Taking off your clothes for a cause has always been controversial.
Warning: This post contains (shock, horror) FEMALE NUDITY. If you are at work, or you don’t like nudity, better click away now.
As you will have learned if you so much as glanced at your Facebook Newsfeed this week, that website includes nude portraits of women.
Those women included Please Like Me and former Neighbours star Stasey herself, meaning there is now a series of very large and very nude photos of the 24-year-old actor accessible on the newly launched website, herself.com (we’ve republished them here with permission.)
As soon as the images were uploaded on Saturday, a predictable thing happened: they began to cause “controversy” and even something resembling “outrage”. Because this is the internet in 2015, people, and anything more thought-provoking than a picture of a dancing baby now causes outrage. (Actually, dancing babies sometimes do cause outrage now, as Megan Gale recently learned the hard way.)
Social media commentators weighed in on Stasey’s shoot with statements like: “totally just an excuse for women to be naked in front of strangers,” and “oh, so she’s basically posting soft porn with interviews to ’empower’ herself? Pull the other one.”
I even heard some of this sort of chatter among my (normally very wise, pro-woman) friends yesterday:
“It’s so attention-seeking and desperate to just strip off like that.”
“It’s so predictable. Is there any female celebrity who we haven’t seen naked?”
But here’s the thing: we actually haven’t seen a celebrity naked like this before.
Because Caitlin’s photographs were taken on her own terms, accompanied by her own story, and evidently intended as an expression of her unique personal identity — as a woman and as a feminist and yeah, as a sexual being.
The most surprising thing about these photos is not the tiny heart tattoo on Stasey’s bum, her lack of heavy makeup, or even her refreshingly unwaxed bush: It’s the fact that that unlike almost every other instance of female nudity we get bombarded with on a daily basis — in photo shoots, in movies and in video clips which, by the way, many of Stasey’s oh-so-outraged critics wouldn’t bat an eyelid at — these photos were not created to gratify, flatter or profit men.
Or indeed, anyone else at all.
As Caitlin herself says in the interview accompanying her photos, the media is obsessed with depicting woman as “sexless unless corrupt, hairless unless masculine and helpless unless evil” — and her photos successfully challenge all those concepts.
So while they’re sexy in a deal-with-it kind of way, they (finally) present an alternative to that hairless, Photoshopped, submissive, pouty and predictably heteronormative model of sexiness women are usually confined to.
They depict imperfection, complexity and reality, and they challenge society’s obsession with fitting women into “neat little boxes” as “mothers, sluts, virgins, or wives”.
They depict a woman who is delicate but strong. Beautiful, but annoyed by the million beauty-related restrictions and expectations women remain burdened by. Articulate but still undeniably sexy.
Brave but vulnerable.
In other words, they depict a woman who has more in common with so many women that I know, who cannot often identify with other images of femininity in the media. And who need more women like Caitlin to come forward and say: This is me. This is how I look. This is who I am. Now tell me your story.
How many other celebrities (or non-famous humans, for that matter) are that honest? How many are that brave?
So yeah, another actress got naked on the internet.
But it was far from vulgar, desperate or predictable: it was raw, and feminist and even a little bit brilliant.
And to her outraged social media critics, I have no message better than that penned by Stasey herself: “Women – Love each other, support each other, defend each other.
“It comes at a greater cost to you to attack the women around you than it does to empower them.”
Some other kick-arse moments from Caitlin Stasey’s herself.com interview:
On her sexuality:
“I’ve known I was mostly gay ever since I can remember. I know it troubles many people for me to refer to myself as a lesbian considering I have a male partner. I think they gather that it trivializes the plight of the LGBTQIA community & although that couldn’t be further from the truth at this point in my life I’m trying to steer as far from labeling as possible.”
On Masturbation and the need for more sex education:
I used to pray every time I touched myself and I would cry myself to sleep, fearful of the wrath of God, guilty for my sins etc. etc. It breaks my heart to think of children all over the globe experiencing the same shame…
I think sexual education needs to morph into something far more comprehensive & less transphobic. We need to discuss things like stretch marks, acne, gender identity, gender fluidity, safe sex between same sex couples, sensitivity & empathy towards LGBTQIA students & masturbation.
On reproductive choice:
(I’m) super duper pro pro pro SUPER PRO choice. I volunteer at a clinic that performs clinical abortions & escort patients to the waiting room from their cars…
No one anywhere ever should EVER be able to tell a woman what is right for her body regarding her reproductive rights.
On the beauty industry:
“It’s grotesque the way we target women. Ad campaigns are so sneaky, so covert, they masquerade as your ‘friends’ having a lilting lady voice soothe you into buying THESE cosmetics because we ALL know ‘your crows feet are there’ & they are FUUU**ED. It’s so underhanded.”
On women in film, TV an advertising:
“The erasure of colour from entertainment is truly staggering & appalling. The erasure of women from within the LGTBQIA community is equally as awful.”