Let's Get Naked - End Censorship of the Female Body

The larger scope of the issue stems with the long held taboos of women’s bodies and biological capabilities   Photography by Megan Leigh

The larger scope of the issue stems with the long held taboos of women’s bodies and biological capabilities Photography by Megan Leigh

I posted the artwork in the image below on my Instagram page, and I got such a great response both in the comments and via direct message. I wanted to expand on this topic and shed more light and education onto female censorship, the importance of having a relationship with your natural form and how this can facilitate love for yourself in ways you might not have considered previously. 

I will start with my own epiphany about nudity and how our society and culture shapes the ways we think about the naked human form. 

While in Iceland, I visited an established natural hot spring where you are required to get naked in the communal showers before entering the water. I was gripped with such a deep panic, what I really about to strip naked in front of strangers? I noticed another woman strip down with ease and without worry, like it was the most natural thing in the world. It was in that exact moment that the breath was metaphorically knocked out of me. . . I realized that it was the most natural thing in the world. You can read the full story here

Artwork by Melodie Perrault

Artwork by Melodie Perrault

As women, were we born knowing that we would merely be seen as an object? An accessory? Something to collect? In our culture, the over-sexualization and censorship of the female body is incredibly dangerous. Based on a 2010 report by the American Psychological Association (APA) on the sexualization of girls in the media, exposure to media among youth creates the potential for massive exposure to portrayals that sexualize women and girls and teach girls that women are objects. In a study conducted in 2008, researchers at Wesleyan University found that on average, across 58 different magazines, 51.8 percent of advertisements that featured women portrayed them as sex objects.  When women appeared in advertisements in men’s magazines, they were objectified 76 percent of the time.

Censorship of the Female Body

When you hide something, you build up a natural curiosity, right? It is why we surprise our loved ones with gifts, it is why we feel anxiety on the day we know we are getting our test scores back. In this same way, the very act of concealing something from public view makes it seem like it’s wrong. You build up curiosity; you are effectively creating hype and hysteria even if what you are hiding doesn’t warrant it. Such is the case when it comes to censoring women’s body parts, menstrual cycles and biological capabilities.

The issue lies within the fact that social media platforms are censoring based on gender, and therefore reinforcing dangerous cultural narratives. Social media's response is a reflection of the way society as a whole views these issues. When a photo is removed for a woman breastfeeding, it is being reinforced that this is something to hide, that it is unnatural. When a photo is removed of a topless woman, it is being communicated that female breasts are meant to be viewed for pleasure and entertainment only. When photos of pubic hair sticking out of bikini bottoms are taken down, we are being told that body hair is shameful and dirty. They are advocating that as women we are meant to be shaven, covered and hidden. 

"I'm so fuckin' sick and tired of the Photoshop" - Kendrick Lamar, and me

I know that media perpetuates the image that we are to be polished, perfect, ageless, hairless, shiny, fit, beautiful objects. You are allowed to be saggy, hairy, menstruating, squishy, unwashed and naked and none of that makes you less beautiful. None of that makes you less feminine. None of that makes you less human. None of that makes you less than whole. 

Poem by Rupi Kaur

Poem by Rupi Kaur

I do agree that modesty empowers some. It empowers me in certain situations, like when I wear a business suit or even a maxi dress. I am not here to tell you that one or the other should make you feel a certain way. We are all at different points in very different journeys. I honor and respect your journey. Consider this, though, our minds are programmed to assume that when I say nudity or modesty that I mean something sexual. Sometimes that is true, and I will get to that. But mostly, I just want you to feel empowered and comfortable in your most natural state of being, naked, vulnerable, open, perfect. Ask yourself how you feel about nudity and modesty and then dive deeper: why do you feel that way, is that how you really feel or what someone told you? There is no right or wrong, just leaning in, listening, learning. 

My body is my home

Nudity is our most natural state. A body is just skin, just a body. I see my body as my home, my protector. What happened to me in that Icelandic locker room can happen for you, too. We can decide to shed the layers of our clothing but what you might find is that this enables you to shed metaphorical layers as well. What has it done to us, mentally, growing up being told that our bodies are merely for viewing, for pleasure - pornographic? We need to take back our right to love our bodies for exactly what they are - a body.

“To know someone deeply  is to know a universe  contained in skin.”  ―  Victoria Erickson

“To know someone deeply
is to know a universe
contained in skin.” 
― Victoria Erickson

Nudity Can Be Sexy

Sometimes, though, nudity is about feeling sexy and bringing back your power in that way. If you want to sexualize your body then that is YOUR choice, not one that should be made for you. In fact, I would encourage spending more time naked. I explain this in my eBook in greater detail but essentially I found that the more time I spent at home naked and sleeping naked, the greater my connection to my sexuality became. I just genuinely felt sexier spending more time being naked. You just can't expect to accept the gaze or the touch of someone else on your body, if you aren't comfortable with it yourself. 

I want to challenge you! Choose something that is a part of your typical routine, and then do it naked. This can be a yoga practice, stretching, cooking a meal, brushing your teeth, sleeping - whatever you would not typically do naked, choose that and try it out for a week. See how you feel, check in with yourself emotionally, write about it. You might just find that you have been able to connect with yourself (and with a partner) on a deeper and more meaningful level. 

Boob Insecurities, Breast Exams, and My Thoughts on Bras

So, what happens if you don't wear a bra? Keep reading to find out.   Photography by Most Exalted

So, what happens if you don't wear a bra? Keep reading to find out. Photography by Most Exalted

Despite what the media tells us, boobs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. This shit has made us so insecure about our naked bodies; our boobs are no exception. I have written this post to clear up a lot of misconceptions about boobs in the hopes of helping you heal and overcome your own insecurities and questions surrounding breasts.

Artwork by Tina Maria Elena

Artwork by Tina Maria Elena

The power of marketing truly blows my mind. I remember looking through magazines, movies and TV and seeing these beautiful models and actresses. They seemed to have perfect, perky breasts. It really wasn’t a thought in my mind to be embarrassed about my boobs until I was through puberty and considering the idea of allowing other people to actually see my boobs. I thought my areolae were too big. My nipples too flat. I thought I was a freak because I had hair around my nipples, and would spend time every day making sure I plucked all the hair out. There was no open dialogue about the normality of vast differences in breasts. If you find yourself feeling a little embarrassed about your boobs, I just want you to know that you don’t have to be. And whatever it is, it is SO normal. Boobs are super cool and also super weird. They can be 2 different shapes, you can have hairy nipples, 3 nipples, you can have super sensitive nipples. Speaking of nipple sensitivity, I have like...none. It kind of sucks, maybe? But I don’t know any other way. It doesn’t feel good (or bad) when my nipples are played with, because honestly I can’t really feel it.

All boobs are great boobs.

Our culture has instilled in us that boobs are objects. They are often seen as toys rather than body parts. YES, it is okay (and normal!) if your boobs are saggy, sensitive, insensitive, uneven, scarred, large, small, hairy or anything in between. 

Your body is your home.

Your body is your home.

Nipple Hair, Though?

It is estimated that around 30% of the female population has nipple hair growth. The real stats are probably higher because if anyone was in the throes of their boob shame, they aren't going to admit to having nipple hair to anyone. It is totally normal, and rarely indicates that there is some abnormality. Nipple hair growth is one symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) but you would have other symptoms, not just this one. 

Thinking about getting rid of it? For years I plucked out every damn wiry strand. Now? I rarely fuss with it because it doesn't bother me. If it affects your confidence, though, removal is an option. Whatever you do, DO NOT use products like Nair or other chemical hair removers. These are super sensitive nipples we are talking about here! Plucking was my go to, and it always led to gnarly ingrown hairs. You could just snip them to keep them trim, or you could shave them. Some salons even offer a waxing options, but definitely do not try this at home with your regular wax. 

Do I Really Need To Do A Self Breast Exam?

Yes and no. In recent years, medical professionals have shifted away from the idea that self breast exams are necessary. This is because women are not taught properly how to do it but also because studies have indicated that a woman who does the breast exam is no less likely to die from breast cancer than the woman that does not do the exam. It is increasingly being encouraged that you become intimately familiar with your unique breast shape and type, the feeling of your breast tissue and all of the regular bumps and lumps that are uniquely yours. Your breasts go through cycles, similarly to all of your other bodily functions, and you need to have an awareness of your own natural rhythm and cycle. If you haven't become comfortable in your awareness of your boobs and what they feel like yet, it definitely is not too late. Feel and touch on them regularly; if you have a partner, encourage them to be your second opinion. Having two people with a general familiarity of what is "normal" for you will be more beneficial if you ever feel like you come across an irregularity down the road. If you notice a change, especially one that is painful or involves swelling, discharge or itchiness, seek a medical professional. Do not just assume it will go away by ignoring the problem. I know this is a scary subject, but it doesn't have to be with a little education and a lot of self-awareness. 

I love a bralette. Comfy with just enough support and coverage. Photo by  Andrea Miner

I love a bralette. Comfy with just enough support and coverage. Photo by Andrea Miner

Did You Burn All Your Bras?

I didn't, actually. Sometimes I wear a bra, and sometimes I don't. I view bras now as another fashion accessory and not something that is unquestionably necessary. Wearing a bra is a choice, just as wearing makeup or shaving is a choice.

It's really uncomfortable for me to workout without a sports bra, so I don't. Most of my sports bras now come via my Ellie Activewear subscription box. I have never been let down. Some of them are for light impact like yoga or weight lifting, others for higher impact like jumping and running. 

As I stated in my story of my younger self, I used to opt only for underwire bras with a lot of padding. Now, though, I definitely prefer little to no padding. I typically prefer comfort to aesthetics. Fortunately, I recently found True & Co. whose bras are both comfortable and cute. Some tops that I wear are very shear, so I often wear the X bra to wear underneath those tops for work. The fit is great, and they even have a little quiz to determine which bras are the best for your boob shape and size.

So, what happens if you don't wear a bra?

  • You will feel like a free bird. You will probably decide you much rather prefer the freeing feeling of going braless. You know that feeling at the end of the day when you take your bra off? Yea, you can basically feel like that all day, every day.
  • Your tops will fit differently. This can be positive or negative, depending on your mindset and the top. Some tops I prefer to wear a bralette with because it looks better and makes me feel more confident. Other tops just look better without a bra.
  • Your back might start to hurt. The support that a bra offers is especially important for women with larger boobs. Without that support that your back is used to, there may be discomfort or pain. Don't just ignore that and push through it or there could be some real damage. Maybe trying a different style of bra that isn't as constricting or without wire could give you a more comfortable feeling while still offering some support. 
  • You will get some stares. You might not, but you probably will. I am always really amazed at the number of stares that I get directed toward my chest when I don't have a bra on. It's kind of annoying but I just tell myself it is out of curiosity and not coming from a harmful place. I am hopeful that it will become more and more normative and therefore will elicit less and less stares. 

I hope this post helped you in some way. Maybe it strengthened your resolve in what you already knew. Maybe it made you feel not so alone in your insecurity around your breasts. Maybe you learned something new. You are beautiful. Your body is exquisite. You are the Universe.