The recent rise of nudist feminism
The Internet is all about making social movements happen. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t hear about a new hashtag advocating something worth advocating. One of the most intriguing and provocative social movements the internet is throwing at us right now is “nudist feminism” which is EXACTLY what it sounds like, women who are empowered by taking it ALL off (or at least a LOT of it off) and posting the photographic evidence online.
A great example of this is Herself.com, the brainchild of British actress Caitlin Stasey, a site that features interviews of amaze women accompanied by pictures of the ladies in their birthday suits. Stasey believes that nudist feminism is an important and underutilized tool for promoting body positivity:
“Women’s bodies are taken from them, dissected, scrutinized, and then sold back to them — we are expected to foot the bill of societally influenced perfection,” Stasey told Buzzfeed.
Stasey is determined to celebrate all shapes and sizes of nude on her site, she believes that this way leads to body acceptance, adding:
“I think our greatest weapon against body shaming and criticism are desensitization and exposure to all the diverse manifestations of a woman’s form.”
Stasey is part of a growing sub-movement of feminism that seeks to reclaim the naked female form from the clutches of the “male gaze,” and transform nudity into a tool of self-empowerment. When we see naked women on screen or in print, they tend to be a VERY specific body type (the flat-tummied, skinny-thighed type), so women who don’t look EXACTLY like that tend to be all kinds of harsh on their own bodies.
Nudist feminists not only seek to promote body positivity, but also hope to transform the very idea of the female nude, from something that exists solely for the purpose of heterosexual male pleasure (that whole “male gaze” thing I was talking about earlier) to nudity being something for the women who are, you know, actually getting naked. It’s not about who’s looking at you while you’re naked. It’s about you owning the experience and feeling empowered by the act of not wearing even ONE STITCH of clothing.
Other examples of nudist feminism include the “Free The Nipple” movement, in which women posted pictures of themselves topless on social media. “Free The Nipple” is also directly about gender equality, if men are allowed to be topless in public, women should have that same right.
On the more extreme side, Femen, a self-proclaimed “sextremist” feminist nudist group originating from the Ukraine, set up shop in the US last year. Their topless protests against everything from patriarchy to religious conservatism have grabbed an incredible amount of attention, however some claim their nude tactics get in the way of their message. Not so, Femen activist Inna Shevchenko, told the Daily Beast.
“Femen’s tactic is a dramaturgy of gender reality. Femen’s idea is transforming the sexist point of view of naked a woman’s body; we show it not as weak and smiley, but aggressive and powerful.”
While not everyone’s consciously apart of a movement, the trend of nude empowerment is undeniable. Victoria Janashvili‘s photos of nude women of all sizes recently went viral, and served as a statement about body positivity. Meanwhile, Lena Dunham has made historic moves with her feature Tiny Furniture and her series Girls by being an actress/director (and this past week, an Instagrammer) committed to publicly owning her body in the nude. “It’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think,” she once told a panel, of her commitment to nudity on the series.
Of course, this movement is not without its critics. Because when is the last time a social movement didn’t have critics? (Never is the correct answer to that question.)
Rebecca Sullivan, of News.com.au, questions the movement, explaining:
“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. Make them talk about something else. You only succeed in fueling the beast that shames and commodifies female bodies.”
The female nude has been the property of the patriarchy for a long time now (like go back and look at art history, it has been A WHILE, folks) and so women reclaiming their bodies for themselves is going to be a journey of complications and questions. Where is the line between celebration and exploitation? How can you claim ownership of your body when you’re sharing it with the Internet? And could this movement really bring about change? Here’s something: the fact that the conversation about female nudity is shifting by raising all these questions is, if nothing else, encouraging.
(Image via Herself)