From a young age, women are taught to associate important life milestones with how their bodies look.
We’re told to suck in our stomachs at our first dance recitals, diet to fit into our high school prom dresses, and search our bodies for evidence of the “Freshman 15” after our first year of college. Not to mention the crazy lengths that women go to in order to look “perfect” for their weddings.
And then, of course, there’s that ugly fixation with women’s postpartum bodies.
Rather than encouraging women to concentrate on enjoying their first months of motherhood, society pressures them to criticize their postpartum bodies and lose their baby weight as soon as possible. The tabloids consistently run stories on celebrities’ post-baby bodies, and fitness magazines instruct women on the fastest ways to slim down after giving birth.
Many new moms enter motherhood feeling anxious and self-conscious about their appearances — as if learning to care for another human being wasn’t already enough pressure.
Thankfully, photographer Natalie McCain has started an incredible new project to combat this unhealthy way of thinking. She began The Honest Body Project, which features photographs of mothers with their children. These photographs are paired with quotes from the photographed mothers on a variety of topics. Some of these quotes directly address body image, while others address issues such as parenting, loss, and illness. Each woman has a unique story, and it’s amazing to see so many women sharing such personal parts of their lives.
I can’t emphasize enough how much I love this project. I admire Natalie McCain and the mothers she has photographed for presenting such raw, powerful stories about motherhood. Even though I’m not a parent, I can relate to so many of these stories, as they touch on universal themes such as self-confidence, independence, and building relationships with others.
What makes The Honest Body Project special is that it reminds us that we’re all so much more than our physical appearances. Each woman is so much more than how much cellulite she has or how much weight she has been able to lose.
Let’s take a cue from this project and start defining ourselves by our thoughts and values, not our BMIs.
Haley Bierman is a recent college graduate working in arts administration. She is extremely passionate about the arts, pop culture, and feminism. She enjoys Netflix, playing her ukulele, and hearing others’ viewpoints about the world we live in.