///// BEFORE SHOOT /////
How would you rate your self esteem?
Like an eight on a good day, a four on a bad day.
Why did you want to participate?
It’s a good project. I think women can learn things from other women going through similar situations and dealing with similar things.
Are you nervous?
How is your self esteem now?
Um, well do an eight.
///// AFTER SHOOT /////
How was the shoot?
It was fun. I thought I wasn’t going to like it because I would concentrate on everything I din’t like but I didn’t, and I felt better after the shoot than I did before.
What is your favorite body part?
My brain. Does that count?
Yes, it absolutely does.
My stomach, it has stretch marks and is still flabby from having two kids.
You don’t look like a stereotypical mother, how have people judged your mothering skills based on your appearance?
I had my daughter when I was twenty one. A lot of people expected me to stop being a twenty one year old, stop being myself, and become one of those devote mothers whose children are her entire world and marry the guy who got me pregnant even though I didn’t really like him that much. We were just seeing each other.
What others ways have you been judged based on your appearance?
People think I do drugs. I don’t. I’ve had people tell me I seem unapproachable and mean. I’m not mean to people.
My best friend experienced being a young mother and facing the judgements that come with that role from society. What was the biggest assumptions people would make about your pregnancy?
The biggest assumptions people made were that it was somehow my fault that I didn’t have the father involved. That I did something wrong to make him not involved.
But that wasn’t true.
It was his own choice not to be involved. When I got pregnant the second time, I got a lot of “I did it on purpose” because when I got engaged I talked a lot about getting pregnant. When I was previously engaged, we were talking about having a baby…but when we un-engaged…I got pregnant again accidently and people thought I did it on purpose.
I feel like that is SO common. People always look at the woman in the situation and assume that she somehow tricked this guy into impregnating her.
Like he had nothinggggg to do with it. Even if a girl does get pregnant on purpose, the guy still played a part! He could insist on a condom. Even condoms aren’t 100% effective. I got pregnant twice on birth control so…it’s not always a purposful…vengeful entrapment.
It just happens. Shit happens.
It’s not like I got knocked up by an NBA player or something.
What do your body insecurities look like?
I have a baby belly still. I just recently lost about twenty pounds from stress and anxiety and now my butt is deflating. I have stretch marks from being pregnant.
How has this project changed the way you look at these things?
Recently, I’ve started trying not to judge people by how they look because I know everyone has a reason as to why they are the way they are. It puts into perspective those reasons for those people and makes it easier not to judge.
How would you judge people before?
When I was younger, I would see people who aren’t well kept up and overweight and think they did it to themselves, or they’re lazy. Just stupid things I know aren’t true now.
Do you there needs to be more fat acceptance?
Yes. People don’t understand what it even is. They think it’s promoting a unhealthy lifestyle. But it’s not! You can still be overweight and live a healthy lifestyle. People are just mad that people can be happy with their body how it is, when it’s not up to the beauty standards they live by.
In what ways were you made to feel less than acceptable beauty wise when you were young?
When I was younger, I was really skinny and gangly. I always had short hair and everyone always thought I was a boy.
And what did that do to your sense of identity?
I never really liked girls, because there was always someone prettier than me. All my friends were guys, they always liked other girls but nobody liked me. I wasn’t into girly things, but people would always try to get me to do girly things. I liked running track, playing basketball, and skateboarding.
What was your self esteem like in middle school?
It went up and down a lot. So, I was like the ugly duckling in elementary school when I was a little kid but when I evened out, people in my class…teenagers…adults all started paying attention to me. I felt really sexualized at a young age. I felt like it was my responsibility to keep people from thinking that way about me, even though I was a twelve year old girl.
In middle school, I started liking boys more. Liking the attention. I feel like lots of people took advantage of that. When you’re that age, you don’t know much about that stuff. You just figure it out; your sexuality, what you like, and how to connect with people as more than friends.
Did anyone ever cross the line with you?
I remember once in middle school, two incidents that stayed with me…I was going to tutoring and my tutor would flirt with me all the time. He was in his early twenties and I was thirteen. He would make weird sexual jokes and comments towards me. At the time, I thought it was cool. Looking back, that’s really creepy to do to a little girl you’re supposed to be helping learn something.
The second one was…it was winter. I just got new winter clothes from my mom. I thought I looked so pretty and girly. I went to my friends house and they stole my stuff and they said they wouldn’t give them back to me unless I took my pants off in their creepy trailor in their back yard.
How old were they?
Maybe like fifteen, sixteen, fourteen. That age.
How many of them were there?
It was a group of three or four people. Mostly guys, one girl.
How did that make you feel about your body?
After I did it, they made fun or me and I went home and cried. Everyone called me a slut for the rest of the year.
How has slut shaming affected your self esteem in high school?
In high school, I enjoyed sleeping with other people and figuring out what I liked. I didn’t figure it out correctly, because I was in a long term relationship. That was shitty of me. I don’t see any problems with people sleeping around, enjoying sex, ect.
What would the slut shaming look like to you?
Girls wouldn’t hangout with me. They told my boyfriend mean things about me, that he should leave me. A couple girls tried to sleep with my boyfriend. My friends girlfriends never really liked me, even though they were just my friends. I had lots of rumors spread about me. Things like…I had STI’s and stuff.
Has the ever lead to people assuming you were easy or always willing to sleep with anyone?
When I was eighteen. I was raped by a guy in my house when I was very drunk at a party I threw. I specifically told him no after his advances and told him to sleep on my couch. After people found out about that incident, there was quite a few people trying to say I wasn’t really raped. That I had sex with a guy and regretted it because I was a slut. I didn’t want my boyfriend to find out. One of my girlfriends sent me a message after saying she heard what happened and that I was “always getting myself into these situations”.
“Getting myself into these situations” is a statement directly associated with victim blaming. How did this make you feel?
I kind of went on this aweful downward spiral, thought it was all my fault. Maybe if I hadn’t fallen asleep, it wouldn’t have happened. If I hadn’t been nice and offered for him to stay on my couch. If I hadn’t been drinking.
How did that change the way you saw your body?
I was really grossed out by my body for a long time. I didn’t like people touching me. It just made me feel really embarrassed about myself that I let that happen to me.
Did that affect your relationships?
I was in lots of terrible relationships where I just let people treat me very badly. When I was twenty one I started dating a guy who was, I’m pretty sure, bipolar. He became really physically abusive, sexually abusive, and manipulative. That made me feel really crappy about myself but thankfully, my best friend lived with us and after a really bad night the two of them got into a phsyical fight and boyfriend the next day tried to apologize and my best friend said you can apologize but I’m moving back to seattle and taking Lena with me because I can’t leave her here with you.
Two years later he committed suicide.
Did he ever try to get help for his behaviors?
There was a few times where he was admitted to a hospital but he didn’t have insurance so they just excused him and said he was fine.
What can you say to women in abusive relationships reading this right now?
It’s not your fault. There is nothing you can do to make someone treat you that badly, or deserve that treatment. I hope you have good friends like I did who helped you get out, instead of abandoning you.
Any last message for the readers who aren’t?
Whatever you’re going through, someone else is too. Things get better. Don’t waste your time on people who make you feel bad or don’t care about your wellbeing.