No matter whether it’s a job or a lifestyle, when it comes to defying conventional yardsticks and societal norms, we do hesitate a bit, and remain obstinate about walking through the pre-set pathways, thus saving ourselves from becoming victims of scorns and scoffs from people around. While I believe that everyone is entitled to make their own choices, the world around is often unreasonably prejudiced when it comes to categorizing certain people based on their jobs and lifestyle. Rather than delving deeper into knowing them and situations that forced them into adopting what we categorize as odd jobs and bizarre lifestyles, we are often vulnerable to believing the hearsays that swirl around the professional and personal choices they make, to make both ends meet. I am not intending to glorify them or sympathise for the decisions they have made in life, but, I also don’t intend to be judgemental about every choice that the world disapproves with raised eyebrows. Rather than letting my mind wander and make presumptions about a supposedly odd sounding job or way of life, I believe in looking out for the reasons that resulted in the apparently unusual choices. This is where I have a story to share, about a middle aged woman who works as a muse for several art students. Posing as a muse or a life model is far from the glitzy and glamourous catwalks that we watch every day. Unclothed and unmoving, she has to tirelessly and pose for painters, sketchers and sculptors, practically every day. But unlike the popular perception, life modelling is not prostitution.
Being a professional life model demands an incomparable mental strength and focus, apart from the incredible capability to look past some of the occasional creepy and lecherous stares. Surprisingly, irrespective of being less than averagely educated, she does it all with impressive zeal and vigour, while keeping her embarrassments at bay. She is courageous enough to look beyond the contours of conventionality, thus making the world believe and accept the fact that taking one’s clothes off for money needn’t be always exploitative. While I can guess the amount of splutter, disbelief and ridicule that she might have stumbled upon, I appreciate her for paying no heeds to those who are drone focussed on finding out the wrong end of the stick. While it might sound sordid to many, we intentionally forget the fact that she has a family to take care of, the reason why is forced to take her clothes off for money.
Though many women have been posing nude for art since ages, we’re still prudish and prejudiced about them, as they willingly stand butt naked for the sake of monetary benefits. Life modelling is both physically exhausting and mentally tiring. Moreover, its takes a commendably extraordinary mind-set to choose a job that involves sitting naked and still for several hours, in front of numerous strangers, gracefully and elegantly. However, she does it absolute pride, akin to the gratification that most of us gain from our day-to-day works. With no enviable looks and desirable figure to boast of, she is an ordinary woman who made herself available to an unusual job. Surprisingly, she is gifted with an amazing confidence and desirably positive attitude that makes her do a job that normal people might be too curious to know and discuss about, but hardly dare to attempt doing it even once. Her astonishing courage made me ponder over a poignant thread of thoughts on her struggle to earn a dignified space in our conservative society which is yet to grow up to accept her profession and change its age-old perceptions about women. The moral brigades around would find it hard to forgive her for challenging their rigid norms. Irrespective of the fact that none of the closed-minded saviours out there would lend her and many such women a helping hand, they would leave no stones unturned to fiercely set-up a cavalry of like-minded culture protectors who might rob her of her only source of revenue and force to embrace death as an escape from sheer poverty.
The awkwardness related to life modelling often comes the misguided idea that nude or semi-nude modelling is the same as that of making oneself vulnerable to be exploited. Misconceptions related to nude modelling are often related to the eroticism that most people look at, whereas, the actuality is way beyond this prejudiced notion. At the outset, no woman would willingly opt to take her clothes off, the reason why I could gauge the terrible familial circumstances that forced her shed her inhibitions and bear the uncomfortableness of being nude in front of a roomful of art students, so that she can feed herself and her children each day. However, in a desperately stereotypical society that’s keen on categorizing and judging people around, I wonder which group will such women would fall into, for being proud of their extraordinary profession. While narrow-mindedness that prevail in our society might mercilessly mock at them mindlessly, I really hope they can uphold their courage, self-respect and belief, thus retaining the happiness and dignity that they enjoy in their unusual profession, while safeguarding themselves from being exploited.
Anecdote – If we can broad-mindedly accept porn stars, laud the gross amount of erotic content in our main stream movies, and applaud the actors without inhibitions, it would be disingenuous to poke fun at a life model who makes a living by working as a nude model, just because it’s a profession that’s way beyond our sphere of understanding.