When Muse model and Misfit author Charli Howard was told to lose another inch, she was a size six and eating an apple a day. After years of feeling that she wasn't in control of her own body, she decided to speak out against the pressures she faced. Today, she stands firmly behind female survivors of abuse and violence, and is committed to ActionAid's #MyBodyIsMine campaign to raise awareness of women and girls' right to ownership over their bodies.
“I got together with a group of amazing, inspirational women to take part in a photoshoot to show our solidarity against violence aimed at women and girls.
I support ActionAid because I am committed to ending violence against women and girls, and it should go without saying that every woman and girl should have control over her own body. Women and girls shouldn’t be violated or abused by anyone, and that’s why I’m proud to be a part of ActionAid’s #MyBodyIsMine campaign.
I’ve learned that around the world, one in three women experience violence. We have a responsibility, to survivors of abuse, but also to ourselves, to respect our bodies. Making it socially acceptable to say no and ensuring women and girls can use their voices is crucial.
As a model, people have always tried to tell me how I should look. They made me abuse my body by eating cotton wool soaked in orange juice to stay thin. They made me abuse my mind – causing anxiety by telling me again and again: “Just lose another inch”. When I was a size six I was told to lose more weight. So many times I felt that my body was not my own, and I understand the importance of being able to reclaim what is mine – not ours, not yours.
After I wrote my Facebook post announcing I was leaving modelling because the industry disrespected my body too much, my life changed. I became a body positive ambassador and moved to New York. After 20 years of suffering with eating disorders to fit the stereotype of what it meant to be a beautiful woman, I now want to inspire women who have never felt their bodies are good enough. There’s never been such an important time for women and girls to speak out and take ownership of their bodies.
So many times I felt that my body was not my own.”
#MeToo and the hundreds of thousands of voices we heard speaking up and sharing their own experiences shows this is a very real and current problem, something that is rooted in the idea that women and girls’ bodies are the property of men. I believe there’s never been a better time for change than now, to show survivors of abuse and violence that they are not alone.
This morning I wrote the words #MyBodyIsMine in black marker pen to show that I stand in solidarity with women and girls around the world. I urge you to do as I did this morning. Simply get a friend to write #MyBodyIsMine on your arm. Share as far and widely as possible to show your commitment to women and girls who you know, whether they’re your sister or next-door neighbour.
I believe there’s never been a better time for change than now.”
Solidarity matters. Violence against women holds us back, and makes us feel inadequate. It makes us feel weaker and smaller than we are, which in turn stops us from fulfilling our potential. We must start to raise our voices. Voices that say “I can” and “I will” rather than “I can’t” and “I shouldn’t”.
Today I’m using this ActionAid-supported platform to stand in solidarity with women and girls around the word and show them they have my support as much as hopefully I have theirs.
Understanding that ‘My Body Is Mine’ means that her body is hers, and hers alone, is a good first step in the right direction. So, who will stand with me, and say, together, ‘My Body Is Mine’?”