Lifestyle, Opinion

I’m a feminist because… No one should control our bodies”

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By Pierangelly del Rio

For decades, the female body has been politicised and controlled by society. In the 21st century, feminists have been engaged in a never-ending fight for equality which has achieved multiple milestones. Nevertheless,  although, in western society, women have taken huge steps towards equal access to employment, education, the right to vote and more, they are still oppressed in other ways, as the obsession with the female body persists.

Women who bare their skins as men do are seen in a negative light, as well as those women who choose not to. Having been raised in a deeply catholic and conservative country, my friends and I were taught that there was a limit on the amount of skin we were supposed to show, and the women who crossed those limits were immediately ostracised and vilified.

To be female and openly sexual or comfortable enough to show a little bit of cleavage signifies that you have lost your respectability as a woman, a mentality that sadly still prevails in more liberal societies. Movements such as Free the Nipple seek to give women the freedom to go topless without being subjected to judgment. However, the backlash the movement has received, along with its censorship on social media channels, proves that society is not ready to free women from the negative connotations attached to their bodies.

A vivid example of this situation is the recent controversy surrounding Beauty and the Beast actress Emma Watson. Watson is a feminist advocate, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and founder of the HeForShe campaign, and has sparked controversy after appearing braless in a Vanity Fair’s photo shoot. Shortly afterwards, online outrage deemed Watson a “hypocrite” with Radio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer among many who called into question the actress’ commitment to feminism, suggesting she won’t be taken seriously after the pictures.

Although several Twitter users defended Watson, the photoshoot provoked a very divided debate on the internet, with some people seeming to think that Watson is promoting the sexual objectification of the female body, which is something feminism has been fighting against. However, it should be noted that feminism’s basic principle is to stand up for equality; just like men, women are entitled to decide what to do with their bodies, to own their sexuality and become the subjects, not objects, of the conversation.

The outrage caused by Emma Watson going braless for Vanity Fair, Brie Larson’s “revealing outfit” in The One Show or Kim Kardashian’s nude selfies, prove that there’s still an inequality between sexes and that we live in a society full of double standards. Take the case of Tom Hiddleston’s 2016 underwear campaign or the recently leaked Justin Trudeau’s topless photos. Their success and achievements weren’t called into question after that; instead, people praised them and moved on with their lives. However, women have been consistently shamed by media because their exposed breasts had more impact than their achievements.

I’m a feminist because, regardless of gender, people shouldn’t be able to control women’s bodies. Anyone is free to decide what to do with their image without being subjected to the scrutiny of a third party. The decision to bare their breasts, or not, should be respected, and shouldn’t be a tool to villainise or shame. Most importantly it shouldn’t invalidate the politics, ideals or success of women. Women are much more than their bodies.

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Pierangelly Del Rio

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