All images above courtesy of The Motherhood Project (Photographer: Natalie Purslow)
Ashayla Webster is the President of a Perth based charity called “Fearless Incorporated”. This group have just finished working on a book called “The Motherhood Project”, in which amazing women share their pregnancy, motherhood, mental health, and body image stories, in the hope that their experiences may help others. All the women involved vary in ages, ethnicity, sexual orientation, backgrounds and body types, but they are all mothers who have volunteered to share their personal heart warming and heart breaking experiences. I’ve asked Ashayla a few questions about this amazing project.
1. Fearless Inc is a non profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness for mental health, body image and gender identity issues by concentrating on the preventative ” and breaking “…down stigmas which create these issues in the first place.” How do you think your most recent project ‘The Motherhood Project’ achieves this?
As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. When we know our bodies and what they’re capable of, what will happen to them and what we can have control over, the shock of these events occurring is greatly diminished. It is my hope that any woman, regardless of where she currently finds herself in life, will find a story in this book that she can relate to, find answers to the questions she seeks or simply learn something new. Sharing stories and opening the doors to conversations that were once thought taboo, are ways to break down stigmas and prevent feelings of loneliness and inadequacy. Everyone wants to know that they are not alone.
2. What prompted the idea to start the Motherhood Project?
The idea for the Motherhood Project came from a personal project I completed a few years ago. When I hit my twenties, social media was blasted with images of “real women”. There was a huge push for “real women” to be represented. This was wonderful, however, it led to the discouragement of other women, women not considered “real” by this new standard. I was shocked and upset to find that my body, a body I had spent years hating and had only just come to like, was considered to be ugly by society. Eventually that hurt became fiery determination and “Proud Member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee” was born. It was this book, that dived into the body image issues small breasted women face, that funded the creation of Fearless Inc. Whilst creating this book, a few of the women involved were mother’s, the changes their bodies and minds went through was dramatic and I wanted to explore this further. As “Proud Member of the Itty Bitty Titty Committee” was launched, my parents were going through a divorce and my mother’s self-esteem plummeted. It seemed like the perfect time to create this book.
3. I remember body image being a huge topic when I was growing up in the 90’s. How do you think it has changed now and are we getting better at accepting ourselves as who we are? What are things we can do to help ourselves and our loved ones to have a more positive image about ourselves?
I was a child in the nineties. I developed body image issues in high school, when all the other girls were developing, but I didn’t. I don’t recall their being any support. With the prominence of social media in the 2000’s, I believe there may have been negative impacts on how we perceive our bodies, but that is another discussion entirely. Every day we are bombarded with images of perfect people and perfect lives and this can make accepting ourselves very difficult, but I have also seen a trend of truth emerge. People seem happier to share their desires, secrets and fears via social media. For the fight to accept ourselves, this positive step forward as it opens discussions. My top piece of advice to help oneself and loved ones is to be honest and reserve judgement.
4. Do you think the media portrays a very different view and expectation of an image that mothers should be aspiring to as opposed to the reality? i.e. celebrity culture. Is this truly aspirational and we should celebrate these images?
I think we should celebrate every mother. It’s the toughest job in the world. Celebrity mothers are still working mums. The troubles they face may not be the same as a non-celebrity mother, but they still have them, just in a bright spotlight with the world judging them. Comparing self to these women is ridiculous. No woman should compare herself to any other. No woman should feel the right to judge another.
5. There is a quite a diverse range of mothers represented in this book. What was the process of choosing them all and encouraging them to pose naked?
Finding mothers to participate was surprisingly easy. I put my wishes for the book out into the world, and these women applied. There was no process of choosing the women to be involved, if they wanted to be and turned up to their assigned time with the photographer or submitted their story, they were in. I wanted this diversity and the reality of the variety of women out there to be at the very forefront of this book. Every person has a story.
Find out more about The Motherhood Project here: