Nudity: it’s what it is underneath the designer labels, the makeup, the layers of fabric. Feminism: it’s the movement that has allowed women to vote and advocates for equality of the sexes.
The two have interlinked often- we all remember the women marching bare breasted at the GoToplessDay march in Los Angeles in 2016. However, when a woman wears clothing that shows skin, the presumption is that she’s not a feminist.
Oddly enough, that same ethical conundrum doesn’t apply for men. Instagram has given the platform for millions across the world to express themselves in every shape, size or form- with the exclusion of genitalia and the female nipple. This paves the way for women to show off their bodies in short skirts or delicate bralettes. This begs the question- is this just another step towards the liberalisation of women (men have no issue taking off their tops in public, after all) or does this take feminism a step back?
Instagram influencer Jess Brennan isn’t reserved when posting photos of herself- a lot of them see her sporting lingerie. “I get very mixed responses on my more revealing outfit choices by so called feminists. Most would be praising and supporting me for having the confidence to do so, whereas others would disagree as they think I’m sexualising myself for men,” she says.
“That’s the last thing that I’m doing. I think feminism should be women doing however they please, regardless of what women think.” Brennan emphasises the importance of sexuality. “I want people to feel free and I think sexuality is something to be embraced and explored, especially for women because there is still that weird taboo around it,” she adds.
Social media can be an effortless tool not only for self-expression, but now we see political movements have their biggest impacts online. Although the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements were triggered on Twitter, they spilled over to Instagram in no time- who is no stranger to politics, being the home of #FreeTheNipple.
“It’s sad that there has to be such a movement,” says Brennan. “Female nipples are sexualised by men, but I notice a lot of photos reported for nipples showing are reported by women. The same women who would identify as feminists… where is the sense in that?”
Feminist celebrities have too crossed the blurred line and worn revealing clothing- like Emma Watson or Nicki Minaj, facing huge backlash in return. In a Vogue opinion piece, feminist Reni Eddo-Lodge claimed that “in all cases, a woman’s body is assumed to be someone else’s before it is her own. If she takes off her clothes, it is seen to be a sign of her insecurity and need for validation, rather than feeling comfortable with herself.” This perhaps explains the negative reaction to seeing actresses we know and love in the flesh for the first time.
Bianca Burgio is a multimedia student at DCU and has an Instagram with over 7,000 followers. “I don’t think that what you wear should define anything about feminism. Sometimes I get to see people wearing tiny clothes and showing a lot of skin and that is something that I couldn’t bring myself to do for the only reason that I don’t feel as comfortable as they do,” she says.
“I think that feminism should not depend on clothes, neither on what people wear or decide to ‘put over their skin and body’, if that makes sense. Women have fought for a long time just be able to wear a swimsuit that doesn’t cover their knees,” she adds.
As our society rapidly changes and evolves, women’s liberation movements will clash time and time again. Showing some skin is just yet another outfit choice. Feminism is a malleable movement and it ultimately represents all women.
By Gabija Gataveckaite