Think “feminism.” Think “body image.” What do you see?
You may see a woman who covers her body with the sole purpose of modesty. You may hear the thoughts of a woman who is confident in her body, but not her sexuality.
According to the media, women must be thin and modest. However, the media’s version of feminism fights this idea with upholding the value of confidence in one’s body.
Dove famously embraced “feminism” with “different” shapes of bodies and people of color in a commercial that called out photoshopping in magazines and advertisements. The commercial featured women in the same type of white underwear, demonstrating how everyone looks good with Dove beauty products. Although the women were stripped to their underwear, the commercial did not seek to sexualize the women or let them be confident in their sexuality. The commercial was about being comfortable in your own skin, even though all of the bodies looked similar and almost flawless.
With the perfect body, women cannot sexualize themselves in the media without shock. From the media’s perspective, that is up for the men to do for them.
Women in film are often sexualized by men and are advertised for male viewers. The new “Wonder Woman” trailer from D.C. Comics barely mentions the core values that make Wonder Woman such a strong and influential comic book character to women. Instead the trailer is filled with shots of her steel thighs, her breasts pressed up in her suit and her romantic relations to the main male character.
Of course the media’s interpretation of feminism often fights against this sexualization. From this kind of feminism’s perspective, women must not let men sexualize them and thus must not sexualize themselves. To be the kind of feminist that is comfortable with their body, one must be confident in their skin. One may not express confidence in their sexuality, as modesty is essential in avoiding the male gaze. Sexuality is strictly an idea fostered by men, according to media’s interpretation of feminism.
Although when pop artist Miley Cyrus released the music video for her song “Wrecking Ball” on YouTube in 2013, Cyrus reveled in her sexuality. While the video was not primarily directed toward male viewers, the comments under the video are flooded with slut shaming remarks. Cyrus shows more skin than clothing in the video and shocks viewers, as she explicitly expresses her confidence in not only her body but also her sexuality.
This confidence in sexuality put women that have been taught to follow the media’s version of feminism against Cyrus. Suddenly women who claimed to love their bodies were in disbelief over Cyrus’ video, as they themselves have never felt comfortable enough to view sexualization positively.
The idea that Cyrus made the video and does not care if male viewers are satisfied with it seems un-feminist. Why would a woman want to expose her body like that unless she did not have respect for herself?
Instead of teaching people that being comfortable with one’s body sexually is also what feminism stands for, the media pocketed the big bucks when their stories of the once Hannah Montana star, turned slut, was published. Cyrus’ body image rhetoric did not follow theirs, which lead the media to tear at Cyrus’ confidence.
Feminism is the fight for equity and for all people to live comfortably in their skin and their world. A true feminist would argue that a woman who is sexually proud and a woman who is modest can both be feminists, as their bodies are theirs and theirs only.
The problem comes in when men and other people sexualize women and their bodies. When men take a woman’s body and sexualize it for their own pleasure, true feminism screams “no.”
The media wants people to believe that women cannot be confident in their sexuality. However, rather than shaming women for being confident in their sexuality and calling them sluts, the male gaze is to blame. If the male gaze did not sexualize women for their own gain, then a woman’s body would be hers and hers only.
But the male gaze exists and thrives under “feminism.”
The media sells that to be a feminist, avoiding the male gaze is essential. True feminism argues that a woman owns her own body in every way, pointing the blame on the existence of male gaze, period.
True feminism is to own your body and your sexuality in any way you want to—modestly, sexually and more. True feminism uplifts those damaged by the male gaze and fights against its existence.
Do not let the media’s force-fed feminism fool you. Do not just avoid the male gaze; destroy it.