Deconstructing Beauty Standards: “BOSS Magazine” Explores Self-Love through Art Exhibits

Black and white nude photographs lined the Underwood Room’s walls at the art show sponsored by “BOSS Magazine” last Friday, depicting individual and group shots of student models. In the individual shots, the female models stared directly at the camera, with either their hair or hands covering their breasts. In the group shots, the models were visibly more comfortable with their bodies, laughing with playful expressions on their faces.

Held in the Underwood Room, this photography series by Christian Cruz ’16, a photographer for “BOSS,” and Lizzie McGonagle ’16, an art editor for “BOSS,” was one of the two art displays featured at the show. The event also included an index card mosaic project by Maddie Comer ’16 and an open-mic where attendees were able to recite poetry.

“This event is about reclaiming our bodies, in a lot of ways,” said Adrienne Allen ’16, Co-Founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the feminist magazine. “We were talking as a board, and we were just like, ‘We’re so sick of our bodies being sexualized without our consent, of talk of dress codes, of talk of everything.’ We were all just really tired of that, so Cruz and [McGonagle] actually had the main idea [for the event]… They just wanted to celebrate our bodies on campus a little bit, celebrate our diversity, celebrate our differences and our beauty without it being stigmatized or sexualized.”

“BOSS” is Andover’s first intersectional feminist magazine and was founded in 2014 by twin-sisters Adrienne Allen and Alessandra Allen ’16. The magazine acts as a platform for discussion, information, and reflection regarding feminism and equity.

“I think that the ideas behind feminism, promoting equity and promoting love for yourself and for others and appreciating those differences is incredibly important, and I think that ‘BOSS Magazine’ offers a platform for students to express their ideas about gender, about race, about campus politics, about identity politics. But I also think that it is a space for people to use it as a resource and to understand that there are people who want to talk about these things, who think about these things, who work hard to try to understand these things and that there is a community of people out there for everyone and who are willing to do this,” said McGonagle.

In their photography collection, Cruz and McGonagle set out to convey the concept of beauty standards and self-image through photographs. According to Cruz, he and McGonagle strived to find models who were comfortable in their skin and would be willing to shoot nude. He emphasized the act of collaboration between him and the models.

“I think society places an unrealistic ideal of what beauty is, and so, through my photographs, a lot of my models aren’t society’s perfect image of beauty,” said Cruz. “I think we were just trying to convey self-love, and that was a huge theme throughout the artwork. Just being comfortable in your own skin, even if you’re not at a place where you’re completely happy with your body but working towards that. I think everyone has complicated relationships with their body, but it’s all about how do we work towards combating those negative images.”

On the other side of the room, the question “What is womanhood?” hung a wall, with a collage of colored notecards answering the question surrounding it. Originally a project for her Gender Studies class, Comer created this project by approaching several students and asking them to draw or write a phrase or word responding to the question.

“I just thought that [my project] is an important commentary and there’s so many things that are imposed upon women and I wanted to actually answer some questions to ‘What is Womanhood?’ I thought it spoke to the variety of womanhood, the fact that no one had the same answer,” said Comer.