“I’m disappointed in you.” Quite possibly the most earth-shatteringly awful words that you can hear from a parent. What could I have done to elicit such a response? Failed a module? Got pregnant? Taken drugs? No, I participated in my rowing team’s charity naked calendar.
I am not ashamed of my body. While I don’t choose to present it on a day to day basis, I don’t believe that showing my body in artistic photographs as part of a sports team that promotes women’s strength is something to be reprimanded. As a team, we trained between 10 and 12 times a week, yet we still don’t have the bodies of your average Instagram-fitness-account-owning-girl. We are trying to show that female strength comes in different forms, and the image of our back muscles and legs should not be equated to the syllogism ‘sex sells’.
After being told to hide our bodies, we were in a space where all bodies were equal…
We are not selling sex, we are showing the natural female form (stretch marks, love handles and biceps included) in a bid to promote body acceptance and inclusivity. The photoshoot itself did not feel sexualised or seedy, it was a raw and natural experience. After being told to hide our bodies, we were in a space where all bodies were equal.
My mum’s primary worry, which I understand, is that no matter how good my intentions, there are ‘creepy old men’ out there who will overlook the elements of sports, charity and inclusivity and see me purely as an object to be gazed at. This will undoubtedly occur to some extent. However, the fact that I am showing more skin than I do usually does not mean I am giving permission for others to sexualise me. I get sexualised whether I like it or not; whether I’m dressed in a coat, scarf and jeans, on a run in leggings or on a night out, and from what I have heard, I am not alone in this experience.
My skin is not the problem; it is perception of the female body in society that needs to change
The reality is, I have been catcalled far more on my way to university than I have on nights out. It happens whether we like it or not, and the amount of harassment we receive is not proportional to how much skin we show. My skin is not the problem; it is the perception of the female body in society that needs to change. When we tell women not to show skin because they will be looked upon sexually, we are only further ingraining the message that skin should be sexualised, and that the female body should be guarded from prying eyes.
We shouldn’t combat this by all getting naked, and no, we shouldn’t combat this by covering every inch of our bodies. Our clothing (or lack thereof) should be removed from the question of degradation completely. I decided I was comfortable enough with my body to show it in a way that promotes women’s figures in sport. This says nothing about my intellect, my personality or my values. I am not just a physical body, but I have made a statement by showing it.
I didn’t take part in the women’s calendar because it receives the same positive response, but because it should…
The men’s equivalent receives a markedly different response. I didn’t take part in the women’s calendar because it receives the same positive response, but because it should. The fact that the women’s calendar Facebook page was banned in 2014 due to ‘pornographic content’ speaks volumes about the perception of the female body. The longer we change our actions based on the standards that are ingrained in society, the further we perpetuate these views and allow these standards to prevail.
I will not be made to believe I have partaken in some deplorable act. In fact, the response I have received has only strengthened my reasons for doing it in the first place…
Overall, I stand by my decision and will not be made to believe have partaken in some deplorable act. In fact, the response I have received has only strengthened my reasons for doing it in the first place.
I do not regret supporting the message and the charity that the calendar stands for. The decision of what we do to and with our bodies is ours and only ours. I am not advocating that everyone else should do the same, or that I made some great moral decision, I am saying that we should be able to present our bodies or not, and neither decision should be shamed.