The argument that has so beautifully reared it tired old face again this week after Emma Watson posed with the shape of her cleavage visible in Vanity Fair is the old adage ‘a woman can not be a feminist if she shows her body’.
After an incredibly beautiful shoot featuring Emma wearing all sorts of (FULL COVERAGE, fyi) thespian inspired outfits, a successful yet (in contrast) remarkably idiotic Julia-Hartley Brewer came out with a delightful tweet that I won’t put here because it doesn’t belong on my blog (and I don’t want it here).
This is a kind of writing-over-a-coffee-quickly-because-i’m-angry type blog post so let’s get straight to it. In the same way that having sex doesn’t make you a bad person, being proud of, and showing your body doesn’t make you a ‘bad’ feminist. In actual fact, the only thing that makes you a bad feminist is believing that people don’t deserve to be treated equally and communicating that as you go about your life. That’s it. That is the bottom line of what will make you a ‘bad feminist’. Anything else in-between means you’re kind of all good. We’re all at different stages of learning about how feminism shapes our everyday experience, how it fits into our lives and how it affects men and women of different cultures, ages, races – you name it, so there is no ‘perfect feminist’. She don’t exist.
At 17, uneducated, young and basically just lacking any real life experience, I took the approach of Julia-Hartley Brewer: ‘How can she be saying “men don’t take me seriously” but then wear not many clothes?’ Well, here’s the kicker, Gina circa 2008, even though you’ve grown up being told it by every ad, picture, mag, movie and song you’ve heard, a woman’s body isn’t only sexual. A woman’s body is a machine to take her from place to place, just like a man’s is. A woman’s body is an amazing vessel to do things in work, life, family. Just like a man’s is. The only difference is that since the dawn of time males have been seen as the ‘superior’ sex and have enjoyed way more privilege than females.
The majority of men, through societal influence, have seen women as sexual objects throughout time. Feminism is, (in small part) about trying to change that, because frankly, it’s just not fair.
So, when we see a woman’s breast it’s not okay to say ‘I CAN SEE HER BOOB SO NOTHING SHE SAYS IS VALID’. That’s just not true. Also, while we’re at it there’s a difference between being sexualized by the media/men you don’t know/strangers, and sexualizing yourself. One is okay and one isn’t. In the exact same way that being told you’re a ‘slamming hot bitch’ is a very different thing when it comes out of the mouth of a van driver while you’re jogging, compared to when you say it to yourself in the mirror to boost your confidence during the nervous 5 minutes that preceed a first date.
If anyone you know is still struggling with the above notion, here’s a cheatsheet for you:
- A woman can love her body, be confident showing it and still be a feminist.
- If you’re a feminist not every. single. thing. you do has to be a making a point about feminism. You’re still also just being a woman living and learning in her body (Emma posing topless was just Emma being, well, Emma.)
- A woman’s body isn’t for being sexualized by anyone but herself, unless she asks for it.