I knew immediately that I wanted my poster to somehow showcase and interweave two important issues related to the body.
The first is positive body image. It's an issue that can seem warm and fuzzy and decidedly middle school -- conjuring up images of health class and healthy eating and confidence mantras and Lifetime movies -- but I think it's a lot more complicated than that, and even controversial. Aside from my days as an enormous baby, I've always been very thin. This is supposedly a cultural ideal, but that's definitely not what I've experienced or what really goes on in mass media. Though fat jokes are truly rampant, it's politically incorrect to talk to a fat person about their own fatness, or what they're eating (as it should be). But no such barrier exists for thinness -- when you are skinny, commentary and critiques about your weight, appearance, or eating habits are very common. Flippant remarks about models ("They don't even look like real women!") and anorexia ("Just eat a sandwich!") are widespread. Many body image media ignore this aspect, focusing on accepting being "curvy" while putting down those who are not. That's why my poster parodies the Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty" ads to some extent. These ads present a whitewashed and insipid image of the horribly difficult task of loving your body. With a line-up of shiny, fresh-faced women who may be bigger than the average model but are still perfectly proportionate and hourglass-shaped, these aren't breaking nearly as much ground as they might like to think. It's important to me that body acceptance and positive body image be for all people and all body types (and not in the strangehold of big business), even those who do not fit popular aesthetics.
The second topic I wanted to cover was nudity, or pro-nudity.Though scantily clad people in media and in public are quite common, the genitals (and women's breasts) remain taboo. I decided to play off the PETA advertisements for "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaigns. From an aesthetic standpoint, I think the ads are quite awful -- the contortions and props to keep breasts and genitals concealed give the poses a decidedly stilted and artificial feel (to say nothing of the heavy airbrushing). Rather than striking the best pose, the precise, correct pose becomes a necessity. Their arms function as lingerie of sorts, not revealing anything, just titillating the audience. I could have easily shifted my pose to hide my penis, but artfully covering it does not make it stop existing.
The first part of my statement is about the body image issue, with the picture following the body image trope of looking in the mirror, with a twist: I see no distorted reflection, and I'm not emotional or delirious. Then the second half acknowledges the nudity. I made this part a bit cheekier, as I didn't want my ad to be wholly serious (or, worse, preachy). The word "parts" is intentionally set slightly apart to draw attention to it or cause a brief pause while reading it, with the ellipsis ending right by the penis, functioning as an arrow of sorts.
Finally, something must be said about my own role as subject and "putting myself out there." It was important to me that I be bold and confident about my own body, without worry of who might see it or how it might be perceived or used. My poster obviously is not anonymous in anyway -- my face is not hidden or obscured. Many people have come up to me, and I have received numerous calls, texts, and Facebook messages about the poster. One good thing about the poster being so obviously connected to me is that I get to experience the response first-hand on some level -- I know people are talking about and discussing some of the issues it raises because I can hear about it myself.
The poster measures 11 by 17 inches. I posted 12 copies in prominent locations on campus: the Ratty, the V-Dub, the SciLi, Salomon, Wilson, Keeney, Sears, Marcy, Goddard, Grad Center, Hillel, and the Sarah Doyle Women's Center. As of that afternoon, the Ratty, Sears, and Hillel ones had been removed, and potentially others. By Thursday evening, the V-Dub, Wilson, Marcy, and Goddard were gone, and again, potentially more. No doubt removed for the content, since other posters in those places were still up, though some of my friends suggested they were perhaps being used for art...or for masturbatory purposes.
I was assisted by Lauren Kent, Dan Stewart, and Diane Cai, who took the photograph.