We are all made of scars


One of the great things about working for a feminist media outlet is being assigned stories that are actually a pleasure to research and write.  In fact, I regularly get hipped to people, places, and things that make me kick myself and think “why the hell didn’t I know about this?”  In the last year alone I’ve learned about the fab musical “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding,” the wildly talented pop-funk singer-songwriter Mayda, and now, the photography project Of Scars.



You can read my full-length feature for the Minnesota Women’s Press here.  It contains the who, what, where, when, why and how of the project, which in their words “explores all the facets of living with the emotional and physical scars of breast cancer through photography, education, networking and community outreach.”

On my blog, however, I can be as opinionated and decidedly non-newsy as I please.  I can tell you about how I’ve been thinking about Of Scars nearly every day since Kate and Elli allowed me into their studio to take a peek at the pictures.



I’m a feminist, but I hate my body.  As I’ve written here before, I am a feminist because I hate my body–I recognize that patriarchal capitalism wants me to hate my body, and I’m fighting that shit every time I look in the mirror.  Self-acceptance is a truly radical act, and one I’m striving towards every day.

Most of the time I fail.

In my Women’s Press piece, I make reference to a “smiling model who posed topless in a Wonder Woman costume” (above, she appears in the SFW version from the Of Scars website). Here in my blog I can add that her smile was one of the fiercest, most kickass things I’ve ever seen.  As I held her photograph in my hands, I wondered what it would take for me to feel the same fearlessness about myself.  Here was my genuine, unedited, terrifying thought:

Would my body need to be mutilated for me to appreciate it?  Would it need to be pulled back from the brink of death to be loved unconditionally?  

Several days ago, Lady Gaga responded to criticism about gaining 25 pounds by posting pictures of herself in a bikini on her website.  She looks fabulous, as shapely and delicious as Marilyn Monroe in her prime.  As much as I appreciate the gesture, as well as Gaga’s admission of eating disorders and her hope to “BREED some m$therf*cking COMPASSION” by doing it, I couldn’t help experiencing another genuine, unedited, terrifying thought:

Are you kidding me? This gorgeous young woman is supposed to be the face of “bravery” and “body acceptance”?!  Give me a break.  Where are HER scars?  If she truly was bulimic, she has ’em–bite marks on the fingers she used to make herself puke.  I want to see THOSE.  

These decidedly NON-compassionate thoughts are my scars on display.  These scars have covered decades of cuts, some big (“outta my way, fat bitch!) and some small (“you need foundation to cover up that splotchy skin of yours”).

Kate told me in her studio that breast cancer magnifies and multiplies everything women feel about their bodies and by extension, themselves.   I think she’s right.  I’m grateful that she and Elli are using their art and their studio to begin this important conversation.  We all have scars to share with each other, and ways we can learn from one another, no matter what the demon we’re battling.

If you’re in the Twin Cities on September 29, you can view Of Scars, the photography exhibition, for yourself.  I’d like to know what you see.



All photos of non-internationally famous pop stars by Of Scars and are used with permission.


2 thoughts on “We are all made of scars

  1. deb

    wow. it is just the night o’ body acceptance. was thinking about this myself today, and just read a post over at Adios Barbie on the same subject. her post was about listening to your body and really hearing it (attending to its needs and desires because its part of you rather than the opposite). it seems to me that Scars is about the same thing – that the practice of acknowledging and accepting our scars is a way of attending to the body – of really hearing it. for those of us with eating disorders instead of cancer, to reveal our scars is to acknowledge the violence we have done to our own bodies, to ourselves. in that sense, accepting the body feels almost like an apology, long overdue.

    I agree, lady gaga looks beautiful. but that’s only through our eyes, right. while we can look with admiration, apparently she can’t look at all. her eyes are closed, and with the tilt of her head, she looks pained, standing there exposed despite herself.

    the Of Scars project looks really interesting. Although it seems obvious now, I hadn’t thought that cancer would affect self-esteem in the way you and Kate describe. I’d love to see the project it if it ever comes to d.c.

  2. Anne G. Sabo

    Catching up on the blogs I follow; this is a powerful post! We are sisters in a culture that wants us to hate our bodies; you are right. Wish I had seen this in time to see the exhibit. Thank you for sharing.


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