“Growing up, the shame of my female body penetrated my everyday life. I was taught that my body was a curse, that my body was inherently wrong. The process of undoing this kind of learned schema has taken years, and it is still something I struggle with to this day. I was so pleased to participate in this project because I believe that many women share this underlying shame and over-sexualization of the female body, and to me this project plays an active part in breaking down these learned roles of what we as women are supposed to fit into, and instead shows us as the unique individuals we all are.”
"As an American woman with Vietnamese heritage, I was interested in showing myself in a pose normally construed as vulnerable - appearing nude under the flag of the country that is supposed to be my protector. The idea of this was to diminish the objectivity of Asian-ness and the exoticism of the Orient that is ingrained in western societies and something I have personally experienced from all kinds of men (and some women) living in Brooklyn and my travels in other parts of the US and Europe.
After the first shot we took, a woman approached us and asked what we were doing. Courtney told her we were shooting a photo for a women's empowerment series. She then chastised us that I'd better cover myself up because some construction workers had spotted us from a rooftop and were taking photographs with their phones. I told her I had nothing to be ashamed of and that I was indeed wearing something under the flag and didn't need to cover up. The irony of our encounter with the woman and what we were trying to capture in the photo juxtaposed with the reality of discomfort and vulnerability in a public vs. private space encouraged us even more to create this art.
I believe it is important to educate by allowing ideas, art, and conversation on women's empowerment to flow. I wish we could have spent more time talking to the woman, but it was a good reality check about how pervasive and enforced traditional gender roles are in our society. If a man had been doing the same thing, it would have been conceived as harmless and in good fun, but a woman is cautioned and victimized immediately."
"When I first starting speaking to Courtney about her project, what I found most compelling was the idea of the explicit and implicit obligations, expectations, and subjugations that you feel throughout your life as a woman that impact who you are, how you see yourself, and how you are perceived in the world. For me, one of the most overt and effective defenses against these external forces has been raising my dog, Rosie. In addition to being fiercely protective and loyal, the way that she loves and trusts me without reservation has empowered me to love myself more freely and expect more from the people who don't. Training her and watching her learn from me has helped me see myself more clearly--for my strengths and weakness, beauty and imperfections, triumphs and missteps--and helped me to accept the full picture with as much pride, acceptance, and grace as I can."
“When I was a little girl, around 6, my mother and I were in the checkout line at a store and the cashier looked to my mother and said, ‘Your daughter is so beautiful’ to which my mother responded, ‘yes, and she is very smart, too.’”
“For a long time, I accepted the idea that women should, as a default, be constantly afraid of criticism--or far, far worse--as an inevitable reality. But as I get older and see the cycle continue, I've realized I'm not willing to sit back and let this fear be our "normal." Whether it's baring my long legs without shame or being unapologetic when I don't feel like smiling on command, these small actions are my slow but determined steps toward shaping a society that celebrates what makes us unique--and uniquely feminine.”
“My sexuality had long been tied up, since puberty, or before, in performance - achieving desire in a man through my posture, my dress, my actions. I've begun the process of reclaiming my sexuality, of defining that part of me within myself instead of outside of it. It makes me feel strong to do and say the things that make me feel sexy and powerful, with that in itself, and not the desire of another, being its own goal.”