What Will Your Mother Think?
Social media has become far more than just simply a method of communication. It has become a platform where organizations push their causes, magazines post articles, models create online portfolios and followings, writers upload eBooks, and companies debut new products. It has become a marketing phenomenon, a haven for independent artists, heaven for overnight celebrities, and home of online trolls. But most notably, it has become a gigantic forum where every opinion is voiced whether solicited or not, whether valid or not.
Women, their bodies in particular, have always been called into question, regulated, and subjected to a slew opinions. Her modesty, promiscuity, hair, makeup, voice, words, clothing, diet, hobbies, parenting and career choices have always been heavily scrutinized. With the popularity and growth of social media, there are now several questions and opinions about how a woman should conduct and present herself online.
The women I follow on social media are strong, independent, hardworking, and sexy. They are mothers, models, businesswomen, entertainers, reality show stars, makeup artists, bloggers, and influencers. Some are tattooed. Some happily flaunt curves in lingerie and swimwear. Some are more conservative. Some are content to wear only pink and some change hair colors every week. They adorn, display, share, and celebrate their bodies as they please and that, in my opinion, is inspiring. So a few weeks ago, I posted a photo of my own. It was a shadowy photo of my body clad in black underwear with my face partially cropped. It was easily the most vulnerable I have allowed my body to be on social media and a photo I had wanted to post for some time but hesitated to for fear of scrutiny.
For the most part, it received positive reactions and comments but one particular comment bothered me.
It was a comment made with good intentions but it hit a nerve. Why did my mother's opinion on my body and how I chose to present it matter?
I recently read an article entitled: Why It's Hard To Respect Females Who Post Half-Naked Pictures Online. As you can imagine, I was already mildly ready to throttle the author after reading the title alone. The article listed reasons why women who post half-naked photos of themselves have no self-respect, no morals, and are seeking attention among other things.
This is not the first time I've heard such sentiments. Women and men alike harshly criticize women who post photos flaunting their bodies. A few weeks ago, I shared a statement from Violet Rose on Facebook:
And I completely agree. Women's breasts are objectified and regulated to please the male gaze. Even when women's breasts are used for their actual purpose: breastfeeding, it is deemed inappropriate if done in public while nude magazines line store fronts.
Yet some people claim that topless models on magazines are more valid and respectable because they are being paid. It's another case of people comparing two women, deeming one more acceptable than the other simply because of their bodies, appearance, and how they choose to show it. One article compared Kim Kardashian to Michelle Obama. Michelle is painted as the classy, modestly dressed, Ivy league educated, successful power woman while Kim is portrayed as the dumb 'slutty' counterpart with no talent besides flaunting her body and riding on the fame of her sex tape. This is an unfair comparison, one that shouldn't even be made. There is no wrong way to be a woman and success is not hinged on education, clothing choice, or sexuality.
Kim is an intelligent businesswoman who has managed to manipulate a sea of misogynistic comments, slut-shaming, ridicule, and objectification in her favor. How she chooses to dress or post photos does not make her a less respectable woman than Michelle Obama. Wearing revealing clothes does not make me a slut or 'easy' any more than donning a nun's habit will make you religious.
A single Google search resulted in more than a dozen articles criticizing women who display their bodies in more revealing ways. As I read through each article and the arguments they presented, I grew more and more frustrated. In this day and age, people still regard women and their bodies this way? There are still people who believe a woman's worth is dependent on how men view her and how they approve of how she dresses? On whether or not she is wife material? There are still women that tear other women down for doing what makes them feel empowered? I felt I had to say something, anything about it. I felt I had to make some things very clear to people who so quickly judge women and people in general.
Women are not for men's consumption
"Respect yourself, ladies, it will attract the right things and the right man"
"There's nothing left to the imagination, no more mystery. They don't even have to take her on a date. They know what she looks like naked"
I do not dress myself to please men and the things I do are not centered on snagging the right man. I am not here to be the 'girl he would want to bring home to his parents' or to be the perfect, god-fearing wife. I am not here to be your manic pixie dream girl or your girl next door. It is not my job to make you feel comfortable and it sure as hell is not my job to please you.
If you don't want to date a woman simply because you've already seen much of her skin, you already don't deserve her. If you are a man who immediately degrades and lowers your respect for a woman because she has the audacity to post photos of her own body, then you don't deserve a strong, independent woman who knows her worth. She is more than the skin of her thighs or the cleavage on her chest. There is personality, goals, history, childhood, culture, and inspiration beneath all that. There is no shortage of mystery in her but there is clearly a shortage of integrity, respect, and maturity in you.
Women are not pieces of meat
"Women who post half-naked photos are advertising themselves as a piece of meat, tempting men"
Let's get one thing straight. The way I dress or present myself is not an invitation to touch my body and it is absolutely no excuse for any kind of harassment or abuse. The kind of photos I post are not invitations for lewd comments, fetishizing my body, or perverted advances.
I am not advertising myself as a piece of meat. The comparison alone of my body to a piece of meat is degrading and objectifying, reducing me to nothing more than something to be consumed and then done away with. I am presenting myself as a woman who is confident in her body, something I have struggled with my entire life. I am presenting myself as a woman who finds herself beautiful and is not afraid to share that, attention-seeking be damned. YOU are the one viewing me as a piece of meat. YOU are an entitle piece of crap. YOU are the problem.
I Do Not Need Your Permission
"Where are the parents of these women who allow them to behave in such a way?"
"A woman who knows her worth will not present herself in such a manner"
NO. A woman who knows her worth doesn't need validation or approval from any man or anyone else. A woman who knows her worth will dress however the hell she wants, unapologetic and glowing. She is not allowed by anyone to post her photos or wear what we wears. She does not need your permission.
There are a good number of people who still think that my body and how I present it reflects on my parents and my upbringing. I find this kind of thinking quite unhealthy. While my parents have greatly influenced me, they are not the only ones. At my age, I make decisions without needing their consent or their opinion. I've been informed by the world around me and I've built an image that I control and shape. It is a tool to be honest and empower myself and how I go about that is not my parent's business. If it offends them, I cannot help that. I can explain but I will not allow it to change me and I will not apologize. I am my own person.
There is no wrong way to be a woman
It is natural to want to display one's body. Fashion, cosmetics, photography, and art are proof that we have always been fascinated with the human body and the ways we make it aesthetically pleasing. Bodies tell stories. All the scars, tan lines, hard-earned abs, stretch marked thighs, tattoos, piercings, and eclectic outfits tell a story. To say there is only one right way to be a woman would be a disservice to all the beautiful, diverse, complex women out there.
What will your mother think? I hope she's proud. I hope she knows that after years and years of battling with myself and punishing myself for being who I am, I am slowly but surely recognizing my own strength, my own beauty, and my own autonomy. I am a grown ass woman. My body is mine to display as I please and no amount of skin exposure lessens my value as a human being.
Why does my mother's or anyone else's opinion on my body and how I chose to present it matter? The correct answer is that it doesn't.