November 21, 2018

Turning point

Usually, when I post naked photos on my blog, I tell a funny story. Even though the naked photo project is a serious feminist project about body image, our sessions are usually filled with joking and laughter. Trying to take a naked photo, often in a public space and in a hurry, can be silly and utterly ridiculous. But during the intimacy comes from those sessions, there are deeply serious moments as well.


Today I'm posting photos I took two years ago of a friend who had agreed to pose during a weekend in the mountains. I had intended to post the photos right away, but something dramatic happened in the days right after I took them. Donald Trump was elected President of our country. Suddenly, women all over the country became more vulnerable, more at risk. I just couldn't write my usual light-hearted post. My goal has always been to empower women, and I wasn't sure I still lived in a country where that was even possible.

Someday when I look back at the last two years, what I will remember the most will be the gatherings of women. We've met in homes, mostly, usually with mugs of hot tea and platters of chocolate. At kitchen tables, we've written thousands of postcards and letters. We've written editorials and poetry. We've signed petitions, and we've knitted pink hats. We've gone to rallies and protests. We've made signs. We've marched.

To each other, we've talked about our families, our fears, and our future. We've listened to each other's stories. We've shared our worst memories. In my experience, women have always done this. By the fire or at the kitchen table, we gather and tell each other our stories. In intimate circles, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

In darkness

During the naked photo project, women I've just met have told me all kinds of horrifying stories -- as well as uplifting stories about healing and growth. With the #metoo movement, I've watched these stories reach a bigger audience. All over this country, women have been speaking up publicly about sexual assault. They are stepping up to microphones. Women are writing their stories, and publishing their stories. When I look at facebook or twitter, story after story fills my feed.

I admire those women -- their frankness and their courage -- just as I admire the teenagers from Florida who have taken a horrifying experience and made the choice to use that experience to create necessary change.

"Did you read her piece?" a male friend said to me after a mutual friend published her account of getting raped at a young age. "I was shocked."

"What do you mean?" I asked. "You didn't know that this kind of thing happens?"

"I guess I did," he said. "But not to her … not to anyone I know." He seemed genuinely surprised. He is a kind and sensitive person, but because of his gender, he's been protected from this knowledge. Women in our cuture live with sexual harrassment and sexual assault on a daily basis, but when you're a man, it's possible not to see it.

The last two years have been shocking to those of us who live in privilege. Many white people have been surprised to discover how much prejudice is still based on skin color, how racism is still built into the fabric of our institutions, and how there are people who will still march in white supremacy rallies. In the past, it's been easy for white people to not notice this stuff, but during the last two years, the heightened level of racist rhetoric and action has become impossible to ignore. Many men are surprised to discover that women are still harassed, assaulted, and raped, and that sexism still exists. They thought some of these problems had gone away. Straight people thought that homophobia was something that had disappeared over the last decade. Many of us thought that we lived in a country that welcomed immigrants, that valued a free press, and that allowed religions of all types to flourish without persecution.

These are dark times, but they are times of enlightenment as well. It's getting harder and harder for anyone to pretend that we live in a country where people are treated equally and have equal opportunities.


As I continue the naked photo project and I continue to spend time in circles of women, I've noticed that our conversations are getting even more intense. Something is happening in the country. Women are speaking out, women are running for political office, and women are getting more powerful. Women (and their many allies, including most men I know) are fighting back against misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia and all forms of injustice. I hope someday when I talk to my great grandchildren about this period of history, I'll describe it as a turning point.

Read more about the history of the naked blogging project and check out the gallery of photos.


Cindy said...

Gorgeous photos to go along with your heartfelt words.

gz said...

Sometimes its heartwarming that women and men are talking more.
Sometimes its so sad that history repeats itself...because we didn't learn the first time..

Far Side of Fifty said...

Your photos are lovely. I wish we as a society could be kind to and respect one another. :)

Elephant's Child said...

A truly beautiful post. And I so hope that the current ugliness (world-wide not just in your country) IS a turning point.

Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear! Let's hope the tide is turning.

Anonymous said...

Your friend is beautiful. These might be the best photos yet.


Lorianne said...

Yes. These past two years have been a wakeup call to many of us (and I count myself in that number). And in the various activism groups I belong to, women are the ones doing most of the organizing, postcard and letter writing, and marching.

robin andrea said...

I hope it will be a turning point as well. Thank you for writing this down, for posting the photos, for keeping up the fight for equality and justice. Thank you.

Lomagirl said...

There is so much hope in this post. In particular, I am moved by the paragraph that speaks of what we have learned. Yes, yes. May it lead to change.

LovesBooks said...

Oh, jo(e), this is golden. The light, your words, your friend: all gold.

BrightenedBoy said...

Not sure how I missed this back in...jeez, November. I remember your telling me about some of these gatherings when we visited last summer. If nothing else the last couple of years have been a moral crucible, and a lot of true colors have come out.

Jim Stauffer said...

This line SHOUTED at me, "He is a kind and sensitive person, but because of his gender, he's been protected from this knowledge." That's exactly me.

Recently I was discussing feeling safe working alone in a public educational space, and I made the remark that I have never felt threatened, intending it as a compliment to our community. It was a wake-up call to my unacknowledged male privilege when my colleague kindly reminded me that I was a man, that women in identical work situations live with constant reminders of their vulnerability.

Again, in discussing benefits of a martial arts class, I was shocked out of my complacency to hear a friend's wife describe it in terms of knowing how to avoid being raped. It's just not one of the categories I live with.

Thank you for another reminder to expand my definition of being kind and sensitive.