Last week Caitlin Stasey, an ex-Neighbours actor, launched a feminist website named Herself. This was big news because, along with an extensive interview on her thoughts about feminism, sexuality and the like, Stasey uploaded some accompanying nudes. The nudes aren’t erotic or explicit but they inevitably became the main attraction of the media circus. Whether she intended this as a clever marketing ploy or an idealistic act (or both), everybody’s talking about it.
Rebecca Sullivan from the Courier Mail online was most displeased with this, penning an opinion piece that was mostly just a vague, uninspiring spray of disapproval. While we can’t get up in arms about one woman’s opinion, Sullivan’s article reflects some widely held assumptions about what women should do with their bodies and these are worth examining.
Sullivan said: “…one of feminism’s greatest battlegrounds is trying to divert attention — particularly male attention — away from women’s bodies and onto the things they say and think.”
Nahhhhh. This idea that feminism‘s end goal is for women to rise above their gender and neutralise their bodies is absurd. Women’s bodies are valuable, defining and should be celebrated. Once again, feminism is not about denying femininity!
"We all have bodies! Let’s not pretend to be genderless, amorphous blobs and just stop losing our shit over nude pics."
Sullivan said: “If you want other people to stop talking about, judging and taking ownership of your body, don’t put naked photos of yourself online and invite people to talk about them.”
Nakedness is powerful and endlessly fascinating but the choice to get naked is often not exclusively with women. Nakedness for women is stigmatized. This sentiment is why people are obsessed with nip slips and why revenge porn exists. Society tells women the most degrading thing that can happen is to be seen naked so no wonder it’s confusing to see a woman willingly stripped bare. But the act of putting naked photos online, photos you choose with your accompanying thoughts, is an act of agency in defiance of that stigma. If readers choose to talk about the nakedness instead of the article that’s not something the OP can control. In Caitlin’s case, I’d imagine that’s the point she’s driving at. And frankly, if you’re so distracted by the sight of a naked woman that you forget how to read, the problem lies within you and not the naked woman.
You don’t have to give up your body to legitimize your brain. It’s not a matter of choosing between being body-proud or being taken seriously as a person. No one would think less of Clooney or Pitt or Damon if they showed some skin, we’d all just sit back and enjoy it…let’s go ahead and extended this courtesy to the ladies too.
Finally, Sullivan says the media hype around Stasey’s nudes mean that most people will visit the site and scroll straight down to the boobies (ahh the male gaze) and, yes, most probably they will. But these people aren’t the audience for a project like Herself (consider it a way to separate the wheat from the chaff). Again, the solution (if there is one) to the “male gaze” isn’t to cover up, it’s to push on regardless. It’s to look at naked bodies and say “Damn you fine” and worship the booty as it deserves, and then move on and read the article. It’s exposure therapy. Let’s not pretend we see people as transcendental brains in jars, or that body and mind are estranged and incompatible.
Society will always reduce people by passing judgement on their bodies. It’s an easy fix to tell women, in particular, that the way around this is to cover up and force focus onto the mind and it’s ridiculous. We all have bodies! Let’s not pretend to be genderless, amorphous blobs and just stop losing our shit over nude pics.
And, most importantly, don’t read the Courier Mail’s article unless you have time to deal with the inevitable negative emotion shit-storm that will consume your mind.