Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Value of Viewing Naked Women's Bodies

This post has been a long time coming. I began contemplating it ages ago, but never really came to the point where it felt realized enough to post. In the end I think it simply wasn't formed very well in my head. Maybe it's still not, but I've had more and more experiences and thoughts on the issue since and well, it's time to process.

Feminists like me spend a lot of time thinking about and discussing women's bodies. How they are used in society, how they are appropriated, commodified, objectified... How we are taught to view them, both when it's your own body, and when it is the body of other women. Much of that discussions seems to revolve around naked or almost naked women's bodies. We are used for all manner of distasteful stuff.

Figuring that out... coming to terms with it... When you add that to the societal programming we all go through that tells us our bodies are simultaneously shameful, dirty and gross, it can lead a budding feminist to feel covering up is the thing to do. It also seems to lead other budding feminists to believe taking it off is the thing to do. These reactions have long puzzled me. Not because they don't make sense, but because I think they're two sides of the same coin. That coin being: coming to full ownership of YOUR body.

My friend and I are great examples of the divergent ways one might deal with this issue. For her, keeping hijab has been liberating, and I have been struggling with purposeful exposure of my own to the same ends. I always love talking with her on these sorts of topics, as it seems even as we come at them from our own angles, we seem to nod along to what the other says a lot.


  1. I was the girl at the swimming pool who insisted on changing inside the bathroom stall even though there was a sign on it saying not to.

    Why the fuck would anyone give a shit whether kids change their clothes inside the stalls?

  2. Yay!! I love this post! I actually have been working on being more comfortable changing in front of other women at the gym. I too realized that most of them don't even care, that really, I was the one uncomfortable -- not them. Despite that, it actually has been a long fantasy of mine to pose naked someday for a painting or something. I wouldn't do it for money. But I've always been intrigued by the idea and what it would be like...

  3. Physio, I think they cared because so many of us were doing it and there weren't enough stalls to accommodate us.

    Sarah, I've too always wanted to do something like that. Naked or close to, as well as pinup style shots have always been very appealing.

  4. I was the girl at the swimming pool who insisted on changing inside the bathroom stall even though there was a sign on it saying not to.

    I used to do the same thing, but as an adult. The Navy made me so ashamed of my body that as a swimmer, and a damned good one at that, I was so ashamed of my fat that I hid in the bathroom to change. It's sad. Only recently am I beginning to not really give a fuck. and that is still a long way coming.

    Thanks for this post!

  5. Every time I read these I always learn a lot.
    I'd love to have artistic shots done - I take enough topless shots myself in order to make myself feel better about who I am and what I look like.
    And yet, each picture is more or less private.... I hide away because I'm ashamed, and can't seem to differentiate between my body as one that just IS, and one that doesn't deserve attention. If I'm changing for some reason - it's done so without showing anything.
    I did get an email the other day, linking me to
    Just wondered on what your thoughts were?
    You're truly an inspiration. Thank you.

  6. A very interesting concept, the discrepancy between the sexes and what clothes we must wear is fundamentally unfair. I doubt such a protest will actually do any good, but I support the ideal nonetheless.

    In that same vein are the naked bike riders present every year in Seattle's "Solstice Parade". I love that.

  7. That is really interesting b/c just last night w/ my daughter she asked why boys were allowed to go around w/o shirts when she had to wear a shirt all the time. I had a really hard time explaining that in terms she got, and it basically ended w/ "it's unfair and it sucks, but there it is sweetie".

    I think I would take such a protest more seriously though if it weren't being advertised on Playboy radio. It's about equality, not sexualization of women's bodies.

  8. i came to a bit of a realization about this on a trip i took when i was 18. there were probably six or seven women, ranging from myself at 18 to 60ish. we were using locker-room style bathrooms, and i was doing that changing in the stall or hiding behind my towel thing. that is, until the next youngest woman (probably mid/late 20s) and i realized that we were the only ones who cared. all of the older women were completely fine being naked.

    interesting that it was only the ones closest to what women are "supposed" to look like (i.e. young, especially) who were self-conscious about our bodies. anywho, that was kind of the "aha" moment for me, "oh, it's just a body; everyone has one of those."

  9. interesting that it was only the ones closest to what women are "supposed" to look like (i.e. young, especially) who were self-conscious about our bodies.

    Yah, I've always marveled at that myself.

  10. this is an amazing post.

    p.s. i love your disclaimer. hee!

  11. naked girls are gross

    love the blog though sisturd


whatsername reserves the right to delete your comment if you choose to act like an asshole, so please engage respectfully