If the title doesn’t give you sufficient heads-up here: this doesn’t just “contain” nudity. Nudity is its whole deal. It’s a project that involves photographing naked people (almost entirely women; more on that momentarily) in everyday settings exactly as they are, which is to say, it’s not pictures of naked skinny idealized bodies being presented for the sexual stimulation of the viewer. It’s pictures of people in their own skin.
Some of us, raising and waving my hand here, have ~~issues~~ with feeling at home in our own skin. I’m leery of movements, once you put a movement name on something you basically give it an expiration date, but the ideas that roughly make up what’s being called “body positivity” are important and inspiring to me.
At the same time, I feel like making this project almost strictly about naked women inevitably privileges the straight male gaze, and that the reason Blum gives for this doesn’t entirely wash (“While I understand there is a lot of pressure on men to look a certain way, I believe that women are judged more harshly by appearance, and that’s why I’ve focused this project on women”). I agree: there’s a particular pressure, a specific way in which women are made to feel ashamed of their bodies. Seems sadly self-evident and worth fighting against. But by isolating women in a project like this, part of the cultural atmosphere in which that pressure gets created is continued, maybe? (I don’t know I am not an authority here I’m just thinking about stuff.) I think sexist body-shaming is a thing for sure, who could deny that. But there’s a more general mood of making people feel bad about how they look that — what’s the opposite of “transcends”? — runs deeper, I guess. Everybody needs to feel like what’s normal and awesome is looking how you look rather than conforming to some pathological ideal. Everybody everybody. Anybody at any point on the gender spectrum deserves to feel that way.
But reservations aside I do think this project is a movement toward a nicer world and it passed the “does it make you cry because there is a sweetness in the world” test so I’m sharing it here.
emphasis mine, not because I agree or disagree with it, but because I am chewing on it and interested in what my followers have to say.
initial reactions: the ways that women’s bodies are policed are different from the way men’s bodies are, and they are more deeply embedded in a system of gendered power relations and oppression. This is important. But I think Mr. Darnielle here understands that. And the quote from Matt Blum- that women are judged “more harshly” sets up a definite false gradient. Are the ways that male bodies are policed comparable to the ways female bodies are policed? Is it worth making that comparison? To oversimplify, men’s bodies are policed into positions of power and privilege and punished for not fitting that standard, whereas women’s bodies are punished for the audacity of existing. (Among many other complex factors which are further complicated by race, class, ability, sexuality, size, etc etc etc etc of course.)
So here is what I am now thinking about:
1. If this project is made by a male-identified person, does it “inevitably further the straight male gaze”?
2. Would including cis male bodies, trans men and women (disclaimer before the list, I haven’t looked at the full project and I’m on my work computer rn so I’m not gonna), disabled, poc, etc etc etc etc etc bodies de-problematize it?
3. Is this just a matter of single-issue work? This project seems, to me, about demystifying the female body, creating images to replace the photoshopped models we’re inundated with.
4. how do i feel about work that targets one group and one group only? how broad does body positive work need to be to continue to be body-positive?