My mind is always submerged, overwhelmed by questions about feminism and the image of women in society. Among all the interrogations and concerns I have and wonder about every day…
Which feminism is the best? Which feminism is the best for me?
Is there a feminism better than others? Can I judge someone else’s feminism?
Why do I only see women preoccupied by feminism?
Why do I feel judged on my body as a woman whereas men are judged on what is in their brains?
Why do other women judge my body and my decisions about it? (aren’t we in the same boat?)
a Why do we let men take decisions about women’s bodies?
…here is the question that popped in my mind and stayed there so long that I had to reflect on it and share my opinion with you, because your answer matters:
Why my* body is in the center of every debate concerning women?
* innuendo: any woman’s body
Let me start with the initiator of my awareness. Ally is a young and sweet woman from Australia. I follow her account on Instagram (@agirlnamedally) for a long time now and I have always loved the messages and positive thoughts she spreads through her colorful pictures. But some weeks ago, one of her photos generated a debate and kept me confused for a while.
Here are the clouds of thoughts that went through my mind when I was looking at this picture.
1. This picture is beautiful
I fall in love with the colors and the landscape. Nature can be so beautiful, especially at 5am, and it looked so welcoming I wanted to be on that mountain and scream I am the queen of the world! I also loved the friendship behind this, their bodies tanned and free.
2. But, really? Shame on them
Voices in my head were screaming HOW CAN THESE WOMEN ACCEPT TO SHOW THEIR NAKED BODIES TO ANYONE? THIS IS SO DEGRADING! I AM SO SHOCKED! And I put my phone aside…
3. But, you know, I am kind of very curious about the reason they did this, it seems pretty interesting
… And I took it back. I shushed my voices and tried to consider the event with other eyes. I looked at the comments Ally received — very sexist and misogynistic for some of them — and was surprised to read how positive and supportive the others were. And in one sentence, I understood everything : “I’m at a place where I feel completely at peace with the physical shell that encases my soul, and this morning was a beautiful expression of that.”
4. Okay, they are courageous. Definitely.
I found it courageous to share an intimate experience about accepting yourself. I found it courageous to show support to men and women who are lost in their own skins. I found it courageous to assume who you are.
Yes. In one picture, Ally and her friend had totally blew my mind. It was wrong and it was right at the same time.
I was confused.
But we all have that little voice, you know, the one that doesn’t shout to make itself heard, the one that is well thought out, more objective and less deaf than the others.
You are shocked by two women’s bottoms, that’s okay. Now, switch off your phone and watch an episode of Orange is the new black. Or maybe you prefer Game of Thrones? And by the way, you have forgotten to buy milk, so you could go to the store and listen to the last song of Rihanna on the road! Oh, way better! Watch a video of Nicki Minaj!
Well, I think you get the idea. My little voice wanted me to say that I am used to seeing boobs and butts, repeatedly violent sexual scenes in every movie, TV show or magazine, but I can not accept to see two simple and natural women naked and without any ambiguous postures — from the back, moreover. My little voice wanted me to admit the insane paradox that had taken place in my head and here is what was the most difficult to admit for me:
a naked body is not a sexual object
My vision of bodies, and especially naked ones, is influenced by medias and celebrities that advocate an equality between men and women based on stupid arguments (“but men can speak and act like jerks, why can’t women?”) whereas it should be based on respect; they extol a way to emancipate women from a social confinement they create, and imprison their body image.
But let me ask you this:
Who ever said it is a good compromise to hit women so that we find abnormal they use men as drivers and credit cards?
Who ever said it is nice to call women bitches or hoes so that we let them call men assholes?
Who ever said it is okay to see women almost naked shake their butts everywhere so that we can assure them it is a way to accept yourself and feel confident?
Because of people who use the word feminism without knowing its simplest definition, because of people who show a large spectrum of women’s bodies to make them feel better but who are just using them as sexual objects (no, there is no other word), because of people who don’t want to explain to women that they are much more than a body, my 19-year-old look is imprisoning them, imprisoning me, in a category that should not exist: object not very lovable or desirable without makeup or nice clothes, available at any time for the first person who would dare to be with it.
At that right moment, I am not ashamed of Ally and her friend anymore. I am ashamed of me and of all people who had been fooled by a system I reject.
I remember Cate Blanchett’s angriness against a cameraman who was filming very, very close to her bottom to “show the beautiful dress she was wearing for Oscars”.
I remember Mayim Bialik being judged on her capacities to easily solve calculus whereas she is a neuroscientist.
That system, must known as show business or even politics (French people, remember when Cécile Duflot had been whistled because she was wearing an “ugly” dress at the national assembly) or even scientific world, … tries to make women feel more confident with impossible — and contradictory — advice to follow. You think I am wrong? Just look at tabloids: one day, they tell you to be as natural as Angelina Jolie’s beauty is, and the other day they show you her — just as natural as before — cellulite with a big warning.
You remember, no wooden language. So let me tell you, at that right moment, at that exact period, this system is putting women down. Because they can’t be smart, or as smart as men. Because they can’t keep their bodies private if they want to. Because their beauty has to be natural with makeup, and their outfits sexy but only for their partners — for themselves it is called being egocentric, for other people it is called being a hoe.
I love American movies, TV shows and musics. I love the magic all around. But I am scared of the fake reality that is shown and presented as “my only goal in life”. We reached an extreme, a line that we should not cross. I also love movies with normal people, teen actors that really look like 15-year-olds, and singers who take care of their lyrics before their appearances. The world is made of diversity, I don’t understand why we should eliminate a part of it.
Going back to Ally’s picture, to this simple moment, full of joy, light, acceptance and trust, what makes me sad is that I was only seeing in it the darkest part of society for women. I was seeing something that did not exist in this picture. It was simply not there. It was just in my mind. Why are we so concerned about women’s appearances? Why are we so concerned about the meaning behind their outfits? I personally don’t think women should look at their bodies as if it was the unique et first thing they should concentrate on. They are smart. They are ingenious. They are funny. They are strong. I don’t think, by concentrating on what society has made “the principal issue of women”, we can help them to overcome their complexes. A human being is not only a body. It tries to find balance between positive and negative energies, thoughts and actions.
At that exact right moment, I have found some answers to my question but unfortunately, no real solutions. So, why my body is in the center of every debate concerning women? It is certainly the new way to control women, to make them look at an insignificant topic that requires special advice for every kind of women. As if being beautiful was an obligation to be good at work. Women are on Earth for a reason: appear. I speak about it around me and I hear words I could pronounce myself: “You know what? It seems so normal to me, so normal that women wear what they want, when they want… I don’t really care.” But I don’t want to be like that anymore. Passive. Because my look, my values, my fight for equality and respect don’t seem as natural for others as it is for me.
At that exact right moment, I couldn’t climb Ally’s mountain, take off my underwears and offer my body to the sun. I simply could not. Does it mean I am not allowed to do it? No. Does it mean I will never ever do it? No. And this is what is behind this picture. Your body is yours. It will evolve, as will your perception of it.
Ally never asked me (or any follower) to reproduce her picture.
At that exact right moment, she was simply, and beautifully, and peacefully in harmony with herself. It sounds poetic. It sounds magical. It is true.
Here is what should be seen, and heard, and felt in her picture, and in every body: harmony.