It’s hard to imagine a world where idealized female imagery is not plastered everywhere, but our current situation is a relatively new phenomenon. Before the mass media existed, our ideas of beauty were limited to our own communities. Until the advent of photography in 1839, people were not exposed to real-life images of faces and bodies. Most people did not even own mirrors.
Most of the women we see in the media are young and white. Hollywood movies rarely feature women over forty, and the older women we do see represented in the media, from movie stars to news anchors and even politicians, look much younger, thanks to plastic surgery. As a result, those of us who choose to age naturally, without the aid of plastic surgery, are sometimes seen as “letting ourselves go.” The image of “perfection” we see in the media excludes women with disabilities.
This almost total lack of representation means that the lives of disabled women remain a mystery to many able-bodied people. Disabled women are often portrayed as helpless victims who need protection, or as heroines who have beaten the odds. Because women with bodies that are disabled, fat, or old are seen as deviating from what is “normal” and desirable, we are often presented as stereotypes, rather than as real people. The crotchety old woman, the loudmouthed fat woman, and the disabled woman with a heart of gold are widespread clichés in the media. Rarely is our beauty recognized or acknowledged, and we are almost never portrayed as sexual beings.
Being a mother, I was left with the beauty marks of having a child. I always tend to hide my tummy. I was brain washed in believing that clear skin or flat tummies is what’s considered “pretty!”
After finding burlesque and meeting so many different women of all body types that dance in liberation some nudity or full nudity and get up on stage and just dance with honor… is when I started to believe that I did not have to fit this mold that I did not have to have a “perfect” tummy to be a pretty girl.
I dance with honor for myself and for all the woman who have felt the same way as me. I want to give the message that without our marks, scars, weight, or disabilities, we would not be that unique individual that makes us so differently beautiful. I would never trade to be a barbie doll or to fit a mold, it would be no fun to look at myself and say, these marks is why this beautiful being is here with me, or these “big” hips have been passed down to me from my beautiful ancestors, or these wrinkles remind me of the many years I spent laughing or crying at all the moments in my life.
burlesque dancer and photographer