The Huffington Post’s article “100 Sheroes Just Posed Nude at the Republican National Convention” is one of the most important pieces I’ve read in a long time. The strength of this piece is rooted in the power of the female body.
Our Bodies Tell Stories
Deanna Bergdorf, one of the women who participated in this protest, observed an “overwhelming sameness” of the 99 women with whom she stood. She did not mean to suggest that each woman looked or acted the same. Of course not; each woman is unrepeatable, irreplaceable, and invaluable. Rather, she was witnessing how when we stand together, our diversity highlights our common femininity. This group of women were a living puzzle; puzzles require all different shapes and colors to form one perfectly crafted unity. Like each puzzle piece, each body tells a story. The photographs of the protest showcase this storytelling power.
The stories our bodies tell are not merely symbolic. Bergdorf marveled at the “decades’ worth of stories in [our] wrinkles and creases and folds.” Like the pieces in a puzzle, our stories necessarily overlap because the stories our bodies tell revolve around relationship with others. Our wrinkles embody the laughter and tears we’ve shared with friends. Our creases memorialize the children we’ve borne and nursed and the hands we have held. Our folds personify the journeys we’ve traveled, problems we’ve solved, and burdens we’ve carried. They are the stories of our lives.
Unfortunately, some people are unable to read the stories our bodies tell. This is why the article begins with a disclaimer: “Warning: This piece contains nudity and may be inappropriate for work environments.” When some people look at the naked human body, they are unable to see the entire person presented before them. The naked human body is not inappropriate, dirty, or wrong. However, because of our capacity to objectify human beings, just about anything can become ‘pornographic’ depending on how we are looking at it. In a perfect world, everyone could look at the photos in any situation and see nothing but 100 strong, gorgeous, and brave women. But we don’t live in a perfect world. (Case in point: Trump is a party-nominated candidate for President of the United States.)
The stunning photographs of the protest must be presented with sensitivity. The article didn’t come with a warning label because the content is inappropriate per se; it came with a warning label because the viewer might not be in the position to see the content in its entirety. If you’re able to look at the photographs without feeling uncomfortable or objectifying the women, please do so. If you are not ready, please wait. Just as there is no shame in looking, there is no shame in not looking.
The only way we are going to cure the epidemic of misogyny is to heal this inability to see women.
Misogyny is Bigger than Politics
This protest did not go deep enough. Thanks to Donald Trump, the Republican party has become the caricature that Democrats have always tried to paint it to be: ignorant, intolerant, and downright buffoonish. But voting for Hillary isn’t going to make it all better. (Full disclosure: I lament the fact that my conscience prevents me from voting for Hillary, the person likely to be the first woman president. A tough pill to swallow as a feminist.)
Misogyny is bigger than politics. These women could have been protesting an endless list of injustices in our world today, not just Trump’s odious and embarrassing campaign. It would have been an equally appropriate statement against the honor killing of Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani pop-star brutally murdered by her brother over the weekend. They could have been protesting in communities where girls cannot go to school because menstruation is still seen as taboo. They have equal reason to protest against workplaces without acceptable maternity leave policies. These are just 3 examples amidst an entire world full of reasons.
The pictures taken at the protest have the capacity to play a much larger role than just sending an anti-Trump message. One of my dear friends shared the original Huffington Post article on her Facebook wall, not because of the political statement made, but because of the loveliness of the photographs. She commented: “I wasn’t even thinking of the politics, but rather the beauty of bodies in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Maybe if we all spent more time appreciating God’s creations we wouldn’t be at each other’s throats…maybe.”
The photos capture a beauty that cannot be reduced to a political statement. The female body cannot be reduced to a political statement.
Our Bodies are Enough
My favorite sentence in the Huffington Post article mentions the mirrors that each woman held during the photo shoot: “reflecting the earth and sun and sky, as well as the fleshy forms of the manifold women around them, the mirrors spoke to the communal power of womanhood, a force almost supernatural in its strength.” This “communal power of womanhood” stems from our connection to the people and environment around us. The earth, sun, and sky perfectly parallel the cyclical nature of femininity. It’s basic biology, and it’s astounding.
Every culture, however, tells us that our biology is not enough—that our bodies are not enough. And we listen, adjusting our lifestyles so as not to be seen as somehow “less empowered.” Some women postpone having children purely out of fear that they won’t be seen as liberated and equal members of the workforce if they don’t wait. Some women take serious contraceptive drugs because they worry that living according to our bodies’ natural rhythms of fertility and infertility makes us prudish or less desirable or out of touch with our sexuality. And without exception, every woman everywhere thinks about her weight on a regular basis, subconsciously believing that there is a hierarchy of women, and at the top of that hierarchy are the women who match society’s current definition of “beauty.”
The photographs are powerful because they remain untouched. The women were not asked to get in the best shape of their lives before participating. The photographer did not use Photoshop to alter any aspect of their bodies. (at least as far as I can tell). In other words, the photographer allowed the women to be themselves. Those 100 women stood naked to show the world that female bodies tell amazing stories. It’s time to stop the world—the whole world—from silencing them. Learn more at https://bodylanguagelife.