It started maybe about ten years ago. It would be a sweltering hot day and, in accordance with the weather, I would choose to wear one of my flowing sundresses that used to make me feel so happy. But then I would walk to a friend’s house or to catch a tram. The sweaty place where my thighs meet and rub as I walk would become red, raw, and irritated, until I would find myself at home hours later - lying on the couch, legs up, bag of frozen peas on my thighs, cursing the day the sun came into being, along with the sick, sadistic liars who told us that summer was fun and carefree.
It was okay though. It was only occasional and I could wear bike shorts to avoid most of the unpleasantness. It was only a few years later, when it became an all-year-round problem and my ridiculously-sized dress collection became a disheartening and stressful sight to behold, that it really started to get to me. It felt unnatural that my body would prevent me from doing something as simple as walking without a barrier for protection. I started to only wear jeans, or occasionally leggings under dresses on my more adventurous days. These too would rub, wear out, and eventually tear. I am repeatedly left with no decent crotch-covering clothes to wear - creating my monthly pants-buying cycle, which, to this day, supports an array of op-shops and Kmarts in my area.
I tried different diets, but heaven knows I love ice cream, pizza, and cheese too much for that to go very far. I joined a gym, but (even though exercise often makes me feel powerful and full of endorphins) the measurement around the tops of my legs was not shrinking in the slightest, and more importantly, it did nothing about the guilt and despair I felt in the meantime. These were totally unfounded, harmful feelings and heavily based in what a woman should and shouldn’t be. They spring from the value that is placed on her body and looks, and for that matter, the white-hetero-patriarchal definitions of beauty that establish these standards in the first place.
In my art practice, I had been painting and drawing nude women of various shapes and sizes for a couple of years. I believe that each and every one of these women is truly beautiful, and the sole purpose of this project is to reject the male gaze; to show that women can have any type of body; to assist them in whatever journey of self-love and body confidence they may be on. It occurred to me that I was not doing the same for myself. I did not see my own body in the way that I saw theirs. I realised that perhaps the real issue was not with the size or shape of my thighs, or my stomach, or my butt; but perhaps it was the way in which I was taught to think about it. Maybe the real problem that was making me stressed and sad was the lack of love I held for my own image, and the strict regulations to which I was desperately trying to cling.
So I decided to once again use my art making to overcome these feelings. I have drawn every part of my body in detail. I have made abstract paintings about the overlap between my legs. I have taken what feels like an infinite number of selfies - nude and otherwise. I have written lists of words that describe these parts of me. It has been a great source of inspiration for me and for my creative practices.
I have found that depicting my body in ways that I find beautiful or positive can be extremely powerful and liberating. I am making things that I love from the parts of my body that have caused me physical and emotional pain, and in this way I am able to view them in a different light. It’s not always perfect - there are definitely still bad days, and it’s certainly an ongoing process that is in no way a complete solution. It helps though, and I would 100% recommend trying something like this to anybody who struggles with loving their body, because we deserve to recognise that all of our bodies are beautiful, that our bodies are works of art.