You could say it all started with Demi Moore and her flawless, naked bump on the cover of Vanity Fair. It was a provocative photograph that signalled a change in the way we viewed the bodies of pregnant women. There was nothing to hide anymore. Today bumps have never been more flaunted or fetishised.
But what about a woman’s body after birth?
I’d imagine Vanity Fair might be less keen to slap a saggy belly with stretch marks on their front page. (I challenge their editor to prove me wrong of course!)
That’s why the work of photographer Jade Beall is so refreshing. Her latest work, entitled A Beautiful Body, documents the female form after birth in all its glory.
The project began when Jade posted a semi-nude self-portrait of her un-retouched postpartum body on Facebook. Surprised by just how popular it became, she was inspired to do a series of similar portraits which she hopes to turn into a book.
It couldn’t have come sooner in my opinion. I get the feeling that we’re all (and not just women) growing a little tired of being sold images so airbrushed they look more like avatars than people.
Who wants perfection anyhow? We all know it’s the quirks and oddities we fall in love with. If only someone would tell the advertisers. Even the Dove campaign gets on my nerves with its charade of authenticity. I wonder if any of those women are mothers.
That’s why this project deserves our support. Yes, the pregnant woman is beautiful but so is the same woman after birth. Her body has changed, sure. She may have stretch marks, scars, a softer, rounder belly, but this same body has produced life. Mothers should feel proud not ashamed. But for this to truly happen we’ve got to stop feeding this stultifying notion of female beauty. Jade’s work is a step in the right direction. It’s just shocking this hasn’t been done sooner.