April 22, 2016
Of Nude Selfie Kardashian Style, Naked Street Protests and Feminism

How does feminism view nudity, whether Kardashian selfie style or that of naked street protesters?

by Madge
Lifestyle
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Dear Madge,
 
Not so long a go, I saw a naked photo of Kim Kardashian, admitting she doesn’t have anything to wear and it went viral. And recently, I saw it again with the same caption, but this time she went topless with Emily Ratajkowski whom i just knew a swimsuit model. What bothered me the most is her caption that says:
 
“However sexual our bodies may be, we need to have the freedom as women to choose when & how we express our sexuality”.
 
Her stunt and caption is somehow very offensive to me as a woman. I mean, just because you’re a feminist does not mean you can go naked in public. I don’t mind her naked in Gone Girl and I don’t mind her naked in adult magazines. But I do very mind her or any influential people go naked and post it on social media, because its completely public and everyone can access it.
 
Another time I read about this feminists organization who digitally bullied a scientist, Matt Taylor for using some women cartoon character shirt. And in another news I saw photos where feminist protesters naked for campaigning about trafficking. And some terms like ‘Feminazi’ even showed up on the internet that mostly directed to women that try to defend another women or bring up women issues.
 


From these stories, I got mixed messages about feminism itself. While going nude publicly will get a lot of attention, don’t you think this kind of act make society (especially men) degrade women even more, fuelling another campaign that objectifies women even more? And mostly I’m confused because feminism teaches that I have a full authority to my body, but does that include me taking a selfie while I’m naked and publish it on my social media?
 
Love
 
M   
 
 
Hi M,
I’m glad you ask this question. But let me tell you off hand, that you won’t find feminists having the same opinions on this. I mean just because we all believe in gender equality, doesn’t mean that we can’t sometimes differ in views. So what I believe here may not necessarily reflect what other feminists think.
 
However, let’s just set some background context into this. Firstly, not all forms of nudity has the same intention, thus not all forms of female nudity is an expression of empowerment.
 
Take Kim’s nude selfie, for example. This is a person who has been cashing in largely on her ability to manipulate the media, whether the celebrity-obsessed media or social media for her own glory and financial benefits. And for this, she has invested a lot in her look (because that’s basically what she sells – I hope we at least agree on that), including makeup, cosmetic surgeries, exercises and diet etc. And we can also agree that the way she looks is largely dictated by what men find attractive (hence we, too, as women, feel that that is what is attractive. 
 
When she poses naked and posts it on social media, it’s hard then to be convinced that this is an exercise of body authority and not some marketing gimmick. It’s hard not to see this is a carefully calculated campaign of body commodification to stay relevant on social media by latching onto the current growing awareness of gender empowerment.  This piece is a good read to explore this argument.
 
Not only that this type of gimmickry not add value to the discourse over body authority, it is an affirmation of the body-obsessed culture, making young and impressionable women believe that this is how a woman’s body should look and that being sexy and naked is the only way she can be appreciated.
 
But just as bad as that is the way society demonizes women’s body. This is what drives the “War on Nipple”, which on social media often means the removal of breastfeeding photos, while allowing other more scintillating photos that commoditize women’s bodies. Female nudity is treated as moral offence, and rarely about the source of non-sexual female power.
 
Nudity has actually long been a part of female empowerment and feminist protests. Legend has it that in the 11th century, the English noblewoman Lady Godiva (not the chocolate) rode naked on horseback through the marketplace of Coventry to demand the reduction of unpopular taxes. Women have regularly used their nakedness to protest corruption and exploitation that go along with colonialism, even in Islamic countries like in Tunisia and Egypt and in predominantly Catholic Argentina. The recent rise of nudist feminists aim to promote positivity to the female body and to transform the idea of female nudity for male pleasure into women’s agency, freedom, and empowerment.
 
For as long as there was art, nudity has provided numerous inspirations to male artists over the course of history. Now women artists are presenting nude images of women in all nuances, not just to express beauty but also as aggression and rage. In these two contexts, in no way female nudity is a form of objectification, because it was made out of informed choices to break the barrier put in place by patriarchy.
 
There’s nothing shameful about a naked female body. Lena Dunham is a fan of stripping off, (although her body is not the typical ideal Hollywood bod) because she wants to show that she is comfortable in her own skin. This is what body positive movement is all about.
 
If you choose to display your naked selfie on social media, it’s your choice. However, do it at your own risks. The brave women who protest or display their body for arts know the risks, but they see the message they’re conveying as more important and worthy of the risks. 
 
I suggest you do a lot more reading on this so that maybe someday you’ll be able to form your opinion on this.
 
Love,
 
~M