“She has such gorgeous hair. What a pity the face doesn’t match.”
I think I was about six years old – more than old enough to understand, and absorb – when a woman in the supermarket said that to my mother. I was so shocked and humiliated that I pretended I didn’t understand her. Small children have that particular out, when a conversation makes them uncomfortable, and I remember being thankful for it.
Until then, I had never thought that there was something wrong with my face. I knew that I wasn’t the prettiest girl in my school – I was never picked to play a fairy or an angel in the school plays, and besides, everyone knew that Kim was the prettiest because she had dimples.
But it was only after that woman’s mean spirited comment that I started worrying that I was ugly.
I worried about it for many years.
Almost every woman I know has had a similar experience. Whether it was made by a critical parent, a bullying teacher, a mean boy or just a random stranger in the street, women are told with boring regularity that they are somehow lacking.
You’re too fat. Your butt is too flat. You don’t smile enough. Your hair is the wrong colour. You’re not wearing enough makeup. You’re wearing too much makeup. Your skirt is too short. Your headscarf is too inhibiting.
You’re not pretty enough. You’re not thin enough. You’re not sexy enough.
American photographer, Jess Fielder, has made waves in the media with her latest project titled: Project: Self Love, in which she features a host of women from her home town in tank tops and underwear.
In the first image, the women stand with a piece of paper on which they’ve written something negative said to them. In the second image, they hold another piece of paper with something true about themselves that they’re sharing with the world.
“I have a six year old daughter, and I want her to learn this lesson. I want her to know that she’s enough.”
The images are uplifting, inspiring and powerful.
W24 spoke to the photographer, Jess Fielder, about her inspiration for this shoot:
“I realised that all women, no matter their size or age, deal with insecurities. I guess I just wanted to illustrate that women are so much more than their physical appearances and how they measure up to society’s ridiculous beauty standards,” she says.
“I have a six year old daughter, and I want her to learn this lesson. I want her to know that she’s enough. I want her to know that what she’s made of is more important than her outward appearance.”