What is your level of self esteem?
Like an eight.
Are you nervous at all?
No. I mean, both of my parents have been photographers at some time or another and my grandma has too. My picture’s been in the paper before with a naked butt. Plus; it’s art. That puts another layer between you and the viewer. It’s being presented to the world.
What made you want to participate?
I really like the message. I think there can’t be too many project that show women’s bodies where they aren’t all hacked and cut and sliced and edited for viewing. And I also for a while I had a mannequin in my living room that was set up with my own measurements. It made me feel a lot more comfortable with my body to see that mannequin everyday. It was a way to feel better about my own body that looking in the mirror didn’t do for me.
How is your self-esteem now?
Still an eight.
Is being nude in front of another person normal for you or was this completely new?
It feels pretty normal. Mostly, just locker rooms and things like that.
What is important about this project to you?
Normalizing a variety of women’s bodies. I think…I know it has an impact on my psychology to only see young thin people all the time in the media.
What upsets your most about the way the media portrays women?
The way that it reinforces the idea that a woman’s value is in her beauty. Rather than her accomplishments and abilities. I think thats damaging not only for women but also men and our society.
What goes into your self-esteem?
Feeling like I’m accomplishing things with my art, that I’m doing a good job with my son and my choices in raising him. Being older and having everything behind me. It gives me a lot of perspective, and helps me let little shitty things go. Doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it easier.
You’re a great role model for women who are insecure with their older age.
Being fat and old hasn’t restricted my sex life at all. I definitely get more now than when I was younger. I don’t want to give them the impression that I base my self-esteem on my sexuality but I can’t deny that is a factor.
So many times, women are shamed for taking control and being proud of being a sexual person.
Yes. There is a lot of words like slut, whore, those are mainly used for women and it implies such a sex negativity. Even if we don’t have a real granular definition for them, nobody wants to be that. But having sex is fun! And there is a very attractive young man coming to my house tonight. I wouldn’t enjoy his company nearly as much if I were hung up on how I look or how others will perceive me. My playmate is 28 and I’m 43.
Do you ever face ageism?
No, I’m not in a position where anyone has any power over me. I definitely agree that it exists though.
Let’s talk about feminism. Are you a feminist, and why?
Absolutely, yes. I believe men and women are equal. That gender doesn’t affect your intellectual capacity or your ability to be a human being. I think feminism, as a movement, is vitally important to making a balanced society.
Have you ever faced sexism?
List one extreme case and one benign case?
Chivalry is the most common form of benign sexism. Guys running ahead to open the doors because my dainty women hands can’t open it. Or assuming they’re paying for dinner.
Do you think chivalry has a lot to do with power?
I don’t. I think it has to do with generational norms in our society. Some people use it as a power play but for the most part men who are chivalrous just don’t realize the negative impact of that behavior. I’ve actually talked to a guy who started with, first of all, “You’re beautiful” and then it was nice to meet me. It made me think, do I really care what his boner thinks? Does he think I’m shallow. And he doesn’t do that anymore.
I think the most important thing we can get from that answer is that when a woman doesn’t comfortable, or anyone doesn’t feel comfortable with a unnecessary behavior made towards them, the person displaying should stop said behavior.
Or counter it. Not everybody is going to see that is a harmful behavior.
What about the extreme sexism you’ve faced?
Besides just general cultural sexism you see online, once I went into to buy a car at a dealership. The salesmen disregarded me. He didn’t see me as a potential buyer because I was a woman. I was not important in his world.
How do you know it was because of your gender?
When a man came in, he jumped up to help him. There have been plenty of times but now it’s so common it’s like picking out a tree in a forest. How do I chose one that’s worse than all the others? That was the first time I was really aware of the sexism, and that’s why it stands out. It’s like not noticing oxygen because it’s always there.
How do you feel about the beauty industry and how it effects a woman’s self value/esteem?
I feel like women’s beauty has become so important in our culture that some women feel naked if they aren’t wearing make. I’m not saying it’s wrong to not wear makeup but I think it’s sad that so many women feel like it’s vital to their self-esteem to wear makeup. To have to present their most beautiful self everyday. That we’re judged for how much, or how little we wear.
It should be a choice for ourselves.
Yeah, I mean I totally understand wanting to look dolled up and have fun but to feel like you can’t leave the house without it says more about our culture than an individual woman who feels that way. Like, my son has started wearing makeup recently. It’s fun for him. He doesn’t feel cultural pressure to do that.
Does he wear it at home or out?
He does both. When he goes out, he makes it natural though. He just wants to feel more confident. He’ll wear powder and concealer, a little blush.
Is there anything you’d like to leave the readers with?
Getting older is actually way better than you think. Fifty looks so much better to me now that I’m in my forties, than thirty-five did when I was in my twenties.