A group of women created a powerful photo series that has them literally crossing out the names they’ve been called — with a bit of glitter.
Abigail Spencer and Meg Bishop of Salt and Light Photography in Grants Pass, Oregon organized the “Don’t Label Me” project to help women reclaim power over their bodies.
They photographed a diverse group of seven women, each with their own unique story and struggles. Each model wrote words they’ve been called — such as “useless,” “cripple,” “fat,” or “crazy” — on their skin.
“We have yet to have met a woman who is completely comfortable in her own skin and wouldn’t change a thing about herself. We’ve been called names, cat called, abused, sexualized, looked down upon and labeled because of our appearances,” the photographers wrote on Facebook.
After taking pictures with their labels, the words were crossed out with glitter and paint.
Spencer and Bishop told Scary Mommy the idea for the shoot came to them when they were talking about their own insecurities and realized that most women deal with the same criticism.
“On our way driving home from a photo session, we were talking, how most best friends do, about how we struggle with our self-image and how things that people have said to us, or labeled us, are hurtful and we can remember vividly being called things clear back to grade school,” they said. “One thing led to another and as the conversation continued we came up with the image of ‘Don’t Label Me’ as a way to help EVERY woman feel beautiful and hopefully break the mold of the stereotypical skinny/curvy/contoured woman being the only ‘beautiful.’ ”
Participant McKyla Crowder was diagnosed with vitiligo, a skin disorder that causes the loss of skin color, at age four. She was teased, being called names like “spot” and “cheetah” — words she recalled and used at the photo shoot.
“Now I am happy to say that I love the skin I wear,” she said on Facebook. “And I wouldn’t be McKyla without it!”
Candice Constantin said that surviving various types of abuse led her to develop eating disorders.
“I am fat,” she said. “This is the first thing you will know when you look at me. I am not curvy or chubby, I am fat. What you won’t know is that is just a label and not who I really am.”
She added, “I am intelligent, creative, loving, involved. I am a mother. I have been through a lot of things that have tore me down and left me damaged, made me feel like I was worth nothing and would be nothing. Here I am though, I have survived.”
A car accident left Cassie Giesbrecht needing a wheelchair, but she’s trying to change the way people look at those with disabilities.
“I’ve turned a lot of these obstacles into positives in my life because I enjoy being different,” she said. “I want to turn the label of handicapped into handicapable.”
Anja Crawford said she grew up as the “big girl” in her group of friends, but the comments really got to her in college.
“I would be upset and call my mom to vent and cry,” she said. “There were a few people who would try to shake my confidence, by calling me a ‘fat girl’ or a ‘fat bit*h’… but I would look at them and think ‘That’s all you got, really?’”
She also shared her experience from the first time she was called the n-word, but now she doesn’t pay attention to what others say.
“But no matter what people say I will always love myself first,” Crawford said.
Aimee Griggs lost her older brother as a child and later had to put her own father in jail.
“I don’t need to really verbalize what he did. But, people thought my mom should have stayed with him. My mom didn’t — she believed me when so many other mothers failed their children and blamed them,” she said. “My mom taught me to forgive isn’t for the other person but is for you, you may need to forgive over and over often to begin with, forgiveness is a command not a choice. And my dad did change … for the good and at a very old age. He was never alone with children again, but He truly found his Savior in Jail.”
She added, “We are more. More of what any human can discern.We are each created with a purpose, a future, and a hope … not for evil and not for labels.”
Melissa Bowers said overcoming struggles with bullying, a suicide attempt and eating disorders encouraged her to participate in the project.
“I’m involved in this movement to show that no matter how you grew up, or what you look like, or what you are labeled … you can overcome those obstacles,” she said.
On the Facebook page, the photographers wrote, “Today, we want to say ‘screw you’ to the contouring and spandex. To filters and tummy trimmers. To weight-loss pills and pushup bras. To every horrible, uncomfortable, unrealistic standard of which we feel we have to live by. We are mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts and friends. We are women. We are strong. Unified. Bonded. We are unapologetically confident from here on out.”