Last night I went to bed feeling frustrated, and I had a really difficult time turning my brain off enough to fall asleep. And when this happens, I usually pick up my phone, and jot down a few thoughts in the note section, and then once I exorcise what’s bothering me, I can finally relax and fall asleep. But not last night.
I posted several pictures of myself doing yoga in the nude, edited, of course, to make it Instagram appropriate. And I did it because yesterday was the first day of a challenge that is called #BraveStrongandBeautful. So, in the spirit of the challenge, I decided to do all photos for the challenge sans any clothes. And for me, that’s not too far off from my usual attire since I’m usually just in my underwear and bra. But there’s just something so different, apparently, to people who come across nude photos. The responses I got just last night really struck a chord with me. And my only way to process through it all is to write. So, in a sort of stream of consciousness style, I bring you my thoughts on nude yoga in the public eye.
I get it: sex sells. But do you know why it sells? Because those in control (which if we’re being honest are wealthy white men) have decided they are going to use whatever methods they most enjoy. And these men have been objectifying women for so long now that it’s been ingrained into our consciousness. We’ve been normalized to it to such an extent that we almost agree with it and go along with it. So, to see breasts or ass or long, beautiful legs in an advertisement is not at all strange or apparently inappropriate. But a woman’s breast out to feed her child is something to hide and shame. A woman who wants to wear a bikini, but doesn’t have a supermodel’s body is disgusting. A woman who wants to remove her shirt for any number of reasons is advertising that she wants sexual attention or is looking for trouble. Fuck. That. Shit.
People are not objects, even if you try your best to objectify them. We have brains, and hearts, and have feelings and fears and hopes, and opinions, and are complicated and unique and multidimensional. Let me repeat something so it really hits home: no one—not you, not me, not even the person who claims to be ok with being objectified—should be treated as though they are existing for someone else’s amusement or pleasure. Ever. No buts. No excuses. Just no.
My body—as is everyone’s—is mine to do with as I please. To show off however I see fit on any given day. Don’t tell me it’s too much or that it’s soooo sexy or that I need to change it. In fact, don’t tell me anything about it at all. Because I am my body and my body is me. We’re not separate entities. I am everything including but not exclusively limited to my body. Tell me what you think of me as a person, or about the pose I shared, or about yourself. But don’t treat me like I’m not attached to my body, like I’m supposed to be ok with you saying whatever springs into your head. Trust me, you wouldn’t want me to do the same. I can be vicious if provoked.
And while I understand that I’m putting myself out there for the whole word to see, that doesn’t mean that I release ownership of myself. That doesn’t mean that I won’t respond if someone says something to me that they shouldn’t have. I ignore a lot. But I will not ignore something that is blatantly disrespectful to me or to women in general.
I understand that we are all coming from different walks of life, with different experiences and values. And I may not have always been good about being mindful about that in the past, but I’m evolving, and I do my best to take this into consideration now. I try to think before I respond rather than just firing off in the moment. But sometimes people don’t or can’t show this same consideration when they make comments. And it’s then that I think it’s my place to educate, unless one of my IG followers steps in and does it for me first. Side note: thank you so much to those of you who have had my back and spoke up on my behalf. You’re amazing humans, and I love and appreciate you.
Take this seemingly innocent comment: “I like your pics, but this is too much.” This was in response to a picture I posted of me in tiger pose, nude. I obviously edited it so that my nipples weren’t showing (Oh no, not the nipples!!), and the way I was posed and photographed, you couldn’t see anything else. But apparently this was too much. Because, you know, I’m a woman, and I have breasts. A man posing in the exact same way would be fine, I imagine, because his nipples are perfectly acceptable. And why? Why is it that my body is so damn offensive? Why is my body seen sexually when a man’s body is seen as just a body? How have we become so desensitized to this inequality? Why have we become so accustomed to slut shaming that we think it’s ok to tell another woman that she’s doing something wrong when she’s just being. And yes, I know for a fact that sometimes men’s pictures on IG get reported as well. But it’s usually because a part of their penis might be visible. And I have no intention of ever having my vagina on display in public, so I get it, keep the genitalia put away in certain situations. But my breasts? Why do they have to be any damn different? Yeah, I get it, they have been sexualized, and yeah, they are sexual in some situations. I know my husband very much appreciates them. But I also know men who enjoy their nipples being pinched, licked, sucked on, etc. And for very sexual reasons. But it’s still ok for theirs to be out there?
And why, as women, are we perpetuating this slut-shaming? Why are we telling other women to cover up instead of supporting them in their decisions? And why can’t we be the force that steps up and says, no, this isn’t pornography, this is yoga. Or this is figure modeling. This is just a person. Women need to step up and support other women. We have it hard enough as it is without creating more strife for each other.
And men need to realize that they don’t have the right to do and say as they please. I think there are some very small, cowardly men who hide behind their keyboards. But it’s this proliferation of treating women as sexual objects, and honestly thinking we should feel honored by this, that emboldens other, more dangerous men into action. We can think that words are just words, and that actions are really the problem. But that’s not true. Words are the start. Words may be the first step in someone testing the waters and seeing what they can get away with. If we ignore someone posting drooling emojis with comments about my body, that’s the equivalent of telling them to do it more. And even if they never take their behavior beyond the internet, it just continues perpetuating the idea that it’s perfectly ok to treat others as though they weren’t real people. And I’m just not ok with it.
So, while I know I can’t control people’s thoughts, I can ask respectfully that you keep them to yourselves. Not just on my posts, but on everyone’s posts that you feel sexually attracted to. I will only ask respectfully once.
I guess this all comes with the territory. The more followers you get, the greater the chances you’ll start getting comments and messages that you find offensive or hurtful. And while I have thick skin, I’m only one of probably millions of women enduring this on a daily basis. And for some, it’s too much. So, I’m not really speaking out completely on my behalf, but on others’ behalves. Consider the fact that you’re not the only human on this planet, and it’ll make a world of difference in how you approach others.
It’s taken me until this last bit to come to a decision on how I’m going to move forward with my yoga photos. I really wanted to continue my nude photos for this challenge because I feel like it means something to be able to stand in the face of intolerance and tell it to sit the fuck down. I am strong. And brave. And beautiful. And I’m going to continue being me because if I let others’ perceptions of me or their comments about me affect how I live, then I’m not being authentically me. And If I’m not living genuinely, then what’s the point?