I read an article* today on Huffpost that posed the question, ‘Are women better off reclaiming their feminism by covering up, or by getting naked? I find this question compelling for the following reasons,
- The pathway to a future that is life-affirming and sustainable will be built on a foundation of gender equality.
- Sexual power is real power. Women have an inherent right to own and express their sexual identity as they choose, without being subjected to anyone’s lame moral policing.
A big concern with some feminist women is that behaving sexually for a woman means that she will be objectified…reduced to nothing more that a physical reflection of the sexual desires of men. This same faction of feminist women claim that women who reveal their naked bodies, and/or choose to work as adult entertainers demean all women, by encouraging the ‘Objectification’ of women.
Here’s my take on the objectification question. Objectification is natural. We humans are sexual beings. We are hard-wired to like sex. Women, who behave provocatively are embracing a very powerful natural instinct. Being sexy is not a bad thing in and of itself…no way. Men react on a hormonal level when exposed to even subtle female sexual expression. That’s the way nature intended it to be. For a woman, being ‘objectified’, instilling natural desire in other humans, and particularly in men, is how it’s supposed to be.
The problem starts with people, who see women being sexual only as ‘objects of desire’, and not the human beings that they are. The article that prompted this blog piece included comments from designer, Prabal Gurung, who said, ” Women can dress however they want to, show their body or cover it; as a designer, my job is to provide options. Being sexy or not is an individual choice. The problem is in the gaze.”
Indeed. The problem is in the gaze.
In a gender equal world, women choosing to be sexy is part of the natural order. It’s a biological instinct. In a gender equal world, women can be sexual and not lose their human identity in the process.
The problem indeed is in the gaze. For thousands of years, humanity’s cultural DNA has been shaped by male dominance. It started when we began to live in permanent settlements and grow our own food. A male warrior class emerged. Male dominance was further entrenched when the great religions took shape. The Bible is the rule book of Christianity. The Bible says that men are commanded by ‘God’ to have dominion over the land, and nature, and women. In fact, the Bible warns men that women cannot be trusted, and must be obedient to men, potentially under penalty of death. The Muslim Koran, and the Hebrew Talmud also prescribe a male world view that leaves women subjugated, with virtually no personal rights. That is how it’s been, and how it remains to this day in too many places.
In Europe and North America, and in other developed parts of the world over the last hundred years, women have fought for and gained the right to vote, to own property, to have access to education, and to have control over their own bodies. In the U.S., women are increasingly occupying space on the political stage. In law schools and medical schools, women now outnumber male students. Clearly, the landscape has changed positively for women on many levels.
But much remains to be done. Too often, girls growing up are still hammered with a litany of false modesty…mostly from older people who remain caught up in the conservative view of a woman’s place in the world.
The ‘gaze’ from more than a few men is still lurid and diminishing toward women…particularly those who choose to be overt in their sexual expression. The best way to get past that is for those same women to ignore the unwanted and unwarranted scorn from shamers. Sex-positive, feminist women are entitled to a place on the moral high ground.
For women, being sexual is a very natural way to be. An apology is not required for normal, natural sexual expression. Being sexy, or not, is a legitimate personal choice. End of story.
The problem lies with those, who choose to ‘gaze’ and fail to see a complete person. It is those stilted ‘gazers’, who need to get a life.