my computer. I quickly realized that I couldn't go through them. I had already finished the shoot, the supposedly difficult part, and now that the pictures were sitting in front of me, I couldn't look at them.
I looked through a few of the first ones, and, to be completely honest, I was disgusted. Not with the photos themselves: they were of very good quality. But the fact that they were of me (and me partially nude!) made me feel sick to my stomach. This feeling broke my heart. After being such a proponent for this photo shoot, I couldn't stomach my own pictures. I knew that wasn't the good feminist reaction I was supposed to have, and it upset me greatly.
It made me think of how deeply embedded my body issues must be, and I can't even pinpoint a source for them. I'm upset because I feel like this opportunity that should have been a positive one, has been ruined because of my intangible issues with my appearance. I'm not giving up, but damn. This sucks.