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One of the most striking things about artist and feminist Katrina Barker Anderson’s photography project (it’s NSFW!) The Mormon Women Bare, is how the women photographed often write alongside their photograph about feeling that their body was not their own. It belonged to God, or to their husbands, and definitely to the male gaze. Their bodies were something that they had to keep in check. And in a culture that perpetuates the male gaze as the only one that matters and where women are constantly told that their bodies are wrong, or will bring about wrongs, or that they don’t belong to them, these photos become a quite powerful stance against all of that.

For Barker Anderson, the goal of the project was to take a stance against body shaming and objectification, especially in the Mormon community. She wanted Mormon women to connect with their bodies in a way that mattered.

She writes of the project on her website

“Women around the world deal with objectification, body shame, and the burden of the male gaze. Mormon women have an added layer of complexity and heavy expectations: while being warned against becoming “walking pornography,” we also face immense pressure to be attractive and fit. We must both attract and protect against male desire. Even though Mormonism teaches us our destiny is to become like our embodied Heavenly Parents, the hyper-focus on modesty leaves many of us feeling disconnected and ambivalent about our bodies. Our sense of self can feel so eclipsed by the expectation to be a wife and mother that we no longer see our bodies as our own. Separated from our skin by layers of clothing, many Mormon women lose touch with the capabilities and power we innately possess. Mormon Women Bare seeks to empower women to reclaim our bodies. Through photography and personal narratives, women are seen as beautiful, flawed, vulnerable and real. Women of different shapes, sizes, and ages demonstrate that bodies need not bring shame but can be owned, celebrated, and honored.”

While too often ‘taking your clothes off for empowerment’ is as shallow as it sounds, and extreme measures aren’t always the way to change a conservative culture, there’s nothing extreme or indeed shallow about this project.

The women featured are honest in their appraisals of how they feel about their bodies, and brave, to be participating in something like this. I imagine that it was freeing for them, and I hope that in seeing themselves this way, they can feel the connection with, and appreciation for, their bodies that they had been missing in the past.

See the Mormon Women Bare project here, remember that it is NSFW


Henry Sapiecha

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