The ‘Whose Body Is It?’ project aims at gathering artwork from all women. We want to raise our voices on the impact that male violence and the patriarchal society have on our bodies.
The submissions for the project have been truly amazing and we are grateful for everyone who shared their art and participated in the project.
We are still accepting submissions, so please email us here if you want to submit your work.
The artists are:
Emily Brooks Millar
Stella Hervey Birrell
Laura Jane Round
Please find all the artworks from the artists above:
Sick of Scanning, Debby Murphy
I was young, feared not, hair flying
cartwheels, arms flung wide, mouth open
some watched behind low lashes
turned to look at my skin's flashes.
"Take care! keep your magic hidden from another"
a mantra passed on from my Mother.
I carry my car keys like a dagger
head held up, exaggerated swagger
Sick of scanning.
Listening for the sounds of feet
for those who would hunt me for my meat
This is for you, who, like me,
journey to those places forbidden us alone
the empty car park, quiet walk, the twighlight zone
sick of scanning
sick of planning
Watching friends walk to their car
let daughters stray, but not too far
texting when we reach our homes
no weapons, only mobile phones
asking to be left alone
but scent gets left
our cover's blown
Is this what those who fought before?
for freedom, hope and so much more?
would marvel in this modern place
that "scanning's" still our saving grace.
Careless with a Biro, Sharon Colpman
I don't like tattoos,
They're just not for me.
So imagine my disgust
When you said I'd have three.
"You'll be proud of them,
Treatment with three stars.
A cancer badge of honour
Along with your two scars.
Well, first I lost my lump,
And then I lost my hair.
Starting to lose my identity,
It really wasn't fair.
When I blew my top,
You jumped up in alarm.
"You will have me in striped pyjamas
And tattoo numbers on my arms."
"The tattoos are very small,
Freckle sized, won't be seen.
And if you do not have them,
How will we line up the machine."
Radiotherapy day came
And I was reminded of school,
With compass and with ink
True Love always Tats were cool.
You inkily stabbed my chest
And said I was ready to go.
Who knew they would be blue,
Like I was careless with a biro.
For an Old Bird by Sharon Colpman
Jade: In her late teens to early twenties. She is very body conscious and sensitive to other peoples comments about her
June: In her 60’s she loves fashion but is aware fashion isn’t in love with the larger lady.
An answering monologue: Jade is in a communal dressing room and is looking in the mirror talking to herself. She is about to try on a large pile of clothes.
Jade: Communal changing rooms in clothes shops, just why? I don’t want other women looking at my body, making comments, behind their hands.(pause while she squeezes her boobs together in the mirror) I’m going to save up for a boob job. I’m really conscious of how small they are. I think one is definitely bigger than the other. When they first started to grow my brothers were really cruel. They’ve always teased me. They nicknamed me treasure. I thought it was sweet until I found out it was because they thought I had a sunken chest. “Do you need a grid reference to find those tits of yours?” Yeah, they thought it was hysterical. I didn’t.
June is about to enter the changing room and has one dress over her arm
June: I love the fashion in here. Of course it’s not designed for old birds like me. The girl behind the counter with the resting bitch face is looking at me as if I’m a bad smell. It’s a free country. If I want to marvel at the latest trends and laugh at the new slogan T-Shirts then I bloody well will. (sigh) Nothing is in my size. Through the years I’ve been pushed into frumpier and frumpier shops as my waistline expanded. I guess you’re wondering that despite all this, I’m smiling. I’ve only gone and found the perfect dress and it’s in my size too. It must have slipped past the fat police on the counter. Gold sequins, rounded neckline and just on the knee. I don’t like dresses right up to your neck, they make my head look like a football. I do hope it fits
June enters the dressing room. Jade has changed into a black dress but she is unhappy with it.
Jade: I thought this would be my perfect little black number but it shows up all my fat around my waist. Whale blubber! How is it that my legs and arms are stick thin but my stomach is so flabby? (She pinches a small amount of fat on her stomach.) I’ve heard tummy tucks are quite dangerous. I’ll join a gym when I’m earning. Tut, an old woman has walked in. She keeps looking over. I bet she thinks I’m repulsive.
June is making a corner of the room, her own.
June: I’m not keen on communal dressing rooms. I thought they’d gone out with the arch. I’m good at keeping discrete though. All those group showers after PE at school, you learnt to keep yourself to yourself. There’s only one other person anyway, a young woman, moaning about every slight flaw on her beautiful young body. I used to be just like her, never happy with what I saw in the mirror. I look back at photos of myself and think how stunning I was. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and give that young lady a piece of my mind. I’m proud of my body. We’ve been through a lot together. You can’t keep the plastic on like a new sofa, although some women think they have to insert plastic into the bits they don’t like. Right fingers crossed that this dress fits.
Jade has changed into a mini skirt.
Jade: I used to like wearing short skirts. It made men look. I could feel their eyes following me up the street. My ex-boyfriend didn’t like other men looking at me. I told him that my legs were my best assist. He laughed, I mean really laughed and said that my knees looked like knots in string. I slapped him one. That was it for us, but that comment, that one comment has made me worry that those men were only looking because my legs looked so ridiculous. Knobbly knees, not much you can do about them except cover them up.
June is in her full length under-slip
June: No one warns you, when you get pregnant, just how much of a hammering your body gets. I had two really big babies. I didn’t get stretch marks, rubbed cream into my burdened belly each night. The pressure of carrying them did give me varicose veins though. They look like the road map of spaghetti junction on Google Earth. After I’d breast fed both very hungry babies, well they went south. Most of me is going south now, gravity getting its revenge from when my body defied it.
Jade is wearing a dress which she is yet to zip up.
Jade: Oh bless her. The old lady is trying that dress on. She’s being all modest and making sure I don’t see her. She’s got a good set of pins for an old girl. I bet she was beautiful when she was young, amazing bone structure. I wish I had cheek bones like that. My Mum has good cheek bones. She would never wear a dress like that though. She went all leggings and big long tops. When I was going through puberty, she was going through the menopause. She said odd things to me like “You are the sun and I am the sad old moon.” She became a Mum going through the motions; washing clothes, making sandwiches, driving me to appointments but the emotional Mum, the one that looked on in pride and said “You look so pretty,” disappeared. I’m only just getting her back. Watching me about to start out in the world must have made her look at her own life, like it was crawling into its final destination. Mums got lovely lips, I take after Dad, thin lips. (She does a trout pout in the mirror) I could do with some lip fillers, not so big that you look like one of those sucker fish that clean the fish tank, just a bit plumper. I don’t know what those women are thinking when they take surgery too far. There’s an illness apparently, body dis, er dismoph er (Gets out phone and looks it up) dismorpia, that’s it. I wonder if I’m coming down with it.
June has put the dress on but it is left unzipped.
June: I had breast cancer ten years ago. It taught me to be kind to myself and to not give a damn about other people’s misplaced comments. I’ve stopped being harsh about the way I look. Obviously I still want to lose weight as being overweight doesn’t help your health. I’ve got a scar on the side of my left breast where they removed the lump and one under my arm where they took the lymph nodes. After all the treatment had taken its toll, and with my hair growing back a weird colour and curly, I knew I would never be the same again. I really am a different person. I miss the old, more carefree me. The dress is on but, damn, the zip is at the back.
Both women share the scene
Jade: Oh damn I’ve got the zip stuck in some material.
Both women start flailing about, Jade trying to take her dress off and June trying to zip her dress up.
June: It doesn’t matter how old you are, dress zips are a bloody nightmare. Your dress looks lovely by the way.
Jade: It would be if it hadn’t imprisoned me for life. The zip is stuck on the way down, can you help me.
June: Yes, if you wouldn’t mind zipping mine up.
Jade : Sure.
June: Oh I see, it’s trapped right here. You have such a lovely figure. This one really suits you.
Jade: You’re kidding, aren’t you?
June: Keep still, nearly got it. There, you are free to go madam!
Jade: Thank you very much police constable.
June: Now mine.
Jade: I wish my Mum would wear dresses like this. You look boss.
June: Not too short?
Jade: No! You’ve got great legs/
June: /For an old bird!
Jade: Well I hope mine are that good at your age. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
June: Listen to yourself, I could hear you criticising everything from your cheeks down to your knees. You are just like I was at your age. Now I can’t go back and shout at myself for being so critical but I can tell you what a beautiful young lady you are. You need to hold that head high.
Jade: Yes but...
June: Confidence makes you look more beautiful than any amount of plastic surgery; shoulders back, chest out and a big F you to anyone who tries to put you down. They say nasty things to deflect how bad they feel about themselves.
Jade: I’d still murder for your cheek bones though.
June: And I’d love to still have a figure like yours but thems the cards we’re dealt. (Pause) Ah, this lovely dress, where would I wear it?
Jade: Buy the dress, you’ll regret it if you don’t.
June: Yes, I shall. That will upset the fat police on the counter outside.
Jade unzips June’s the dress.
June: Nice to meet you...ere
Jade: And thank you. I’ll try it, the chest out thing. You talk a lot of sense/
June: /for an old bird.
Quill, Megan Reilly
I cannot give you
what your mother could not
I cannot feed you in the way your mother
In the way that she should have
To treat me well
I used to feel sorry
For your hurt
I was the cup for your angst
Did not realise
Your quill wrote your anguish
Was a grounds for you
Exact your revenge
Sandbox for you
Explore your own trauma
Was a block for you
Build up my pain
That I gave you the privelege
Of insight into me
I now know
I now know
I now know
Silence, Stella Harvey Birell
My precious stones
just transparent flint glass, now,
lying with the ripped, waned moons of fingernails.
Beating over it all,
Heatwave, borne of toxins
corroding a planet to the marrow of its weather.
So small now
I can barely breathe. I draw
blinds, hide under covers, keep the
children locked –
a prison of pillows and steel, plastic and bile.
No body, Amy Redsull
I said no
Yet you persevered
You're not on me now
My skin is clean
I said no
"This isn't rape,
Why are you so emotional"
I needed love and strength
You gave me nothing at all.
Through the fights and violence
Both oral and threatening
The aura around you wasn't great
Yet you still drew me in
Stuck like flies around shit
I regret breathing in the oxygen around you
You're not in my life and I'm all the better for it
But Mark my words
Disrespects my body's consent
Of a Delicate Constitution, Laura Jane Round
Are you hearing what I’m hearing
It’s like someone took a mallet to me
Brought down a gavel of legacy
My arms desperately clinging on to a hammer
And they say the woman is delicate?
There’s blood under my fingernails
There’s white creeping on my tonsils, sickness
It hurts to speak up
The low-grade fever I get around you
And I’m blind to see with the pus in my eyes, discombobulated
They say the woman is delicate
Yet they do not take care of me
So, what if I’m a mermaid?
A stream of untamed hair
trickling over full breasts –
Romanesque and Rubenesque.
Showing off sparkling scales
in eye-catching iridescent colours,
and my couplet tails that flirt.
I am unafraid of great depths
and I outride every rough tide,
escaping the plastics and pollution,
and the proclaimed plenty of fish.
I found still waters where you are.
My heart is tangled in your net,
barnacled though it may be.
I have squeezed myself into constraints,
the cold porcelain of your bathtub;
never dropping my Avalon airs.
My voice drowned out by the running tap,
I will soap myself into sea foam,
scrub away the last trace of salt.
And I’ll even let you watch.
When you’ve used up your wishes,
I’ll simply drip down the drain.
You’ll move onto a Hellenistic beauty,
always preferring the unknowable Siren.
21st Century Thinking
That’s what happens to little girls.
Boys will be boys.
Well, he is a boisterous little boy.
You need to learn to stand up for yourself.
How dare you lie?
You were wearing a skirt.
Had you been drinking?
You’re not pretty enough for it to be true.
You don’t seem sad enough,
I’d cry everyday if I were you.
Was it as bad as it is in the movies?
In broad daylight? Really?
It was an accident.
Had you upset him beforehand?
Stress can cause these things to happen.
It was your fault for making him unhappy.
Why didn’t you fight him?
I don’t think he’d have any reason to do that.
Her Own Muse
She lives in self-imposed isolation,
ink oozing from her fingers.
Her paintings wallpaper the place,
inner thoughts exposed in oils;
an ecstatic expression of hope
never uttered through swollen lips.
Finding contentment in Kahlo,
she is a self-sufficient island.
She tries to recreate herself endlessly,
self portraits eyeing her from walls –
her beauty too intangible to capture.
She tries to elude your pedestal.
Heart in my pelvis and my throat in your hand,
pulse bobbing against its stone wall.
Now I’m floating along the streets
wondering if I’ll re-discover my grip.
A moment out of lockdown, those four walls,
but I’m more imprisoned than ever.
The blood dries to autumnal brown,
a fading Neanderthal’s permanent painting;
I regress to the dark safety of my cave.
Your whispered demands echo,
amplified in every cramped corner.
I rock myself to nightmare in this iron maiden.
We partnered with We Want Women and Not Your Babe Collective to create a ‘Whose Body Is It?’ event in Liverpool on 5th, September 2021. This day explored women’s relationships to their bodies and reclaiming their power through original artwork, wellness, workshops, and performances.
During the event, we raised money for RASA Merseyside - women's counseling services for victims of rape and domestic abuse.
If you need are affected by these topics and need help, please contact Rasa Liverpool.
‘Whose Body Is It?’ - Project & Event
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