Nakedness isn’t activism – here’s why

Before the Caves by Helen Frankenthaler

Before the Caves by Helen Frankenthaler.  Source

There is a article in the Independent today about how page 3 of the Sun, and images of naked women in newspapers, contributes to domestic violence.

“There is an army on the other side hurtling abuse. It’s not simply about equal pay. It’s about the constant drip, drip of women being sexualised in the public space [which] has a great bearing on attitudes and domestic violence.

– Lynne Featherstone, former equalities minister for the UK

So then Dude Nation began barfing OMGCENSORSHIP in the comments and acting like taking the boobs off of page 3 would mean THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.  So here’s my answer:

I can’t help but laugh when I see these OMG CENSORSHIP arguments.

We haven’t had any real censorship in years. Just look around you. P()rn everywhere! Tell me how that’s made our lives better? With statistics ‘n’ things. And you’ll have to meet Mr. Wimble’s [a commenter’s] criteria for the burden of proof, or we can’t be expected to believe you.

As if freedom of speech had anything to do with the privilege – mistakenly believed to be a right – of male humans to use their ownership and control of economic resources to make women strip for them and pose in humiliating ways, for their own survival.

Censorship is only possible by the privileged. They are the only ones with enough power and minions to enforce it.

The bitter irony of the OMG CENSORSHIP people is that the moment anyone questions their entitlement to consume women’s bodies, that person is belittled, attacked, and shouted down. Since men belong to the dominant class, they can (and do) censor any female who objects to the way men treat women. They count on support from their fellow males to silence women, and they get it. Just look at all the men in these comments, acting like taking away their p()rn* will destroy society. Dude, it won’t destroy anything but your sense of entitlement to women’s bodies. Why do you have that sense of entitlement in the first place?

*one word changed because I really don’t want hits on my site from dudes looking for graphic representations of rape on the internet.

And also this morning, I had to explain to someone why stripping and nudity aren’t actually acts of feminist defiance, but the same old male appeasement in a shiny new package.    There’s always some group of so-called feminists trying to get away with this.  It doesn’t work, because getting naked is what men want women to do.

Doing what men want is appeasement.  Feminism is resistance.  Appeasement and resistance are opposing forces; the more you do of one, the less you can do of the other.  That’s why these groups are insidious; they divert feminist energy into meaningless acts that only serve male interests.

Men don’t care if you write incendiary messages of revolt all over your naked body, as long as they get to see that body.  When they hear you call yourself a slut, they won’t know that you’re being ironic and that you’ve reclaimed the word.  And they won’t care, because irony is just another flavor of appeasement.  They’ll call you a slut in a totally non-ironic, non-reclaimed way.  And they’ll insist that insulting you is okay because you’re doing it to yourself.

We all have to appease in one way or another to survive, but let’s not confuse that behavior with feminist activism.  It’s not. Let’s do as little of it as we can get away with, and as much resistance as we are capable of.

In related news, the Everyday Sexism project won the Independent Blog of the Year Award.  Go there and try to figure out which of the stories I sent in.  (didn’t use my actual name).

And if you haven’t signed No More Page 3, do it now!

30 thoughts on “Nakedness isn’t activism – here’s why

  1. Re Femen: ‘Insidious’ is right. Since when was it ‘radical’ for a young, nubile female to use her body to gain ‘public’ (read ‘male’) attention? Since yesterday, on Page 3? It’s a deeply conservative, retrograde act.
    That Frankenthaler is gorgeous.

    • Thanks, matey!

      Figured I’d try to show some art since this is AN ART BLOG after all. Not that I’ve had any time for writing about art lately what with all of this campaigning.

      I could talk about the dude who complained in the Independent story comments about “OH NOES YOU WILL CENSOR THE OLD MASTERS”, but, nah. That argument’s so stupid it refutes itself.

  2. Some Dude left a comment, which I reproduce for you here in all its glory:

    “Don’t call me a ‘dude’ . It’s so fucking patronising and sexist.”

    Dude thinks I’m a sexist! Dude also thinks I have sufficient power and privilege to “patronise” anyone. Dude, you’re hilarious!

    Poor dudes. They really have it hard, what with us sexist feminists calling them dudes and all.

    Thanks for commenting, dude.

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  6. I’m sure this won’t be true of the world you inhabit, but I regularly see significantly more male semi-nudity on display for women than female nudity for men.

    Where? Well I’m an IT consultant, I see a lot of different offices and where the corporate policy is sufficiently relaxed for people to choose their own desktop backgrounds it’s extremely common that a computer owned by a woman will have some waist-up naked guy on it. Who depends on age, but boy bands, actors (Daniel Craig seems particularly on trend at the moment) and among older women George Cluny is a perennial favourite. On the other hand you hardly ever see semi-naked women on male computer screens – these are inevitably safer subjects like cars and landscapes, although the sort of shot you might get from the red carpet at the Oscars does seem acceptable.

    Of course you don’t see this in public sector establishments which tend to be politically correct in frowning on anything like that, and this is a purely anecdotal observation from a few score offices and will be limited to a subgroup of socioeconomic classes, but where there’s a choice I see an awful lot of women choosing to look at objectified male bodies within a sphere where they must feel in control.

    I’m sure you must have a suitable rad-fem interpretation of this, but from what I see both sexes actually like looking at images of the bodies of good-looking members of the desired sex, and where they allowed to will do so. I’m sure that in the past this privilage was available only to men, and that bias undoubtably does continue in male controlled spaces. But i think that to assume that this is fundamentally a male, rather than a people, trait is rather to misunderstand human nature.

    • Hi, dude!

      I inhabit a world where women are treated as subhuman, decorative meatsocks. That’s the same world you live in. Only you get to deny it, because it doesn’t fuck up your life; nay, it enhances your own power and privilege.

      Those who are well-served by the status quo will justify that status quo any way they can. No wonder you’d rather have feminists believe that their awareness of their own oppression is merely ‘misunderstanding human nature’.

      Thanks for the mansplanation. It pairs nicely with the raging case of liberal sexism you’re sporting there.

  7. Hi Star

    Thank-you for replying.

    I’m afraid I don’t understand. How am I being sexist saying I see more pictures of semi-naked women on computer wallpaper than men, and postulating that’s because (some) women like looking at semi-naked pictures of men? And from that extending it to say people in general like looking at good-looking bodies of the sex they find attractive?

    Please don’t throw dismissive insults and labels at me, I really would like to know. I’ve always considered myself a feminist and I’ve tried to act as such all my adult life. How should I interpret and explain what I see in a non-sexist manner?

    Sorry, just really confused and I would like to understand.

    • Hiro. Thank you for your interest in feminism. Sadly, being chronically short-staffed and underfunded, feminism is unable to appoint tour guides to hold your hand down its halls, taking extra care not to let you stumble over anything unpleasant that you can’t see in the blindness of privilege.

      Should you wish a self-guided tour of radical feminism, I suggest you begin at the archives of and work your way forward. Should you still wish to be a feminist ally after reading all of that, you would then go forth amongst the males and challenge their sexist opinions, rather than hang around radical feminist blogs mansplaining to people less privileged than yourself about why the feminist worldview is all wrong.

  8. Thank you Star, I certainly will add that to the list of blogs I scan. Along with yours if you will allow, some of the art you link to is fantastic.

    Short staffed as you are though, you did accused me specifically of being sexist in fairly insulting terms (at least that’s what I think you meant to imply by opening your post with ‘Hi Dude’) and you haven’t actually explained why except in the most general of manner beyond ‘you’re a man and you’re privileged’.

    That doesn’t really help me understand where I’m going wrong, and I really would like to know.

    So I appreciate that I’m taking up your time, but could you tell me specifically why, when I observe that I see a great many computers used by women to have background wallpaper on them of semi-naked pictures of men, I am being sexist by assuming from this that many women, as well as men, like looking at semi-naked pictures of good-looking members of the sex they are attracted to?

  9. What part of “marginalized people are not required to watch their tone when speaking to members of the oppressor class” are you having trouble understanding?

    Once you finish pondering this, move on to a deeper contemplation of the truth I already mentioned in my previous reply. If you’re having trouble remembering what that was, here’s a reminder: Feminists don’t owe you an explanation of where you’re going wrong. If you’re going wrong at all, it’s because you’re upholding the status quo. It’s not our job to teach you how to stop oppressing us.

    Go read, think, and figure things out for yourself. If you keep hanging around here complaining about how I’ve misunderstood you, I’m going to assume you’re a troll and that your purpose is to waste my time. This will earn you a renewed appellation of “Dude”, and possibly mockery.

  10. Thank you for replying Star. I know I’m being a pain over this, and I do appreciate the time you are taking to reply.

    “marginalized people are not required to watch their tone when speaking to members of the oppressor class”

    I’m not sure I do understand. Are you saying that because I’m a man you get cart-blanche to insult me anyway you like just because I have was born with Y chromosome? That really doesn’t seem very civilized – or encouraging of any man who is sympathetic to the feminist cause for that matter.

    “Feminists don’t owe you an explanation of where you’re going wrong.”

    But I do not know what I’m doing wrong, and you won’t tell me. Please Star. Just explain why…

    “when I observe that I see a great many computers used by women to have background wallpaper on them of semi-naked pictures of men, I am being sexist by assuming from this that many women, as well as men, like looking at semi-naked pictures of good-looking members of the sex they are attracted to?”

    I just want to know. Please.

  11. My blog policy, clearly visible on the upper right portion of the screen, is “don’t be an asshole.”

    Commenters who keep insisting I personally educate them about feminism after I’ve told them to go away, will be deemed assholes. And banninated.

  12. I must confess I have the same question that Hiro does. And I am not a male…I am a mid sixties woman. Yes, my generation was exposed to a lot more of the macho patriarchy than many younger women have been. One reason they haven’t been as much is that we older ladieshave fought these attitudes our whole lives. Are you seeing the women who display nude males on their computers as simply trying to copy the behaviors of the dominant males? I must confess that is a concern I have about some interpretations of “feminism”. We are women and it does not serve us well to try and become equal with the dominant white male privilege by imitating it or trying to simply usurp it for ourselves. I believe we are still engaged in learning just what it IS to be a human female.

    • Hi. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

      The answer to your question is yes. They are copying the behavior of the dominant group believing that it empowers them, only it doesn’t, because women don’t have the power that men do.

      Men enjoy the benefits of a culture that systematically deprives women of the resources they need to survive unless they serve the sexual desires of men in some way. When a man looks at a female who has been reduced to an object for his consumption, he is exercising his privilege. And he is oppressing women. Women copy this behavior in the hope of attaining the power upon which it is based, but this is impossible because women don’t own and control the world’s resources and are in no position to deny them to men if men don’t comply with what women want. When women copy dominance behavior, they don’t empower themselves in any way; they only further normalize that behavior. Then men like Hiro cite female imitation as proof that this behavior is “hardwired”, natural and okay.

      The solution to male privilege is the abolishment of privilege itself through worldwide feminist revolt.

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  15. Completely 100% agree with you and this was refreshing to read. The current wave of “feminism” has been very frustrating for me. I feel as though women are now just trying to be like men rather than push the true feminist nature through and, as you say, REVOLT, rather than lower ourselves to their level. We have gone beyond “boys will be boys” by now being ok with female objectification or ever worse, encouraging it. Thank you thank you thank you. I sure hope there are more women out there like you…like us.

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  17. I hadn’t thought about “nakedness as activism” in this way before. You make a very eye-opening point, even though it took a couple of reads to grasp. Bravo.

    • We’re told that the bad guys are conservative and prudish, and all we have to do to Show Them is take off our clothes and, well, show them. This neatly sidesteps the fact that the liberal guys doing most of the telling hate women just as much as their conservative brothers do; they just express their hate differently. Nine Deuce has some good blog posts about this; here’s a link to one of them.

      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it.

  18. Dear would-be commenter “Chocomento”:

    Your comment, ‘splaining to me about how mean I was to ‘poor Hiro’ or how liberated you think you are because you like to see naked men, has not been approved.

    Why not? Because you’ve said nothing that contributes to the discussion. And I don’t allow assholes on my blog.

    “Now that you’ve patiently explained to me for the nth time how much oppression hurts you, I’ve seen the light! I’ll never oppress your kind again!” — Said no oppressor class, ever.

  19. Thanks so much for writing this, and your comments below. Although I knew why this nakedness faux feminism was a problem, I found it hard to articulate why, and your use of the word appeasement hits the nail on the head.

    Your explanation of why women looking at semi-naked pictures of men is not the same as the other way round was really useful. I will be using your way of explaining both these issues when trying to explain my feminist views in the future. I have learnt so much from this blog.

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