There is an amazing amount of work going on right now to promote positive body image. The Militant Baker, The Body Is Not An Apology, Beauty Redefined, and About-Face have all come up with pretty awesome campaigns inspiring women to love their bodies just the way they are.
The goal is to show a variety of body types in order to create empathy for all bodies, improving self-esteem, health, and relationships with ourselves and others.
However, there is a popular trend in this movement in which I don’t plan to participate: Nudity! Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important to see a variety of body sizes, shapes, colors, abilities, etc… I just don’t feel the need to strip down and show everybody what I got in order to get my point across. For me, that feels like we’re just giving the (heterosexual) male gaze what it wants.
The Militant Baker got together for a photo shoot (NSFW) with 70 women who dared to bare it all. About-Face got a group of positive body image advocates to stand on the sidewalk in their underwear outside a Victoria’s Secret to call for more body diversity in advertising. And, of course, there’s Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, showing “real women” in matching underwear.
I am not saying these campaigns are bad and should go away. I think these are bold campaigns that are playing an important role in the body image movement. However, we need to create a space where people can be proud of their bodies and not have to have their pictures taken in their birthday suits to do so.
I want people to focus on what I have to say and the good deeds I do instead of focusing on what I have going on under my clothes. My body is beautiful and valuable without the world taking a peek and rating me on a scale of 1-10.
Because, let’s be honest, we all size each other up. We haven’t completely solved that problem yet. That is one of my goals though, and I think it is safe to say it is also one of the goals of the body image movement. That is, to get beyond a place where we value each other based on our bodies, and instead focus on our character and how we treat one another.
I’m proud of my body the way it is, and I love what I can do with it. I’m a curvy woman with stretch marks from two pregnancies and probably some cellulite in places I can’t see. I’m not ashamed of it in any way.
I just don’t want to grant an all-access pass to every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the internet. I’m not a prude, I just enjoy my privacy. There’s only one person who gets to see all my goodies, and his name is husband.
If people want to put themselves out there in that way, more power to them. No judgment. Do you, boo. No one is forcing these women to get naked for the cause. I think all bodies are beautiful and worthy of being seen.
I just don’t want women to feel that the only way to prove it is to get naked in images easily accessed and abused on the web. Me baring it all to promote the idea that all bodies are beautiful may prove that point to other body image advocates and me, but trolls on the interwebs will probably just think “BOOBS”!
What do you think? Would you bare it all to prove you love your body, or are you looking for other ways to spread the body love message?
Gretchen Edwards-Bodmer is a curvy grrrl from Virginia with a Master’s degree in Humanities and Women’s Studies. You can find her musings about raising two boys in this crazy world at www.Grrrlwithboys.com and follow her on Twitter @GrrrlWithBoys.
I totally understand where you’re coming from. Body activism itself comes in many shapes and sizes!
For me, as one of the activists in the action you mentioned, stripping down was about making visible a different type of body than the one usually used by Victoria’s Secret.
Thank you, Tessa! I really appreciate you understanding where I’m coming from. I applaud your bravery for that campaign.
Wow, I’ve actually argued the exact opposite point. http://youngnaturistsamerica.com/body-positive-galleries-censorship/
To me, the body-positive projects – especially the ones where women are naked but have an arm across their chest as if their boobs will fall off if they let go – are sending the opposite message when they cover certain parts. It’s like preaching body acceptance for the whole body *except* these dirty bits that no one wants to see or talk about. It’s promoting body shame and body acceptance at the same time.
And then think about the contexts in which we usually see naked bodies. It’s usually slender women presented in a sexual, titillating way to cater to the male gaze. Where can women go to see “real” bodies and parts that resemble their own? Do you know how many women think their breasts and nipples aren’t normal because they never see average bodies? Or how about their vulva / labia, which has created the disturbing labiaplasty phenomenon?
Or how about this: Where are the nonsexual nude images to counter all the sexual objectification we see in the mainstream media? The media (& porn) is going to keep showing naked bodies for clicks & views no matter what. What about presenting bodies, especially women’s, in a nonsexual, honest, empowering, consensual context to offer a different representation of women for once? The photos from The Militant Baker are *vastly* different from what people might see in a mainstream magazine, movie or TV show.
Are there still people who are going to get “pervy” about these images? Of course. But they can just as easily get pervy about photos of women in bikinis or underwear or skirts or sheer tops or whatever. This isn’t about controlling how people look at or think about your body, because that’s impossible to do. It’s about giving women control over their own bodies for once. It’s about ending the body shame message that tells us women need to cover up their bodies & sexuality in the face of men’s “uncontrollable” lust, and that the naked body is shameful in general.
Any woman who puts an image of herself nude, in a bikini, or in clothes that are revealing in any way (or not – ever get catcalled in sweatpants?), knows that some people are going to look at her in a sexual way. The people who participate in these projects know this. But to stop us from sharing the images to begin with is not the answer. It’s not going to solve the issues of body shame, slut-shaming, sexual objectification & oversexualization of women’s bodies. It’s only going to strengthen the negative messages from mainstream media and offer no alternatives to those who want to see what bodies actually look like within a positive, healthy context.
The body-positive movement absolutely needs to include the entire body. I’ve had enough of this nationwide body shame.
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I’m SOOOOO sick of hearing the word “shame” forced upon women who respect their bodies and exert their own agency and power over who sees that body. For some of us, nudity is intimate. For some of us, our naked body is precious and we are selective about who is privileged to see it. That is NOT shame! I don’t like having other people’s nudity imposed on me and I don’t like the notion that if I don’t share my nudity with the world I’m somehow repressed or ashamed. You don’t need to be naked or view the nakedness of others to feel good about yourself. I’ve been mentally undressed by men my entire life… they WANT to see us naked. It doesn’t matter if we’re posing it up and being sexual or we are vacuuming nude or laying topless on the beach… I won’t be giving them what they want and trying to call that empowering to ME. It isn’t.
Nudists come in all shapes and sizes and tend to be coftromable with their own bodies, and not overly concerned with others opinions of their bodies. So the world being naked would probably not encourage more exercise, in fact it may have the opposite effect and diminish peoples obsession with body image. November 30, 2011