Elin och Terese.

Elin and Térese, Örebro, Sweden. PHOTO BY ELIN BERGE/MOMENT/INSTITUTE

I’m interested in how women’s bodies so easily become subjects of cultural warfare. Our bodies are simply not neutral, like men’s.

This is something that I’ve been thinking about a great deal while working with my projects Veils and Merely Breasts.

Veils was about what is sounds like – Swedish Muslim women’s relationship to their veils. I’d traveled around Sweden and taken their portraits and made interviews. And along the way I’d thought a lot about why people who didn’t even knew a single Muslim could be so certain that the veiled women were some sorry creatures who just had to be oppressed. The veil was a provoking thing in Sweden at the time, and still is. Was it the amount of fabric covering their bodies? Or was it just the fact that they WERE covering their bodies? Because on the contrary, many of the women I met were speaking about the veil in terms of freedom. They expressed how they felt liberated from normative and elusive beauty ideals, from judging gazes and from being sexual objects.

With this in mind I heard about the women from the network Bara Bröst on the radio who talked about their top-less actions at public bath houses, which of course were considered super provocative. And they were likewise speaking of their actions as something they wanted to gain freedom from.

Elin och Terese.

Frida, Pia and Liv, Malmö, Sweden. PHOTO BY ELIN BERGE/MOMENT/INSTITUTE

And I just thought that this was really interesting. Young women who use clothes as a way to gain more freedom for themselves. They either took some more on, or just ripped their clothes off, but with the same goal – to get more space as human beings.

I talk about this at Tedx. You can watch it here.

/Elin Berge