When I was fifteen (or so) I stopped watching BET. I felt like there was something in those images that not only did not reflect me, but on a much deeper level negated who I was and did damage to my psyche. I knew back then that I was more than sexualized flesh and skin. Today the inner conflict continues, with the Instagram models, fashion news, and the emphasis our culture places on physical fitness.
Further to these images, we have modern-day feminists of the likes of Muva Rose and Beyonce espousing a hyper-sexualized woman, one freed from her physical inhibitions and able to be sexy and intelligent all at the same time. Yet something within me is still not completely convinced of the message. What works for the goose does not necessarily for the gander, and I remain suspicious about whether or not the message is – or even should go – international. While in professions where skin is in – from the performance arts to general celebrity and exotic dance – the message of nakedness may seem empowering, it is certainly not as useful in more traditional professions such as teaching, lawyering, or even politics (Mrs. Trump notwithstanding). In such professions we continue to see not only a lack of cultural diversity but of gender. Shall we, as women, enter these halls where the masculine rules in naked subservience? Shall we, as women, continue to perpetuate the opinion not only men but society in general have of us as only sexual beings, good for fucking and reproducing and taking care of families but not for thinking, and leading, and making a change in this world in matters that extend beyond the physical?
Given that the more traditional professions comprise a majority of the jobs that girls and young women will eventually enter into, I further wonder what kinds of damage such images of nakedness as empowerment does to the potential these young girls and women have to even be qualified to work in the places where they will be eventually seeking jobs. For most professions, the number of Instagram followers does not constitute adequate work experience, or how cute one looks in Snapchat filters. I was young once too (still am), but even while club hopping I still held in the back of my mind that one day I would teach and could not be so liberal with my body. What of the teachers in our present-day and age who have lost their jobs because of their indiscretions? They continue to remind us of the danger of not knowing the difference between the bedroom and the public sphere.
The task of feminism remains to free the bodies and minds of men and women alike to respect women no matter their shape, form, or how they choose to present themselves.
T. M. G.