International Women’s Day took place last Saturday, 8th March. So I have decided it is time to celebrate not only the women who have inspired us, but those who, in the upcoming year will go above and beyond to make a difference.
There is no doubt that posing and organising a naked photo-shoot takes guts. Having the images all over Facebook for your friends and enemies to see. Now that takes even more guts. Imagine doing all of the above after fighting and surviving breast cancer. Well, that’s a whole new kettle of fish.
That is exactly what Beth Whaanga decided to do last month. Diagnosed with cancer on her 32nd birthday, Beth realised she also possessed the BRCA2 gene, a mutation which puts her at increased risk of recurring breast and ovarian cancer in the future. After the undoubtedly difficult decision, Beth decided to undergo a double mastectomy and hysterectomy leaving her body ravaged by scar tissue. But instead of hiding her scars, she chose to speak out in order to help others affected by cancer.
She teamed up with friend and photographer Nadia Masot to photograph her post-surgery body in a series of portraits called ‘Under The Red Dress‘.
‘The aim of the shoot was to make women and men aware, cancer doesn’t discriminate between gender, race or age. It affects us all. Those of us who’ve been lucky enough to prevent their condition from continuing or occurring have a responsibility to make others aware’. To find the strength and courage after enduring such a disease is admirable. However, some would disagree.
Instead of being applauded for her bravery, over 100 of Beth’s closest friends deleted her from the social media sight overnight, with some even reporting the images to Facebook for being “inappropriate”. Here is evidence that it is not just the old and ugly that are berated for showing themselves, even the young and beautiful are discouraged from sharing their stories and insulted when they do so. If Whaanga is to tell us what has happened to her, what better canvas than her own body?
This shocking revelation, prompted a memory from my childhood. I am 10 years old shopping in Marks and Spencers with my mother. Three years previously, after being diagnosed with breast cancer my mum under went a mastectomy. After having to endure this surgery, she was left with a fake breast and a big knock to her confidence. Anyway, back to Marks and Spencers. My mother is a very free and secure person, seeing a top that takes her fancy, she instantly wips off her own to try the item on. Within moments a woman with her child comes over saying ‘Could you please put your top back on, I find it very offensive to look at’, seeing the crushing words fall onto my mum I was shocked, left with feelings of anger. How can some people be so ignorant?
However, their ignorance has not deterred Beth, it as made her even more determined to continue her campaign; ‘If the ‘Under The Red Dress’ project helps one man, woman or family deal with their battle with cancer, or helps one person in their preventative journey, then I’m very happy’ she explains.
More about Beth’s story can be found here: http://www.underthereddress.com/