I really loved Meghan Murphy’s article about Kim Kardashian’s nude selfie, in which she basically says that she doesn’t give a flying fuck whether Kim Kardashian posts nude selfies. I don’t give a flying fuck either.
There is a popular strawman argument that people like to set up in regards to radical feminists. We are apparently against women using their bodies they way they want to and we are anti-sex prudes who want to “slut-shame” women who are trying to achieve liberation through nudity and orgasms. In fact, we are just people who realize that nudity and orgasms aren’t liberating anyone from oppression.
I am not the least bit interested in Tweeting at women who post nude selfies to put their clothes back on. That would be horizontal hostility. I don’t think it’s particularly helpful for women to post nude selfies, but it’s not the pictures themselves that are a problem. Nude selfies can be thought of as a symptom of a problem, but they are certainly not the problem itself.
Here are some examples of actual problems:
- Our culture encourages women to believe, right from childhood, that their entire purpose in life is to be pretty and pleasing to men, which means that large numbers of young women try as best they can to be as pretty as possible and are devastated when they can’t measure up.
- The standards of attractiveness for girls and women are unattainable for most people, and they often require buying products that may be toxic and engaging in unhealthy behaviours, like restricting food intake.
- Men and boys enforce these standards on women and girls by subjecting them to physical and verbal harassment and sexual assault for either not complying to the standards of attractiveness or trying too hard to comply.
- Our cultural institutions such as the nuclear family, religion, the law, and popular culture enforce men’s sense of ownership and entitlement to women’s bodies by promoting the cultural idea that women owe men sex, by failing to punish rapists and abusers and by making women dependent on men.
- A multi-billion dollar pornography industry sells images and videos of men sexually abusing women and girls.
- A multi-billion dollar prostitution industry profits from the sexual enslavement of girls and women.
- Children are being groomed by pornography to accept abusive sexuality as normal.
Women posting nude selfies are not the issue. The issue is the culture and the institutions that ensure that every new generation of girls grows up believing that her path to success involves making herself into the best sex object she can be, and limiting her options so that she has to become a sex object in order to succeed. If that culture were not in place, then women wouldn’t be posting so many nude selfies.
If we lived in a world where women and men were equal and there was no dominance and submission then female nudity wouldn’t have the same meaning. In this culture, female nudity gives the viewer the thrill of witnessing the vulnerability and exploitation of an oppressed class, and reminds men that women exist for their pleasure and use. The problem lies in the meaning behind the nudity, not the nudity itself.
I understand the desire to post nude selfies. In Kim Kardashian’s case, it furthers her career of being famous for the sake of being famous. In the case of ordinary women, it gives them validation that they are fuckable, which is what all women are taught to aspire to. When you know that your worth is contained in your sexiness then of course it’s going to feel good to get validation that you are sexy. Eventually most women figure out that we actually gain nothing from giving men boners, but usually not without trying it first.
When attacking a problem, it’s important to attack it at the root. The root of this problem is male ownership over women’s bodies (patriarchy) and to solve it is to overthrow the institutions of patriarchy. That’s why Dworkin and MacKinnon’s strategy was to try to make it possible for women to sue their pornographers, not to harass individual women who pose nude.
I don’t blame individual women who are trying to survive in a patriarchy, I blame the patriarchy.