Here begins an experimental project, a challenge with visual discourse. This is my first visual essay.
I decided to use the visual essay assignment as a way to create a dialogue about how our bodies are socially disciplined. Once I began filming, I realized the difficulty of beginning the conversation. Even though I set out to talk about my own body, and even though my body is something that has been a part of me for as long as I can remember, I couldn’t broach the subject with comfort.
The desire to create a space for bodily discussion began with the commentary I received about own stomach. Within the past six months, I began hearing the phrase, “Are you pregnant?” over and over again. It started to feel like the repetitious questioning was more than a coincidence.
The multiple readings of the statement, “Are you pregnant?” are what lead me into this project. What was most transformative about this process was the discussion that formed around the topic of what we feel about our own bodies. I spoke to friends and colleagues, to my parents and my sisters. These conversation were bravely honest and they served as the foundation for the video; these voices were the root of the project, sturdy and ever-present.
As I began creating the visual outline for the project, I planned on enacting a feminist methodology. While shooting, this was constantly in the back of my mind. When I arrived at the final question in the video, “What do you want people to take away from this project?” I found myself in a strange place of conflict. I wanted people to begin discussing their bodies in an honest way, in hopes of undoing the sedimented ideologies of dominant culture; however, I had not been honest about my own feelings about my stomach in the video. I decided to speak frankly.
The first thing I realized was that I loved my stomach. I also realized that that very bodily piece was also a source of displeasure. At first, the admission was embarrassing and I was afraid that by including the confession in the video, I would be undermining my feminist project.
Subsequently, this is what I realized. It is okay to possess multiple, competing gazes. As a feminist, I am still constructed within a hegemonic framework, one which privileges a very narrow definition of bodily beauty. I hope that by acknowledging this construction, the honest reactions I have about my own body, I can begin the process of understanding why I am so impacted by ideological frameworks that dictate one limited way of being.
My hope is that this video will serve as an entry point into self-examination. Beginning with the personal and corporeal, that which we carry with us, I would like to begin the simple, but transformative act, of speaking and investigating.