The idea that women can both own their sexuality and identify as feminist is one that doesn’t sit well within our society. But it’s about time we said adios to slut shaming and adopted the notion that all women can be feminists, regardless of their jobs, hobbies and sexual antics, so to speak.
As a model who bares no qualms in posing topless for a photo shoot, I receive my fair share of negative comments from strangers.
"Slut," "whore" and "degrading to women" are just a few examples of slurs thrown at me regularly on social networking sites, all because I occasionally get paid to flash a nipple.
Of course, because I choose to sexualize myself, I couldn’t dare identify as a feminist, right? Wrong.
I am a proud feminist, in or out of clothing.
The term “feminism” has faced blurred lines lately, with certain groups hiding behind the word to voice their personal opinions on issues like man hating, the need for female censorship and women as victims of objectification.
There are campaigns claiming to fight against gender inequality such as the “No More Page 3 Campaign.” This movement argues to ban the image of a topless model from Page 3 of the newspaper, The Sun, due to it being damaging and degrading to women.
At first impression, the campaign seems to seek a positive change and impact on society; however, you can’t claim to be fighting for gender equality if you are ignoring the sexualized portrayal of an entire gender.
That’s right, ladies; turn your newspaper one more page, and you’ll be faced with David Beckham’s bare chest and golden balls in all their lumpy glory.
“But women’s nipples are more provocative than men's nipples,” they say say. And that’s where they’re wrong.
There is no scientific fact to back up such claims; only society’s decision to sexualize a woman’s bare torso while normalizing a male's.
You only have to look at the recent picture of Justin Bieber's bare ass and the comments of fawning young girls (who, let me remind you, are all too quick to call out Miley Cyrus for being a slut), to see there is inequality in the acceptance of men and women who choose to own their sexuality.
For a recent documentary, I explored the idea of women both owning their sexuality and identifying as feminists. I took part in a topless photo shoot alongside male model Connagh Howard to lay bare the unequal judgment of male versus female sexuality.
God forbid I removed my hand from my chest during the photo shoot and revealed a female nipple; I mean, the whole image would become seedy and offensive, right?
But the male model’s nipples, they can be shown; they’re acceptable. They can be displayed in shop windows, on the side of buses. Hell, no one will call you a pervert if they’re stuck up on your bedroom wall to fantasize about and discuss all kinds of dirty things with your girl mates.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Women are sexual beings; we have needs and fantasies, just as men do. If we want to be sexy and feel confident with our naked bodies, it’s not because we have “daddy issues” or want a 60-year-old pervert behind the computer to tell us we’re hot.
It’s because we feel bloody marvelous about ourselves and aren’t afraid to show it. And, if showcasing our bodies as such is a means to putting some money in the bank for a few mojitos and a trip out on Saturday night, it’s an even bigger bonus.
Whether you choose to turn a blind eye to it or not, the sexual objectification of women is a daily occurrence in everyday life.
Your school will tell you your skirt is too short and it’s distracting to boys because, of course, they aren’t capable of carrying out their times tables without staring at that extra two inches of skin on the girl next to them.
Builders will whistle at you while you’re walking past in your ugliest jumper; the shop cashier will talk to your boobs when you’re asking for a pack of cigarettes; the guy on the rowing machine behind you at the gym will stare at your ass the whole time you’re sweating that pizza out on the treadmill.
Women are viewed as sexual objects in the eyes of males and females, and that’s just a fact we need to face. A woman is beautiful in her presence, her being, her mind, her body and every other part that makes her whole.
It’s about time we encouraged females to embrace this and love themselves, instead of telling them to hide their sexuality for fear of victimization.
A recent documentary, “Sex in Class,” explored the pitiful excuse for sex education in British schools. It displays just how damaging it can be for society to shame girls who embrace their sexuality.
The film showed 16-year-old girls oblivious to what a clitoris was and where it could be found, who were embarrassed at the thought of masturbation and the idea of sex as pleasurable.
In sharp contrast, 16-year-old boys expressed it is “respectful” for a girl to swallow their bodily fluids, and saw consent to sex as a girl consenting to having a boy’s bodily fluids sprayed all over her face.
This is a direct effect of slut-shaming women who take control and embrace their own sexuality. While society is telling females it is wrong to have sex for their own enjoyment, or to want to feel and look good for themselves, we are inevitably turning women into victims of the male gaze.
If you don't take control of your sexuality, someone else will do it for you.
If it’s not you projecting a sexual nature of yourself, someone else will presume on your behalf. If it’s not you presenting yourself as a sexual being to society, someone will take it upon themselves to do so.
Taking control of your sexuality and presence as a sexual being is not weak, attention-seeking or slutty. It’s a powerful message from an independent woman, who isn’t about to allow society to decide who she is or who she should be. It's a great show of feminism, if you ask me.
Of course, not every female feels a need to be in tune with her sexuality or to wear a scandalous outfit and 6-inch heels on a night out, and that is absolutely fine.
However, all women should be allowed to have the choice of being a wallflower, or standing out from the crowd without being called a slut or whore during the process.
As females, we need to stop degrading one another, stop the name-calling and judging because of the jobs we choose to do (looking at you, "No More Page 3" campaign) and stop picking and choosing who we let into this movement we call “feminism.”
Don’t be ashamed of your bodies, ladies and gents. Showcase them in all their natural form that your mother and father gave you; be bloody proud of who you are. And if you decide to be a wallflower, don’t stop other flowers from blooming.
The idea that a woman can’t be a feminist if she chooses to show her body is a stupid stereotype that’s developed from personal opinion and does not reflect the foundations of feminism.
If that needs clearing up for you guys, know that feminism stands for equality in gender, and doesn’t vary due to a woman’s job, hobbies, personality or sexual antics.
If you stand for gender equality, you are a feminist.