Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mind and Matter by Sheena Hunter

They say there is a fine line between art and obscenity. Where do you draw yours? I have just drawn mine, and I don't mind exploring mine publicly as an example, so that you can draw your own. It all started when I realized that I am in desperate need of a good picture of myself. A bunch of them would be better. Have you seen my “administrator” folder on the Promoting Women Facebook page? So sad! I am in the company of some pretty amazing athletes with amazing professional photography...and there is me, rocking an ill-fitting bikini in a little gym in Brewer, Maine (by the way, it's Bangor-Brewer Athletic Club, owned by Sean Soucy and Wendy Watkins—they are great, if you are ever in that area!). It's time for something a little more...professional...or perhaps just a little more flattering! I'm a good athlete, but if I am worthy of the recognition, you wouldn't know it from my photos!

At first I thought the trouble would be in finding a photographer, but I was wrong! There are a million photographers out there who are more than willing to let me strip down to my posing suit and flex before their cameras. Trust me, I have had some pretty interesting offers lately. But for me, this sport is about owning my body, loving my body, and letting my body look the way I want it to look. When I am onstage, you see what I want you to see, so I am not willing to give up that power in a photo. I do not want to end up in a position where I am overly sexualized and made to look like I'm working something besides my muscles (if you know what I mean...). I am an athlete, not a porn star!

At the same time, I do recognize that it is helpful to be sexy in this industry. There are always half naked women reminding the rest of us to do more cardio, so I am more than happy to know that muscular women are out there reminding the rest of us to train heavier! Sexy isn't bad...I wouldn't mind looking a little sexy in my photos. I mean, I wouldn't want to go into a photo session hoping to look like someone who has probably never been laid, and I don't exactly have a wholesome, all-American, cute girl look, like the Farrah Fawcett photo. I'm stuck with these “bedroom” eyes. So lately, I've been looking at TONS of photos of female bodybuilders. I examine them closely and try to decide which looks I would want for myself, and which ones I do not. As a feminist with a degree in Women's Studies, I am well-read on the various opinions out there, but I am also aware that at the end of the day, it is a matter of personal opinion. Your opinion may differ from mine, and that's ok, but after much internal debate, I have concluded that the images I like most all have one thing in common: they portray the subject's sexuality as POWERFUL, instead of POWERLESS. That is, I want to look like I could kick your ass—not like I'm bound-up and waiting to be ravaged, or like I'm a little girl waiting to lose my virginity. I do not see any power in pretending to be something I'm not.

Yesterday, I saw a photo that really captivated and inspired me, and which gave me an example of what I want. I do not mean to suggest that other work hasn't similarly interested me...maybe I was in a good mood...or maybe it was the photographer's comment below the photo. Either way, it got me. Chris Zimmerman posted a headshot of Nicole Ball, and below it was a caption which pointed out that female bodybuilders deserve to be portrayed as beautiful women. He totally pulled it off, too! In just a head shot, you could see so much about her. Maybe that's all I want. I think a perfect photo should portray me as a beautiful, powerful woman. My sexiness should be natural, not forced. Someone else can have the lollipops, strawberries, handcuffs, exceptionally large ta-tas, and lingerie. I think I'll stick with a portrayal of who I really am—a beautiful, confident, sexy, and powerful woman.

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