Andrea Mary Marshall’s Toxic Women Female Archetypes AOC Private Studio
Dear Bro. Dennis,
When I read your words in this recent post ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’:
The second greatest commandment from the Christian perspective is to, “love your neighbor as yourself”. Authentic love requires the humility to see our selves in the manner in which God has created us. It is essential to identify our individual beauty, viability, goodness and worth in order to see our selves as a reflection of God’s love.
… they resonate deeply with me. And while no one — including me — can speak for all women, those voices and suppressed thoughts from our readers and millions more women are percolating in my unconscious.
Your own perspective on God’s love is soothing and confidence-building for women. But as I told you, my own experience with learning to love myself was a journey that many — including my own mother — would label an ultimate act of narcissism.
Narcissism in the Search for Self Love
For every enlightened person like yourself, I wonder how many other people would condemn my self-photography project. In my case, the images became an ultimate act of self-exploration and understanding triggered by my friend Bill. Sharing photos of me completely clothed and snapped in front of the bathroom mirror, he asked me about cropping my images.
At first I denied the cropping (I wasn’t taking the time to do any retouching, which I can also do in Photoshop.) But when he then said “Anne, images don’t come out of your camera 3.7” by 5.2”,” there was no place to hide. His next words cemented our connection to each other for many years: “Anne, I’m no psychiatrist, but it seems to me that if you don’t like something about yourself, you just chop it off. Aren’t you symbolically cutting yourself into little pieces? It’s a form of dismemberment.”
His words were scorching. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I confronted the reality that after all my years of success, accomplishment, and therapy to learn to love myself — my reality was that I loathed the woman in the mirror. Why? Yes, the years of intense physical and emotional abuse; yes, being judged and denied communion by the priest after my sexual assault. Yes, hearing my mother say that if the assault even happened — since my attacker insisted that I made the whole thing up — I caused it, because I must always be the center of attention.
Standing in front of the mirror, I saw decadence and shame over my sexuality, which at any weight and age has always by part of my persona. For all your words of wisdom about treating our bodies as temples, which we have agreed will be the focus on my post, I loathed mine.
My body was decadent and disgusting; and I grieved that such an intelligent mind could be attached to such an imperfect, polluted physical form. The physical blows of physical abuse recede from memory long before the words. When abuse attacks every aspect of our physical selves, those are the words that confront us in the mirror.
The Lens Doesn’t Lie, or Does It?
It was at this moment, early in 2004 that I picked up the camera and launched a deep exploration of myself, one that included every aspect of my physicality. I snapped the lens continuously for months — clothes on and clothes off — until I made peace with the corporeal nature of the woman I faced every morning.Daily exercise became part of my life and the pounds melted away.
Almost on cue, Andrea Mary Marshall’s toxic women female archetypes art works appeared this morning. I was so obsessed with them that I left the water boiling on the stove for an hour and nearly scorched my tea pot. Her images remind us of the many conflicting messages that women receive from brands, marketing, moms, community leaders, dads, religious figures, teachers, husbands, lovers … the nonstop list of inputs determining who and what women are supposed to be.
Nowhere do these images say “It is essential to identify our individual beauty, viability, goodness and worth in order to see our selves as a reflection of God’s love.” These images are all about making us into something else, improving women with the right hand while condemning us for being vain with the left.
It’s easy for you and I to tell women to find their own inner beauty and to believe that God loves us and our corporeal nature, that we have beautiful soft skin and smiles for a reason. The reality is that the messages condemning female physicality and beauty come not only in the form of commercialism and parental child abuse or bullying at school. Those messages come from many of our religious institutions.