This Body is Worthy began the day I asked my incredibly talented photographer friend Mary Mathis to meet for coffee so we could discuss an idea I had. I had just finished my final year as an undergrad at the University of Iowa. I had lived 22 years in a body that society had told me time and time again needed to be fixed, hidden, or shoved aside. I was ready to change that.
The result of Mary and I’s first collaboration was a collection of photos that she took in my apartment, after I had had my friend write “THIS BODY IS WORTHY” across parts of my body that I am particularly self-conscious of: my back (which has a scar running from the top to the base, and is misshapen), my chest (which is barrel-shaped), and my feet (which curl under). I loved these so much that I wanted to bring the idea to the community.
We held our first workshop in October 2017. We invited anyone who felt that their bodies were outside of mainstream societal ideals to come, write a phrase on their body professing its worth, and have their photo taken. We also asked participants to write a statement about the phrase they chose and what the experience meant to them. Our Photo Gallery is an attempt to showcase the amazing pieces that came from that workshop.
Our hope is to continue doing workshops and continue to spread the message that all bodies are worthy, regardless of what they look like and what narratives they have been forced to live inside of.
T-shirts and More
After I had the honor to speak with fellow disability activists Maryangel Garcia-Ramos Guadiana, Emily Ladau, and Imani Barbarin at SXSW 2019, the four of us took photos in the This Body is Worthy shirts I had made and given to them. As the photos of us blew up on the Internet and I had so many people ask where they could get a shirt of their own, I decided to start selling t-shirts through Bonfire, and then Threadless.
Since the original launch, we've retired the plain text against solid colors, and now sell merchandise exclusively with designs from disabled artists. 100% of proceeds from sales are given to organizations and projects lead by disabled people, for disabled people (for some designs, a percentage also goes to the artist).