Are We Reclaiming Our Sexuality Or Being Sexualised?

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“Are you Soton’s answer to Kim K?” Send us in your bum pics.”

The Tab’s new controversial competition where people are asked to send in ‘bum pics’ has raised an interesting debate about the fine line between reclaiming your body and perpetuating the disturbing need women feel to cater to the male gaze. While the competition does not specify gender the main picture of a girl in her underwear and the reference to “Kim K” sends the message that this is aimed at women. The underlying issue behind this is that while posting nudes arguably reclaims the female body and promotes self-love, the onlookers gaze can distort these images into the pornographic objectification of the women. While we shouldn’t dehumanise women who wish to show off what they consider to be their best asset, nor should we shame women who choose to cover up, the sexualisation of the female body is often out of women’s control, it is always used as a tool to sell the masses products and consequently promote the idea that a woman’s worth is based on her attractiveness.

The rhetoric that feminism means choice; that even when women partake in society’s patriarchal ideals, if it is of their own accord it is still a feminist act, is not always true, society still forces women into complying with misogynistic acts. This failure to continuously uphold feminist values shouldn’t however be seen as a bad thing, we live in an anti-feminist society and no one is expected to fight against the patriarchy 24/7. More importantly feminism has the belief that women don’t need to be perfect, so even if taking part in this competition is branded ‘anti-feminist’ that doesn’t reflect on your self-worth or ability to call yourself a feminist, it is society’s fault that the female body is sexualised; not you!

The main question is whether taking part in this competition is really anti-feminist? The idea of internal objectification would be when we ourselves, reduce our bodies to objects and stop taking into consideration that we have rights and feelings. This is of course within the realm of possibility to internalise misogyny, the male gaze, and objectification to the point that we believe ourselves to be worthless and without autonomy. But why would you? Generally, when we talk about women self-objectifying themselves, we are actually referring to women who are celebrating their whole selves; bodies included. Acknowledging, appreciating, and glorifying the fact that you have a body and you are happy with your appearance is not objectification. That is merely acknowledging you are a human being with a body! The opposite of objectification.

While the competition itself helps promote this practice of objectification it’s important to try to focus on how we can hold the makers of the competition and society responsible for the distortion of the female body rather than the people who choose to take part in our selfie-loving generation. This competition does also raise issues of the intersectional context behind the culture that perpetuates these kind of rivalries. The comparison to “Kim K” a celebrity that can be seen as a promoter for owning your own sexuality and turning the male gaze into profit, is also part of a family who is renowned for their appropriation of black culture and black ‘assets’. Arguably, the competition perpetuates the myth that stereotypically black features (like big bums) which are often shunned and shamed on black bodies are praised and rewarded when seen on white bodies.

The main point is that its women’s decision whether they want to take part in a university competition that arguably, associates their best attributes to one body part. However, many have pointed out that this competition is aimed at freshers, who are likely to be more vulnerable and susceptible, and therefore perpetuates rape culture; how society blames victims of sexual assault and normalises sexual violence, due to the competition promoting the idea that women are merely a body, without a face and without feelings. Within a midst of sexual assault among university campuses and victim-blaming at an all time high, does reclaiming your body now come at cost to the wider issues at hand?

Despite how a competition that thrives off females fighting for the male gaze might not be the right place to reclaim your sexuality, the celebration and appreciation of the naked form does seem like the best way to fight against the constant sexualisation and objectification of the human body!

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