‘Bad Girls’ Take to the Streets: Nudity and Public Action

In Naked Politics: Nudity, Political Action, and the Rhetoric of the Body, author Brett Lunceford examines the relationship between body nudity and political movements. From feminists protesting gender-based violence with nude marches, environmentalists riding naked against oil dependence, to female college students supporting presidential candidates with topless photos, the demands are not alike, but the activists collectively identify , strip off your clothes and expose your body for better results. Lunceford argues that body nudity has become a political discourse and rhetoric, and that the body still speaks even when the voice disappears.

In 2008, three young girls founded Femen, the most well-known radical feminist organization of our time, in Ukraine. Femen means thigh in Latin. They have attracted many like-minded girls and took to the streets to oppose the prostitution industry in Ukraine, the religious system, the dictatorship, and the support of homosexuality… Bare boobs are their label and their weapon. For Femen, exposing their breasts was once a means and a tactic to attract attention, and later it became their self-expression—women should make their own decisions about using their bodies as objects of desire, or tools of protest.

A member of Femen said in an interview: All issues of gender equality and women’s rights are related to the body, such as abortion, medically assisted reproduction, the hijab and prostitution…

“The body is a field of opinion and a battlefield, so the feminist movement should return to the body… We are the masters of our own bodies again.”

Similar to Femen’s action, there is also the “SlutWalk” (SlutWalk) that originated in Canada in 2011. That year, a Toronto police officer suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” to prevent sexual assault. This remark sparked feminist anger, and starting in Toronto, the “slut march” has been launched in many countries and regions, and has become a regular annual event in some cities.

The women who participated in the “slut parade” wore revealing costumes, miniskirts, topless, garter… The nakedness of the body had a destructive power: never compromised with the provocative gaze of men. At the same time, in many live rallies and on the Internet, many rape victims have bravely come forward to talk about their experiences and feelings. This “I can harass, you can’t harass” discourse is also familiar to the Chinese public. In 2012, an official Weibo account of the Shanghai Metro posted a back view of a woman wearing a see-through suit, with the caption “It’s weird not to be harassed when you dress like this. Girl, please respect yourself.” For a while, there was a lot of controversy on social media. Someone launched a performance art of “I can show you, you can’t harass” in the Shanghai subway, and received a lot of solidarity.

Radical Femen care about almost all controversial gender issues, and their actions are destined to be criticized by the public and suppressed by the authorities; the values ​​and implementation methods of the “slut march” have always been controversial, and the voices of criticism have never stopped; Searching for “I can harass, you can’t harass” today, the discussion has not stopped, and the voice of opposition has never stopped.

When “rebellious girls” take to the streets, when they lift up their tops and attract attention, what does it mean to be naked? How can men’s behavior be judged if they never take their eyes off their bare breasts and thighs with playfulness and contentment? How can the “bad girls” deal with the opposition calling them “shallow feminists”?

The above questions may never be answered, because the controversy over women’s naked bodies is destined to never stop.

The Eternal Body Battlefield: Choose Nudity, Not Shame

In contemporary popular culture, the naked body and sexy appearance of women seem to be entangled with the cultural industry and capital. When Madonna danced provocatively on stage, and Kardashian’s sexy photos appeared on magazine covers over and over again, the feminist debates about pornography in the late ’80s seemed to be long gone. The political significance of naked body is dispelled by contemporary commercial culture, “male gaze” has become “capital gaze”, and capital is oppressed on the reconstruction of female body. There are always new contradictions in the war on gender, and the female body is the eternal battlefield.

What is certain, however, is that women’s bodies should not be associated with men’s desires, and that women’s bodies belong to themselves, not to men’s potential sexual objects. Maybe the male gaze can never be eliminated, but in the reconstruction of the female body, female subjectivity is the definite and only standard, and women can give their naked bodies infinite meanings, which have nothing to do with shame.

What should a true feminist (male or female)

look like? There are thousands of answers to this question, but a true feminist shouldn’t set limits for women, whether it’s nudity or anything else. As Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) put it: “Wearing pink, miniskirts, shaving my legs, and liking boys doesn’t prevent me from being a A feminist.”

"Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and Other Lies)" book cover

Going back to the beginning of the article, it seems unnecessary to worry about the nudity of female characters in Love, Death and Robots. If body nudity is equated with catering to straight men, isn’t that looking at women with the “male gaze”?

Women’s body nudity has already had multiple meanings. Female artists construct subjectivity by creating nudes. “Bad girls” take to the streets to show their bodies to express their rights. The naked body is no longer equal to women’s shame, let alone directly equivalent to sex. What’s more, “sex” itself does not belong only to men, women also have the right to pursue the pleasure of the body (including viewing the female body).

Therefore, it is better to let go of the “male gaze”, and in this war, do not “surrender without a fight”

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