When her 4th Trimester Bodies project went viral last year, Chicago photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson was excited to lead a societal celebration of women’s post-pregnancy bodies, “stretches, stripes, scars and all.”
Since starting the project, Jackson has photographed thousands of women, laughed and cried while listening to their stories, filmed a documentary, and signed a three book deal – all in an effort to share body positivity while changing the way women’s bodies are perceived after baby.
Support for her project has been overwhelming, and even led me to stand in a sunlit, retro-themed studio, sharing my story in nothing but a black bra and skivvies.
To date, the 4th Trimester Bodies project has photographed more than 2,500 women, with 150 candid, unapologetic, untouched photos just like these already curated for the first book:
Facebook and Instagram, however, have responded to the outpouring of awesome with harsh censorship.
Photos shared on the networks with #stopcensoringmotherhood in support of the project have been reported and removed repeatedly, resulting in Jackson’s accounts being locked down and shut down time and time again. (Jackson’s newest Facebook page has more than 45k likes, and for now, remains active.)
According to both networks, the photos violate policies regarding nudity and mature content. Yet, conducting a simple search shows both sites are populated with numerous photos depicting sexual acts, genitalia and other images violating the very rules they say Jackson is flouting.
Yet, could it be that those images are ok because moms shouldn’t use their sex breasts to feed babies? Because mothers tastefully baring their bodies in the name of social good is something people shouldn’t see?
We all know society sets its standards for beauty impossibly high, perpetuating a culture of doubt that only Photoshop can fix. But where does it end? When are we going to stop hiding the lumps and bumps that make us human and start celebrating what makes us real? When are we going to stop censoring motherhood?
It was hard to look past the things that normally make me cringe in my own photo at first, until I realized I’m laughing, which I love. Dark scars from an emergency hysterectomy and subsequent abdominal reconstruction curve around to the small of my back, and stretch marks create gentle pleats across my stomach, fanning out around a reconstructed belly button made from nothing more than a notched piece of skin. I wish I’d asked Jackson to photograph the textures up close. They remind me what my body accomplished, the uneven lines making up a kind of roadmap that leads to my family.
Each scarred dip and stretched valley makes us remarkable. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Photo credits: Ashlee Wells Jackson. All rights reserved.