Category: Arab Documentary Photography Program
Beautiful plastic doll, how I envy you. Your skin so clear and always so smooth. Your body knows no flab and dark rings never find your eyes. You’re more beautiful than me, than my mother, than my sister, than all the women on my street. I want to trade places with you. Take my flabby body and give me the beauty of your soft plastic.
– Ghada Khalifa
“Be careful, you are a girl” these demeaning words summarize my life and my relationship with my body. Ever since I was young girl I was constantly reminded by mother that being a girl is a liability and burden. I need to be extra careful of my actions. I cannot stay out late - what people would say about me? Even when I got divorced I was reminded by my family: “Be careful, you are a girl.” We live all our life guarding our body. You have to get married before you become too old to bear children. You have to preserve your figure to stay desirable. You have to you have to... Entrapped in this body I resented it. I wished to lose it, to live without it.
It started as a private group on Facebook. Together, a group of women share our feelings and personal stories. Then we meet in person. We discuss what it means to be living with all these pressures, simply because we own this body. We talk about how each of us discovered what it means to be a woman. Faces turn red, tears start rolling and at that moment of openness a magical bond between us is born. From their words I take some time and start visualizing how the image of their story might look. After I photographed the women, I noticed a change. Two women decide to show their faces in the images, something they previously resisted. They do not care about the consequences; they feel liberated.
Storytelling is a way to heal, to free ourselves from the weight of experience. The women who found the strength to stand and speak in front of the camera, this is the real gift. It gives me the strength to photograph and I hope it will give other women who are still silent the strength to open the door.