Actress Mayim Bialik recently emphasized that “True empowerment comes from women being seen as equal partners and in a creative and productive culture. Empowerment comes from getting an education, acquiring skills that make you feel fulfilled and personal relationships that honor all parts of you.”
Sometimes discreet, but often-glaring messages that tell women and girls that they are, first and foremost, objects of sexual desire, are hard to drown out. They come at us from many directions, diminishing our prospects of being taken seriously and, for many, crippling our self esteems.
These messages come in many forms:
They are the t-shirts displayed in the ‘girls’ section of children’s clothing stores that read “Pretty” and “Beautiful” in the place of the more impressive, less aesthetics-focused compliments that litter the ‘boys’ selection.
They are the song lyrics blaring from every Top 40 station, describing, in less than delicate terms, the physical attributes of the ideal woman as well as what she is expected to use them for.
And, of course, they are the perfectly manicured, meticulously airbrushed, big-chested, small-waisted, flaw free models that stare at us from glossy magazine pages and massive billboards.
In response, women and men alike have struggled to broadcast effective messages of empowerment to the female community.
Always released a powerful video juxtaposing adults’ and children’s’ ideas of what it means to do something “like a girl,” Dove established a campaign that celebrates the beauty of all women, regardless of their shape, and more and more agencies are making room for plus-size models to represent brands and their ideals.
And now, in a less formal capacity, both celebrities and everyday women are taking to social media to combat the narrative that was forced upon our gender. While for some this means posting make-up free selfies, a seemingly more popular approach has been publishing clothes-free photographs all over the Internet. Women of all heights, shapes and cup-sizes are stripping down and essentially holding up the middle finger to society’s long-established standards of beauty.
This is, no doubt, a powerful way to make an important statement. However, it is imperative to remember that empowerment is not objective. The term ‘empower’ literally means “make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.” Obviously, as we are a wonderfully colorful species, each person has her own means of acquiring strength and confidence. While for some the path might involve unabashedly baring all before anyone with Internet access, others may see their bodies as more intimate possessions, reserved only for those they love. And perhaps it is the very freedom to choose when and where they show some skin that they find empowering.
So while we proudly encourage all individuals to take the necessary steps to feel strong and powerful, we remind you that these steps are just as varied and diverse as the women building them, and no staircase is less true or legitimate than the next.
If you are a woman who, despite the storm of naked bodies dancing around you, does not feel comfortable in a mini-dress or two-piece, we are here to tell you: You are not doing anything wrong. Loving your body and embracing your imperfections does not demand a public audience. After all, aren’t we all fighting the very notion that women should be told what to do with their bodies? Whether you’re stripping down or layering up, honor your comfort and the rest is nobody’s damn business.