[Ed. note: Let me preface this with a note that I have yet to read the post that started me thinking about all of this again; it was read to me. I think it did its job in sparking the debate in my head and that’s enough for me.]
On Thursday a post was brought to my attention written by a woman I don’t know. In it she was critical of women like me who show their bodies online, the gist being that we are misguided in our empowerment (we’re actually indoctrinated by men into believing that our bare bodies are powerful naked). Some of you have been guessing which post it was and in trying to solve the mystery have highlighted to me other critical posts about women sharing images of their bodies — this woman isn’t alone in her feelings, certainly.
She didn’t call me out by name, but described the Boobday meme I’ve been running for almost two years, and was derogatory in her description of a man she was dating who had commented positively on a Boobday post.
After some reflection I wrote this on the next day’s Boobday post:
Frankly, I can’t believe we’re still having this argument. It reminds me of the whole porn debate, that women who participate in it are somehow undermining the good fight for equality and respect. Well, not exactly. Many women who are in porn go in with their eyes open and with a love for sex and performance. How is that a bad thing? Of course it certainly depends on the woman, the type of porn, etc., but they’re not all barely legal girls with daddy issues and a drug problem and even if they were, they’re entitled to do as they please and not be judged for it or blamed for the downfall of feminism.
Likewise, the images I share come from confidence and joy, not desperation or a need to be loved. They’re controlled and dictated solely by me. No man tells me what to do here. In fact, I share in large part for other women, to show an alternative body shape as beautiful and sensual. Today’s image in particular I chose because of the stretch marks you can see that appeared when I was breastfeeding my baby.
I share my body because I want to and because I can. It’s that simple. I don’t understand what the big deal is to people and why they must generalize about the motivations of those who do. So you don’t want to?? Ok. Cool. So don’t, but don’t tell me why I do it. Tell us why you don’t in a way that isn’t projecting onto us and go about your day.
You’re self-conscious, it doesn’t feel right to you, it’s embarrassing because omg, you’re naked!, your man would get jealous, you’d feel guilty, your mama told you never to do it, whatever.
I like it, it feels right to me, and I can, so I do.
I don’t need to justify the deeper drives that coalesce in this one body to make me into the exhibitionist that I am, that make me promiscuous or bold or strong. I am what I am and I love this woman just the way she is.
I think I speak for many here when I say that owning my body and its sexuality is by far more empowering to me than hiding it. I eschew traditional forms of many things — dating, sex, relationships — so why would I embrace a traditional belief about nudity? Me doing this makes far more sense than not and I’d like to think I am able to show the world that just because a woman bares her body doesn’t mean that’s all there is to her. And, luckily for me, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words to back that up and they’re all available in this handy dandy blog.
My body and its availability to the public is an extension of my art. I could write the rest of my life and never post another pic and be perfectly content, but it wouldn’t feel complete. This body is part of my larger work and denying that would be first dishonest and second pointless. And why? To agree with some of my sisters that my bare breasts disempower me? No thanks.
Still scratching your head about why it is I do this? You can also read this or you can happily disagree with me and think I’m a slave to men’s knuckle-dragging desires. Either way, I’m not gonna worry about it. I’m just gonna do me and that includes some boobs, a little ass, and a whole lotta words.
I take great pride in my work and feed off its artistry, the response loop. I feel more powerful because I choose to; I am empowered because I process the transaction that way. I hated my body for so long that allowing it to be beautiful fills me with release and strength. People may vehemently disagree with how I feel empowered, but that’s a lot like saying someone else knows when I’m allowed to feel anything.
Related to power, there’s also agency. I am lucky to be an American woman and am theoretically safe from recriminations. The idea that women who exhibit their nude bodies demoralizes the feminist agenda or erodes the progress we’ve made smells an awful lot like slut shaming. If only we didn’t show off our bodies, then men would respect us! No, men should respect us regardless of how we present ourselves. If we lie, cheat, and steal disrespect all you want, but because I show my tits is not commentary on my character. I still help little old ladies, rescue bees from the pool, and give back incorrect change that was in my favor.
Over time women’s chastity and modesty have become intertwined with respectability, but how does that work? It’s why breastfeeding women are driven underground. God forbid any part of a woman’s body be exposed to even feed her baby. I can’t swallow that; I say my body, my rules.
I disagree that what I do with my body has any negative effect on other women. The people who choose to behave badly are the ones who own that blame. I’m just over here in my tiny corner of the internet having a good time. If some asshole decides to spew misogynistic bullshit everywhere because he saw my tits and it made him angry/uncomfortable/irate/offended/turned-on/whatever then that’s him. Do you blame the match or the dickhead who flicks it into dry brush for the wildfire?
I know I have a growing voice in a small community and I take the responsibility seriously. I write to educate, to show a different side of an object of desire. For example, I write often on Instagram about the ridiculousness of unsolicited dick pics because men see my photos and apparently can’t execute any self control — victim blaming at its finest and reducing men into raging, horny ids who can’t control themselves when they see a woman.
“Damn baby ur so fine thought you’d want to see what u did to me.”
No, I didn’t do that to you, sir. You’re a healthy man who reacted to stimuli and then you chose to assault me with that image. I never asked to see the proof of your health.
I understand that the sliver of myself I allow the world to see might be confusing to some, but that’s only if the lens through which you’re viewing me is skewed to see only modest women as those worthy of respect and honor. An immodest woman, however, is fair game for anything and that, my friends, is a dangerous thought and what scares me the most because in the end even immodesty is subjective as any rape victim or receiver of any unwanted attention can tell you.
The idea that women exercising their freedoms to express their sexuality, sensuality, or art are working against the grain of feminism or empowerment is preposterous. Sex and our bodies are not the only things that make a woman feel empowered — they’re just a couple — and some of us are fighting the fight this way because it’s what we do best.
Other women can fight it in the courtroom or on the streets or at round table debates on their college universities — I’m not strong there, I’m strong here — and they can live a more modest life than me all the while brilliantly articulating all the injustices of sexism. I’ll reach the other half with my nude body and thoughts on the patriarchy. Why can’t we do both and show what real sisterhood means? You do it that way and I’ll do it this way.
Having said all of that, here is my modestly immodest photo for Sinful Sunday, yet another meme which encourages people to drop the shackles of shame and fear and self-recriminations and bare it all in the name of art and joy.
Enjoy, you knuckle-draggers. I’ll be over here educating passersby on what equality really means.
Click the lips to see the other dissolutes out there flashing their bits.