Real Moms Speak Out About Being Judged in Raw Photo Series

Genny Glassman | Jul 27, 2017 Being a Mom
Real Moms Speak Out About Being Judged in Raw Photo Series

real mom photo series
Natalie McCain Photography

Photographer Natalie McCain makes work that is both inspiring and crushing. This Florida mother of two has made headlines in the past for the "Honest Body Project," a series of portraits of real mothers' bodies that aren't photoshopped, airbrushed, or perfect. But in her latest series, "Speaking Out: A Series on Judgment and Being Shamed," it's the heartbreaking and real stories behind the photographs that are getting the attention.

Speaking with CafeMom, McCain said of the project, "One of the most important things I have learned since beginning of 'The Honest Body Project' is that you truly never know what someone else has been through." 

Some women in the series were shamed for giving birth while overweight; others, for being too skinny. The most common story, however, is that each of these women was told by somebody else that she wasn't good enough.

  • 'It's Because You Have Diabetes, Right?'

    1

    McCain's series features raw photos of women along with a story -- in their words -- about a time they were shamed. This mom's son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which led many people to make horrible accusations based on her body size.

    As she explains to McCain, "The questionable looks when I tell someone that he's diabetic, comments like, 'Well it's because you have diabetes, right?' No, I do not. 'But you had to have had at least gestational diabetes...' No, I did not. Not with any of my children. 'So, what did you eat while you were pregnant for this to happen?' Nothing I ate caused this."

  • There Is No Such Thing as Perfect

    2

    Despite the rude comments, this mom wants people to know she is strong and determined to do the best for her son, regardless of other people's opinions.

    "Even if you do everything right, breastfeed, formula feed, skinny or not, work or stay home, bad things can still happen," she says. "We need to support each other no matter what our size is, no matter the circumstances."

  • Parenting Is Hard Enough Without Being Shamed

    3

    McCain says stories like this mom's are the reason she started this project -- because she knows mom-shaming is universal, and she wants people to think twice before they point fingers.

    "I know all moms have felt judged at one point, either for their bodies, lifestyles, etc.," she tells CafeMom. "Parenting is hard enough without being shamed. I hoped that this series would inspire women to think twice before judging others."

    More from CafeMom: Photographer Transforms Newborns into Tiny Disney Princesses & the Results are Magical

  • We All Have Different Stories

    4

    McCain's project was completed with the help of volunteers she found via an open casting call she posted on Facebook, which brought in a wide net of stories and experiences.

    For the mom-of-two pictured here, her insecurity came from others' judgment of her sexual orientation.

  • Getting Over Her Self-Judgement

    5

    She tells McCain, "When I first started dating my now-fiancée, I wouldn't even hold her hand in public. I was too worried about who was watching. Who was whispering or saying things behind my back. I would get so nervous. It took me years to get over it."

  • Love Is Love

    6

    "[What] I wish I could say to all the people who have judged me in the past is to look past the gender," the mom adds. "Look past what is normal to society. Look at the love. Look at the happiness. Look at our family. This is 2017 and there is a new normal."

    More from CafeMom: 10 Moms Confess How They Really Feel About Little Girls Wearing Bikinis

  • The First and Last

    7

    McCain's project tackles shaming in all forms, including the incredible pressure we put on women to have children. This mom tells McCain she's done having kids -- but when other people find out about her choice, their reactions are infuriating.

     "'Is he your first?' 'Yes, and our last.' Cue the 'Yeah right' look ... or my favorite line, 'Oh, you’ll change your mind when he is older.' No. I will not change my mind. I have a disabled husband who is medically retired from the US Army. I already take care of two people every day," she explains to McCain.

  • It Isn't Selfish to Value Yourself

    8

    Despite the negative reactions, this mom tells McCain she is confident she's making the right choice:

    "My boy will be just fine. He is loved beyond belief. He has cousins. He will have classmates. He will have friends. My husband and I won't have to struggle nearly as much to pay for tumble class, or daycare, or soccer camp, or whatever it is that he excels at in the future because we will be able to nurture his talents and gifts fully, without sacrificing ... Financial stability is important for my family. Being a family of three secures that for us."

  • A Gregarious, Smart Person

    9

    In case you were wondering if feeling judged is universal, take this grandmother, whose "big butt" brought her unwanted mockery. In her testimonial, she tells McCain:

    "I am a gregarious, smart, and funny person. I also have a really big butt. I didn't know I had a really big butt until I was in fifth grade, and that's when several other girls made sure they told me I had a big butt; every day, several times a day, as meanly as possible."

  • Under Pressure

    10

    The grandmother also reveals to McCain how her insecurities led her to consider extreme measures: 

    "I tried to hide it; big shirts, long, full skirts, never walk away from someone, dark pants, stuff like that. I even talked to a plastic surgeon when I was in college about reducing the size. Imagine my surprise when he said, no, he could not; he would have to remove muscle, and that doesn't lead to being able to walk well."

    More from CafeMom: Mom Issues a Heartbreaking Plea to Parents: Teach Your Kids About Differences

  • Thank You, Sir Mix-a-Lot

    11

    Interestingly, things took a positive turn for this woman when a little song praising the merits of the backside started blowing up the charts. She says:

    "Right about the time I had come to the conclusion that I was grossly deformed, Sir Mix-a-Lot came out with my theme song, 'Baby Got Back,' and I realized that maybe my butt wasn't so gross after all. Suddenly, the big butt was the big thing to have! Butt not big enough? You can by underwear with extra butt cheeks added in! I was stunned! More songs followed, Queen's 'Fat Bottomed Girls' got lots of airplay, movies hired actresses with booties, and jeans now fit."

  • The Crushing Weight of Being 'Too Thin'

    12

    Sir Mix-a-Lot can't fix everyone's problems, though. For this subject, her insecurity came from the exact opposite problem: being very thin. And while she knows some women value thinness and believe she's lucky, their praise makes her deeply uncomfortable.

  • There Isn't One Image of Motherhood

    13

    "For as long as I can remember I have been told I have no butt and no boobs, no curves at all. I'm just skinny," this mom confesses to McCain. "Some people didn't realize the impact those words had, some even thought calling me skinny was a compliment. Worst of all were the people who said it with the intention of insulting me. All along I wanted the curves that other girls had, and all along many of them were cursing their curves and longing to be 'skinny.'"

    More from CafeMom: This Mom Recreated Shots of Hilda, the Original Plus-Size Pinup & It's Glorious 

  • Never Being Good Enough Is Great

    14

    Though the road hasn't been easy, the mom says she's learned a major lesson on the road to self-acceptance:

    "No matter what, none of us will never good enough for this world. The grass isn't ever greener. You're either too skinny or too fat; your butt is too big or it's too small; your breasts are too big or not perky enough or you're flat chested; you're too muscular and look 'manly' because you work out or you're fat and lazy because you don't work out. You will never be good enough for them so we have to be good enough for ourselves."

  • Everyone Is Beautiful

    15

    McCain takes every woman's story to heart and knows their words can make a huge impact on how woman feel about themselves. She tells CafeMom, "These brave women are helping to normalize all body types and show that everyone is beautiful. The more society sees unedited bodies and all body types, the more normal it will become. The women in my project believe in this message and want their portraits and stories to help others."

  • A Work in Progress

    16

    Still, each of the moms in McCain's project -- and McCain herself -- recognize that self-love is a journey, and we are all works in progress. For McCain's final subject, finding a place of acceptance hasn't been easy.

    "Pregnancy gifted my body with a 52-pound weight gain along with deflated, saggy breasts that I often equate to flapjacks, and a serious chip on my shoulders about not staying dedicated to health and fitness during pregnancy," she tells McCain. "I was stuck in this world of comparison. I compared my weight to other women's weights. I compared what I ate and even the vitamins I took to other pregnant women."

  • My Story Is Ongoing

    17

    The mom says she battled postpartum depression and intense body hatred for a long time after her son was born. And, even today, she still struggles.

    "Even after recently losing 25 pounds, I still cannot see a beautiful woman in the mirror," she reveals, "but I never struggle finding the beauty in other women and often am envious of it; often saying that all women are amazing and should be appreciated and respected no matter their sizes or shapes. My story is ongoing, because I am a self-body-shamer working to dig out of the deep abyss that is body shaming." 

    More from CafeMom: Mom's Bikini Transformation Will Give You More Than Just 'Body Goals'

  • No More Shame

    18

    Because her subjects come from all walks of life and various stages in their journey to self-acceptance, McCain says she wants her project to inspire people to talk more openly about the ways we judge women and mothers.

    "I receive so many messages from women; often times they are sharing things they've never shared with another person," she tells CafeMom. "I felt compelled to create a series where women were speaking out about being shamed in hopes that it would inspire others to do so in their personal lives."

    To see more of Natalie's work, you can visit thehonestbodyproject.com or pre-order her book available everywhere August 15.

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