Thursday, September 22, 2016

I don't know if I understand this

My head hurts

Bear with me. I'm trying to hash this out in my own mind.

There is a continuing trickle of women (some well known, others less so) posting naked or near naked pictures of themselves online. It's not the nudity that bothers me. If you want to display your assets to the world, that's your business. What I have difficulty parsing is how this is "empowering".

Hiliaria Baldwin shares underwear selfie

Kim Kardashian naked selfie

It seems to taken as gospel that if you are comfortable with yourself, then you are okay with standing naked (or nearly so) in front of the world. That's why I keep seeing variations on the "less than a perfect size two wears bikini to the beach!" non-story.

Woman wears bikini to the beach for the first time ever
Woman buys first bikini at 31

I was under the impression that feminism was about women being seen as more than their bodies. That women could and should be appreciated for their talents and abilities. But apparently, even women who can compete on an Olympic level are not sufficiently liberated if they aren't willing to pose naked.

Amanda Bingson - 200 lbs and kicking ass

I'm not saying that women shouldn't wear, or not wear, whatever they like. And I realize that it's simple biological truth that people (men and women) like looking at naked women. Otherwise there would be no market for bikini pics. But why should displaying my naked body be a requirement for being a confident woman? 

Kim Kardashian "I am empowered by my body"

I don't understand how these pictures are supposed to "empower" anybody except Kim Kardashian, and she's empowered because she gets paid serious money for appearing in public nearly nude.  And it did not escape my notice that when her stepmother, Caitlyn Jenner appeared in Vanity Fair, she did it in underwear. If one is coming out as a woman, celebrating becoming a woman, why does that involve appearing in public wearing an outfit that belongs in the bedroom? Is that not equating women with their sexuality, which is something feminism has been fighting for decades?

Call me Caitlyn

If I like a more covered up look, does that make me less empowered? Does a preference for skirts long enough to sit down in mean I am not confident in my abilities? Am I giving in to the patriarchy and body shaming if I'd rather wear a tank suit, or long sleeves?

To quote Bloom County: "I am full blown, gonzo, confused."


  1. I agree with you, though I do have what might be a reason for the attention paid to women of different sizes in the near-altogether.

    First, women are not stronger or better or more valuable in any way because of anything they may wear or not wear. The value of a human being does not in any way rest in what he or she looks like.

    Further, a person can feel good about himself or herself no matter what he or she looks like. If he wants to wear a suit or wear a dress or stand there naked in high heels, if wearing or not wearing these things make him feel good, then rock on, mister.

    However... I think the kudos you're seeing comes from this same place. People are celebrating other people who are comfortable and confident being who they are, whatever that looks like. Unfortunately, our media has often made it seem that only people who look a certain way should feel good about themselves (and therefore confident).

    Frankly, given how damaging the media can be when it comes to physical appearances and how often it is critical of people who do not conform to specific standards, there's an element of relief in seeing them promote and celebrate confident, happy people of all sizes, colors, and types in and out of clothing.

    So, in sum: No, you do not need to be naked or barely clothed or clothed in a certain way to be confident as a woman (or any gender). However, you do have to feel good about yourself to show the world who you are when you aren't perfect, especially when the media has told you otherwise for such a long time. (How many women have refused to wear bathing suits or get naked with the lights on because of some small imperfections?) And if the media wants to celebrate bodies that they may not have touted as laudable in the past, that's a positive move in the right direction.

    1. But shouldn't it be less about people's physical attributes and more about their talents and abilities? I see so much about women's bodies and what they are or aren't wearing, but very little about what they do. Who they are. Men are lauded for their accomplishments, not by rocking that bikini even though you're a size 12. They may have expanded the definition of "bikini body" but it's still treating women as objects to be looked at, not people to engage with. One step forward, two steps back.

    2. I disagree that it's two steps back. Maybe not two steps forward, but it is one step forward. It's because women have been looked at only as physical objects for so long that one of the important steps is to affirm for us all that we are beautiful no matter what size we are, what our imperfections are, and what we look like. Yes, women should also be evaluated based on their accomplishments and minds, and I think we're getting there, too. But telling someone she is beautiful physically, too, no matter what she looks like doesn't negate that she can be beautiful mentally and emotionally as well.

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