Victoria Bennett’s toddler was thirsty, tired, fussy and losing weight. He was so sick that by the time she and her husband took him to the hospital, he was close to comatose. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 2 1/2 years old, the Bennett’s lives were forever changed.
It’s been over a year since her son’s diagnosis, and Victoria has created one of the most interesting and fun projects to raise money for JDRF. “The Naked Muse” is a calendar of 14 nude male poets, with gorgeous poems by 14 female writers. A poet herself, Victoria says creating this calendar of nude photographs and powerful writing was healing.
“When I decided to create the Naked Muse, I felt completely helpless in the face of Diabetes. It was late one night and I was watching Django, as he went hypo again and again, and I just wanted to do something – anything – because I could do nothing for him. And I wanted to do something interesting, fun, lively. When I started to email out to people, I had no idea that they might have links with diabetes. To then receive emails back, telling me of their own journeys – either themselves, or their children, or someone close to them…it made me see that there were so many others out there, all living with this. It was upsetting and strengthening at the same time. In the end, I think it has been healing, partly because all creativity is healing, and partly because it has felt like this has been given strength by so many other people, and that has given us strength too. And Django calls it his calendar, and the launch was “his Blue Party”…he feels part of it and I love that.”
The idea of using the nude male form came as a desire to “bring together the female gaze and the male body in a creative collaboration.” She says,
“As I started to develop this idea I began to see something else happening. The vulnerability and strength of the male body, its beauty and difference and openness…how our body is both strong and vulnerable – how Django is both strong and also constantly vulnerable – these things started to speak to me and make sense as a body of work. What resulted was more than I could have hoped for. And in some ways, it is a gift to Django too – to say “this in your body, this is who you are, be proud, be honest, be naked” – which might sound a bit weird given the context, but I think diabetes is so hidden, so ‘unseen’ and yet cannot be hidden (the scars, the tubes etc) – and something that came through the stories from others was that they had known people that had hidden it, or had hidden it themselves. Yet, if something is hidden, we cannot truly understand it.”
Today Django is “a beautiful, amazing, strong willed nearly-four year old boy. He is more weighed down than I want him to be, more responsible, and we have to traverse the emotional fallout of his diabetes, both in terms of the effects on his body and mood, but also as he processes and understands its impact.”
Victoria says the CGM has made a big difference in his diabetes care and helps Django to feel safe.
“He will not go without it now – says it gives him more control, makes him feel ‘safer’. He talks to it and has a song about his “diabetes crew”! At the moment, we are still trying to carry the burdens of the reality for him, to allow him as much freedom and innocence as possible, but he is growing up and we are having to let him find his way. He is strong though, and has such an amazing attitude, seeing the positive in every day. I learn a lot from him everyday!”
Of raising a child with diabetes Victoria says, “try not to see it as a battle but as a dance – a really tricky, improvised one where every moment you are responding to the music and making new steps. Be as supple as you can, but don’t see it as a fight because in the end, diabetes is inside our children, and part of them – if it is perceived as a battle then how do we battle our children? How do they battle themselves?”
The Naked Muse can be purchased online at Wild Women Press.