I am a mom. What that means is that 3 different times, I was poked and prodded by strangers in my most intimate parts. Three different times at the end of each pregnancy I had more strokes of creation added to my hips and stomach. And three different times, my breast got pulled down further and further. Suffice it to say that after 3 pregnancies, my body has gone through some pretty intense changes. (Not to mention the weight gain.) When you become a mom, it’s pretty standard for the world and us to look at our bodies as “disgusting” because they do not reflect society’s definition of beautiful. Magazine cover after magazine cover displays thin, Caucasian women, as well as TV and Hollywood. For the most part if I want to see someone who looks like me, I have to purchase a specialty magazine, either one directed at Black women, or a plus-sized issue. So its pretty easy to get sucked into believing that my current body should be covered up at all times. “Nobody wants to see that!” And I make a conscious effort not to criticize my body in front of my daughter because the last thing I need is for her to inherit my body issues. So when I saw a facebook post recruiting women to pose nude in Cleveland as an art action against the Republican National Convention, I thought, I need to do this! What better way to show myself that I have nothing to be ashamed of, than to disrobe in front of strangers for a photograph that will forever be etched in history?
Initially though, I was drawn to the message of the art installation. For Everything She Says Means Everything, artist Spencer Tunick, who says his wife came up with the copy for the website, describes the piece this way:
“The photograph involved 100 nude women holding large mirror discs, reflecting the knowledge and wisdom of progressive women and the concept of “Mother Nature” into and onto the convention center, cityscape and horizon of Cleveland. The philosophy of the artwork relates to the idea of the sacred feminine. By holding mirrors, we hope to suggest that women are a reflection and embodiment of nature, the sun, the sky and the land. We want to express the belief that we will rely upon the strength, intuition and wisdom of progressive and enlightened women to find our place in nature and to regain the balance within it. The mirrors communicate that we are a reflection of ourselves, each other, and of, the world that surrounds us. The woman becomes the future and the future becomes the woman.
The experience of the individual posing in a mass group nude art installation is as varied as the body types that exist within the works. Everyone has their own experience and story that they bring to the moment and the story and interactivity is always a subtext of the work at large. Spencer’s art provides a unique opportunity for artists and non-artists alike to take part in the creation of a contemporary work of installation/performance art and to become the medium itself. The way in which the participants take part in this collective artwork has a transformational effect both on the individual and the collective.”
I read that and thought about my own experience as a woman and how I rarely give myself the credit I deserve, as a creator of life, as an intelligent being, as a force of nature. The things my body has shown me its capable of is something to be celebrated! My contribution to the arts, my community, my family, my womanhood, my blackness, this world should never be diminished, by myself or anyone. Women all through history have sacrificed themselves and their bodies for the betterment of others. The saying, “behind every great man, is a great woman” didn’t come from nothing. We are the epitome of strength. We are the catalyst for growth, change, and a higher society. Women are Everything!!!
So why is it that whenever a woman is raped, the narrative becomes about what she did to deserve it? Why is it still a fact that women don’t earn as much as men for doing the same exact job? Why is it women continue to be punished for taking time off work to raise children? Why is it that only men are allowed to determine who and when we take our clothes off? Why is it men who decide what we can do with our bodies regarding our access to birth control and decisions about whether we should bring a life into being or not?
As a collective, we MUST recognize our power. We must stand up for each other and stop judging and tearing each other down. The best part about being in a field with 130 naked women was the solidarity we had. There were people who were bigger and smaller and darker and lighter and taller and shorter and hairier and smoother and none of it mattered. What mattered was in our rawest, purest form, we were all women in spirit and in force and we sent that message and that positive energy out into the universe. Did you hear it?