For centuries, women have been pressured to meet changing standards of beauty. There are billion-dollar industries built on how women can look more beautiful through make up, dieting, hair products and anti-aging treatments. From birth, we as women receive an onslaught of messaging that beauty is not within but what's on the outside.
More recently, women have been fighting back through the body positivity movement. This crusade encourages the social acceptance of different body types that are not often seen on billboards or in fashion ads. This is shown through the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and Lane Bryant's "I'm No Angel" initiative. These companies have created advertisements showing what real women look like, subsequently, inspiring a new generation of girls to believe they too are beautiful.
Though wonderful in their intentions, the body positivity movement is not inclusive of all women. Women living with disabilities are rarely included in these campaigns and are often invisible to the rest of the world. This unintentional erasure excludes a large number of women struggling to view themselves as beautiful and find their place in an industry that often ignores them.
The disabled community is responding to this by creating spaces to highlight their own unique beauty. This is most exemplified in the Bold Beauty Project, which is an innovative visual arts project that showcases 20 women living with various disabilities. The Bold Beauty Project began as 2006 photography exhibit called Uncensored Life: Raw Beauty. Shelly Baer, who has a visible disability, and Vanessa Silberman launched this thought-provoking exhibition because, "it seemed the perfect artistic medium, as the portrayal of disabled women has been minimally celebrated in the visual arts and mainstream media."
This year, the collective has created DC Bold Beauty that features women with disabilities as they boldly face the photographer's lens, and through the process, they uncover their beauty, sensuality and strength. However, this is more than just an art show. Dually, it will serve as a fundraiser for United Cerebral Palsy--a nonprofit organization that educates advocates and provides support services to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities.
Bold Beauty is changing the standard of beauty and you can join in this effort during the exhibition on October 10th in Washington, DC. For more information about the initiative and upcoming event please visit their website.