Whether it’s getting a tattoo, bungee jumping over The Nile or assisting illusionist Derren Brown on stage in front of an audience of 1500… I see life as an exciting playground. A chance to test out the monkey bars, graze your knees on the slide, and then jump right back up on the swings.
One thing I’d always been curious about was posing for a nude photograph. A tasteful, private momento; no masks, no armour; honest.
Something that years later I could delightfully annoy nurses in the old people’s home with an “Ohhh, I was a looker when I was young!”
But one thing had always stopped me – well, it’s not very feminist is it?
In a world where sex sells, where pornography is notoriously misogynistic – is being photographed naked feminist?
For guidance I looked to the most famous naked woman since Titan, Venus of Urbino: Kim Kardashian.
For those not familiar with the Kardashians, including my father who fondly knows them as ‘The Cashews’, they are an American ‘television family’ who are famous for, well, being famous.
In 2014, Kim Kardashian posed naked for the magazine Paper to “break the internet”. Some critics applauded her confidence, noting her non-apologetic attitude.
Others, however condemned her “anti-feminist” decision, whilst criticising her physical appearance. Fellow celebrities were not much kinder, with Glee actress Naya Rivera stating that as “someone’s mother”, Kim should not have done the shoot.
Surely they have a point? Whilst unconvicted rape, female genital mutilation and unequal pay are still rife, surely posing naked perpetuates this?
I strong believe it doesn’t. A naked body is simply a pure entity. Kim wasn’t posing for a feature in Good Housekeeping, rather an edgy publication with adult readership. She wanted to express and celebrate her body, and felt a magazine was a good opportunity to do that.
This is the very essence of feminism – the confidence to make your own decisions regardless of your gender.
Of course, the key here is context – take the recent #NoMorePage3 campaign for example; campaigners of the movement do not argue that pictures of naked woman (or men for that matter) should be banned, but rather contained within an appropriate platform, not within a family newspaper.
In an appropriate setting, nudity is art.
By posing naked, Kim is celebrating her physical appearance (and notably, her aptitude for business). And her body is her own possession to do what she chooses with.
Nudity is not the problem when it comes to feminism; Keira Knightly proved this by posing topless for Interview magazine last year, with her only request that her photo wasn’t retouched or digitally enhanced. The Free the Nipple campaign is also worthy of note here.
And here lies the real feminist issue – that women are consistently criticised on their appearance, regardless of whether they are wearing clothes or not.
Megan’s Trainor’s song All About That Bass is a prime example of this. With over 800 million YouTube hits, her debut single was huge however her lyrics were questionable: “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night”.
The listener is told that they require an adequate amount of “booty”, which exists primarily for boys to hold (and not, per say, to improve your ability to sit down)… perpetuating the myth that your body, naked or fully clothed, exists for others and not yourself.
Consent is key here, naked or not.
Revenge porn, the act of distributing intimate photos of an ex-partner without their consent, was made illegal in the UK last October.
At just 17 years old, Danish activist Emma Holten discovered that her ex-boyfriend had distributed intimate private photographs of her across her entire social network.
This breach of trust left Holten broken and self-critical; she condemned her actions and wondered if she “would … ever be able to look at [herself] and see a human being?”.
Three years later, her response was surprising and compelling: she decided to partake in a naked photo shoot with a professional photographer and publish her story; to “rehumanise the naked female body” and to reclaim the consent that was taken away.
She said: “People seem to think that revenge porn is bad because the naked body is inherently shameful, because nudity and being a serious, thinking person deserving of respect are mutually exclusive.”
Holden embodies the fact that there is nothing inherently dishonourable about any woman’s naked body or sexuality for that matter. It should be treated in exactly the same way as a male counterpart.
And for Kim Kardashian? Many would argue that she doesn’t actually do much, other than the exploit her personal life for money. That may be true, and indeed if you are in search of a feminist icon, then Kim may not be your first choice. She has not publically shown the philanthropy of Angelia Jolie, the intelligence of Malala Yousafzai or the wisdom of Helen Keller.
But she has her place, and represents an important piece in the tapestry of modern feminism.
Whatever women, men and Kim Kardashian decide to do with their bodies… it is their empowered decisions, regardless of their gender, that makes them true feminists.
I was thrilled to win the England and Wales Young Thinker of the Year (Societies and Institutions) 2015 award for this piece in June 2015.
The judges said: “Provocative and thought-provoking, a paper defining the essence of feminism as the confidence to make your own decisions. A daring proposition – particularly when linked to the exploits of a somewhat vacuous attention-seeking celebrity – but well argued. Fluent piece of writing with touches of humour. A polished presentation.”
A huge thank you to everyone involved in the Programme!