“We need women who are
so strong they can be gentle,
so educated they can be humble,
so fierce they can be compassionate,
so passionate they can be rational,
so disciplined they can be free.” - K.R.
AS A BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHER, YOU MIGHT ASSUME I'M A FIERCE FEMINIST
Today is International Women’s Day. I’m not big on many holidays, especially the national holiday types, but this one holds a special place in my heart.
As a boudoir photographer, you might think that I am a fierce feminist. You might make that assumption due to the fact that I mostly work with women, or because you’ve read the captions I’ve written throughout my Instagram. But if you read closely, I’m much more about humanity as a whole than just its parts, and I firmly believe that making a difference starts within us. The introspective work we put in matters.
WAKING UP TO POSITIVITY & EMPOWERMENT SETS THE TONE FOR OUR DAY
“I want to wish you a delightful women's day on behalf of our team. You are a great example of women empowerment the way you put effort into taking photos and all the hard work you do inspires us to work harder for you. The best quality of you is that you are a really helpful person and in today's world there are very few people like you who care about others. We would like to thank you for always trusting us and hope we continue to work with you for a long time. May God give you more and keep your family healthy.”
This is the message I woke up to this morning, from a company I outsource some work to when things get super busy. They didn’t have to send me this message, but they did. I thought to myself, Wow, SO nice. I also wondered if I was the only female business they sent this to, or if they’d sent a similar message to everyone else they work with? And then, I immediately found myself hoping that they had in fact sent this message to others, and hoped that other women were able to wake up to such graciousness as I had. And it made me want to pay the kindness and generosity forward so that others could feel it too. International Women’s Day is about helping to build women up and encourage them on their path to greatness. It’s about breaking down barriers between us so that together we can build one another up.
One thing I love most about this message? It was sent by a man.
Fun fact: I also woke up to 4021 followers. You may have read other references to this number in my posts because this number shows up in my life every day, mostly on the clock, but if not, somewhere else more powerful. In the last year, I’ve done lots of spiritual work, reading on self expansion and intuition, and also lots of research on this number purely out of curiosity. I’ve learned to trust that when it appears, I’m right where I should be, doing exactly what I’m meant to be doing. And when it doesn’t show up, I stop to evaluate what I might be doing that’s distracting me from what matters most. And then it starts showing up again consistently and I feel more at peace. Weird? Maybe. But I choose to believe in it and it keeps me feeling optimistic. These affirmations are way more powerful than you might think and can greatly affect how we live our lives on a daily basis.
WOMEN INVESTING IN THEMSELVES THROUGH BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHY
One reason I love being a boudoir photographer is that when women choose to invest in themselves and be photographed by me, they leave my studio feeling more empowered than ever. This high trickles into the other parts of their lives -- their work, their relationships with others, and how they feel about themselves in relation to others. It, in essence, helps them achieve greater feats because they have the confidence in themselves to make change. These feelings linger long after their session. The experience and the photos made a much greater impact than they may have anticipated when they booked it. It’s a beautiful thing.
MY BACKGROUND IN SOCIOLOGY HELPS ME NAVIGATE MY BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHY WORK IN A SPECIAL WAY
My background in Sociology has taught me that our experience of life on this earth is unique, but it's actually not so unlike our neighbors'. While our stories may be personal and have their nuances, we also share many of the same battles and commonalities, and that unites us. Sociology, as defined, is the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society. The study of social problems. The thing is, YES, society can be broken down into groups, or even variables, depending on the study at hand, but individual qualities and experiences of each person within that group create an overlap in ways that are much more profound than generalizations made based on race, ethnicity, gender, etc. In politics, especially, these groups are polarized based on prescribed ideas and manipulated generalization, and the political system injects fear where the differences might lay. We all fall victim to it, no matter which side we’re on. In effect, what’s created is this cognitive dissonance within us that holds us hostage; we have no idea what to believe, which way to go with it, and so we wait for others “like us" to determine our beliefs for us. That’s dangerous, and it’s happening to us, all around us, and most of us don’t even realize it.
What I’m trying to say is that my background in sociology has allowed me to have empathetic conversations without judgement based on class, gender, etc. Instead of listening for the differentiating factors, I choose to seek the bits that make us more alike and focus on those. I yearn to relate, not to judge. I also not only like to challenge the “norms,” but I also like to incite thought in those around me and open their minds to what binds us in our experience of the world. I want them to realize that the things that make them unique can actually encourage community, not polarization. What makes us different is our super power, yet society likes to stigmatize difference and perpetuate the herd mentality; see past it. We aren't meant to agree with everyone around us. Challenging ideas with knowledge, experience, and understanding is healthy, and we can learn from one another.
I love boudoir photography because, in a way, it’s a form of therapy that helps individuals to stop comparing themselves against others they see on social media, and instead celebrate their beauty as something special in it’s own right. I wish for it to be something they have pride in, and not seek to change it because it’s different. And helping them see that through photography is not only therapy for them -- it is for me, too.
TOLERANCE, EMPATHY & UNDERSTANDING OVER GENERALIZATION & ORGANIZED MOVEMENT
This next statement may come as a surprise you, but I squirm at the word “feminist”. For a concept that’s meant to be so positive, I find its teachings to be very ambiguous and political. At its core, feminism is meant to bring women together, but in reality, it’s come far from that. Feminists can hardly agree on what it means to be a feminist. Not only that, but it creates an overtly polarizing barrier between women and men; a war between the sexes not only within communities but also within marriages. What some feminists would consider a movement for equality among our male counterparts, others would call a straight up war against all that is responsible for the shortcomings of women: Men. That’s just not productive by any means. I mean, some feminists call sex work a form of patriarchal oppression, while others assert that it’s their body, their choice, and more about self expression than oppression. Even the idea of pro-life and pro-choice is held hostage by competing feminists. Is anyone actually right, or should that call depend on the many other factors at play? Who is a group to make that judgement call?
What I do know is that I’m 100% against generalization. Especially when violence and judgement are used to perpetuate it. I live by the belief that while we all have qualities that make us unique, we are actually more alike in most ways and that is worth exploring. I believe that if we do the work within ourselves to heal from the inside out, we can stop pointing the finger at others and placing blame on stereotypes and generalizations. If we can teach our children to be tolerant and willing to find commonalities instead of differences, and to foster their own unique qualities instead of trying to fit in with what society says is “best”, that’s where the big change will come from.
CHANGE TAKES COURAGE; THE KIND THAT COMES FROM WITHIN
Organized movements like the Women’s Movement, BLM, LBGTQ+, etc have their place, and can be very effective in inciting necessary change. However with all of the contradictory information out there at our fingertips, facts become manipulated based on agendas, and what we once considered a trustworthy source can turn out to be the exact opposite. Not only that, but one person’s sensible reason for starting a revolution may be morphed by the masses and lead to a very different looking outcome. As individuals we all have motives, and we also have free will. The scary thing is, and mostly thanks to social media trends… well… cognitive dissonance -- the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. And so instead of doing the research to formulate our own thoughts, and doing the work within ourselves, we choose to go with the masses and simply chime in, and that is again, dangerous, inauthentic, and also highly contagious.
Take steps back to disconnect and get to know yourself. Get to a point where you're able to trust your intuition enough to look within for your answers instead of social media influencers, and even mainstream media. With so much information at our fingertips, this is more important than ever for mental survival, and not only you, but your community benefit from it.
THE WOMEN’S MOVEMENT HAS HELPED TO CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN LIKE NEVER BEFORE
The great thing about movements are that they get attention. Some super progressive women had a TON of courage to stir the pot and demand change, and I'm forever grateful for that. The Women’s Movement shed light on how unbalanced our society is in favor of men, and how little women had a say in life. This movement will never be over, nor will the others. They're a work in progress, and so much progress has been made. Instead of being angry and demanding further change, because by nature I'm just not an angry person and I can see the light in anything, I choose to focus on what is now and how it effects my own life on the daily. The opportunities it currently allows women that never would been offered otherwise. I also choose to recognize the flexibility it’s provided not only women, but men as well. As it was, men were pressured to hold the breadwinner title and work tirelessly outside of the home while women stayed home with the children, performed household duties, and lost themselves in caring for others. Now, in 2021, we have choices. We can decide how we want to live our lives. We might choose to stay home, or we might choose to work. It’s beautiful that I’m not only allowed to, but encouraged, to run my small boudoir photography business. And now, my husband, who hated his job before the pandemic hit, has the opportunity to spend more time with his children and not be enslaved by a 9-5 lifestyle that left him feeling empty and unfulfilled. And then I think about last week, when a prominent photojournalist named Michael Fiedler asked me if he could photograph me doing my work for his book, The Working Journal, and actually had me write my very own page about why I love the work that I do. And the week before that, a magazine with a huge following asked me to do a livestream podcast with them so they could highlight “the photographer behind the work.” Me. They wanted to learn and share more about me. That would never have happened if not for the Women’s Movement. I’m sure a man would have been asked before I was ever even considered, and it took lots of bravery for change like this to happen.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY AND BOUDOIR: SEXY PHOTO SHOOTS ARE ABOUT MORE THAN NUDITY
Boudoir Photography and International Women’s Day intersect in many more ways than the obvious.
Yes, Boudoir photography is mostly about women and our yearning to feel liberated.
Some big parts of society aim to make us feel bad about nudity, but we’re now allowed to push back on that.
Yes, women leave my studio feeling more confident than when they arrived.
For one reason or another, we’ve been led to believe we’re not enough the way we are. We're on a mission to discover that we are, indeed, enough, and want to feel beautiful for ourselves, regardless of what others may think about it.
Yes, boudoir photography empowers women, and helps them to thrive and flourish in a very unique way.
Somewhere down the line, we weren’t encouraged to grow and make important decisions, but the economy has changed and we are now in a different position. For the most part, families can’t get by without two parents working. So now, unlike before, we not only need to work outside the home to pay the bills, but we also play a big part in maintaining the home and taking care of the children even after our “paid” work is done. (AKA the Double Shift.) When do we have time for ourselves? If we don’t ask for it, we’d never get it. And if we don’t feel confident and empowered enough to ask for it, we would drown in taking care of everyone else but ourselves. We are in a unique position, albeit a very challenging one, and no one is going to give us what we need if we don’t feel worthy enough to ask for it.
“Where does boudoir photography come into this,” you ask.
Doing something like this for ourselves is a big thing. We are investing in our need to feel good about who we are, what makes us unique, and what we have to offer the world. We are doing something that makes us feel beautiful and powerful despite what society says, and we are letting ourselves feel free. Free of the restrictions we feel by men, and even by other women who aren't there yet. But also, boudoir photography would not even exist if not for the Women’s Movement. We, as women, made this happen.
This is not even close to what I had planned for today.
This is what always happens. I go to post a photo up on Instagram, and the caption space is just never long enough to say what I want to say. And I always say that I'm going to continue it into a blog post but other things come up and I never get around to it. I probably have a hundred captions waiting to be turned into posts.
This one deserved to be written though.
Cheers to change, especially the kind that comes from within.
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!
p.s. Please excuse any typos -- for once I succeeded in putting up a blog post the same day I started it. That's enough of a win for me today! xo