When you think of Mormon women, you probably picture high necklines, minimal make-up, and knee-length skirts (at the very least). Something a little like this:
You probably don’t imagine that Mormon women – who have been a part of a religion, sometimes for their whole lives, that highly values modesty for women – would be baring it all for an edgy photography project.
But that’s exactly what over 30 Mormon women have done, in a project for Salt Lake City photographer Katrina Barker Anderson in Mormon Women Bare – in which she photographs Mormon women naked. Anderdon’s previous projects included a photographic series that tried to normalise breastfeeding in her community.
Anderson, who is a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, started her project Mormon Women Bare back in July – and was inspired by what she saw as the increasing emphasis placed upon the concept of ‘modesty’ in her community and faith.
Anderson says on her website that after hearing about young girls being shamed by their friends for not dressing “modestly” enough, an incident where a university student was chastised by a male classmate for wearing leggings, and another university student was not allowed to take a test because her jeans were “form fitting” – she knew she had to do something.
“After hearing these stories and others in 2012, I threw up my hands in exasperation,” Anderson writes. “I [didn’t] remember it being like this when I was a child and teen growing up in the church. Why has the modesty culture of the … church gotten so extreme and what can we do about it?”
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Anderson also explains her reasoning for wanting to photograph Mormon women naked:
Women around the world deal with objectification, body shame, and the burden of the male gaze. Mormon women have an added layer of complexity and heavy expectations: while being warned against becoming “walking pornography,” we also face immense pressure to be attractive and fit.
We must both attract and protect against male desire. Even though Mormonism teaches us our destiny is to become like our embodied Heavenly Parents, the hyper-focus on modesty leaves many of us feeling disconnected and ambivalent about our bodies.
Our sense of self can feel so eclipsed by the expectation to be a wife and mother that we no longer see our bodies as our own. Separated from our skin by layers of clothing, many Mormon women lose touch with the capabilities and power we innately possess. Mormon Women Bare seeks to empower women to reclaim our bodies.
We here at Mamamia particularly liked this bit:
Through photography and personal narratives, women are seen as beautiful, flawed, vulnerable and real. Women of different shapes, sizes, and ages demonstrate that bodies need not bring shame but can be owned, celebrated, and honored.
That’s a message we can all get behind.
Perhaps one of the most moving elements of the photographic series, is where the women Anderson photographs are given space to talk about their own experiences, fears and desires. You can read some of their statements here.
We think these photos of naked Mormon women are beautiful – do they challenge your ideas about Mormonism? Are you worried about the emphasis on ‘modesty’ in some communities, and the way that young women are judged on what they wear?