March 8 marked the global celebration of International Women’s Day.
Every year the United Nations discuss issues relating to women’s rights within a theme, 2016’s being ‘Step It Up For Gender Equality’.
With much to be celebrated in the way of the political, economical and social achievements of women around the world, you’d think such a day would be relished by women everywhere.
The day before International Women’s Day, Kim Kardashian posted a ‘naked’ selfie on Instagram, sending the internet (once again) into a vicious, slut-shaming frenzy.
Gaining over one million likes, and nearly 300,000 comments, the gender roles you’d expect from the Instagram masses were completely subverted.
Where there were men undoubtedly trolling the photo, a vast majority of the hatred was coming from women.
“She’s ALWAYS naked”, “you’re a mother, have some self respect” and “is her husband ok with this?” were amongst some of the comments, revealing alarmingly archaic attitudes towards women.
Timing, although apt, had nothing to do with the shock of the poison being projected at Kim, but it certainly did beg an interesting question: in 2016, when so much positive change is the way of women’s rights is to be celebrated, why are women tearing each other down?
Kardashian’s past involving the leaking of an illicit sex tape, makeing her a regrettably easy target for slut-shaming.
It’s assumed, that as there is a sexual indiscretion in her past, that everything she does now is as a direct result of that video.
Although it may have provided her with the platform for her fame, to give credit where credit is due, she has turned what could have been a life-destroying action into a multi-million dollar empire.
In a world where there is certainly plenty that needs to be debated and discussed, why does everyone care so much about a naked selfie?
Arguably if someone as wholesome as Emma Watson posted a similar photo, then the public would be talking about how she is empowering women.
Yet despite Kardashian’s influence on millions of women around the globe, her self-proclaimed empowering image promoting self love and acceptance, is shunned due to the skeletons in her closet.
With all of the injustices faced by women internationally, this is a time in which we should be coming together in unity, as opposed to slut-shaming and automatically assuming that sexuality is violent.
Bette Midler’s tweet to Kardashian, locked the two in a Twitter storm, dividing their fans into tweets of praise of Midler’s comic timing, while others were quick to defend Kardashian’s photo.
Kim Kardashian tweeted a nude selfie today. If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen,
she’s gonna have to swallow the camera.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) March 7, 2016
Kardashian has since released an essay addressing issues she has faced with the public about her body image for years; “I am empowered by my body. I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world.”
Artefact spoke to visual artist Kristina Gauraca, who’s photography primarily focusses on the female form in its natural glory.
Since studying fine art photography at Camberwell College of Arts, Kristina’s work has developed around the idea that women’s bodies need to be celebrated, not suppressed by “ridiculous and archaic societal conventions”.
Last year, Kristina showcased her photography in her first collaborative exhibition: “I collaborated with five other female artists on a project entitled ‘Soiling My Satin Blouse’, a combination of photography, installations, costume design and video pieces.”
The theme of female expression and identity was prevalent throughout the exhibition, which took place in an empty house behind Peckham’s hight street, and was rife with innuendo.
A sign outside displayed the ‘six up and cumming ;)’ artists works housed inside.
“We sought to provoke the idea that women should not be restricted by the media’s portrayal of their bodies, but instead they can be liberated by it,” she said.
Breaking the conventions of how women are viewed in photography is a common theme throughout Kristina’s work; “my work usually focusses on one partially clothed (sometimes nude) woman, often in their own space.”
“The idea is that in their own space these women are free to act, think and do whatever they please; I am merely a bystander. A common misconception of my work seems to be that these images are produced to be provocative and sexual, but I don’t see anything sexual about them.”
Artists and photographers have been portraying women in their natural form for decades and yet it’s an alien concept to a lot of people who somehow believe that nudity is somehow threatening.
Kristina comments, “this is an idea generated by people who have over sexualised the female form. My photos have been removed from websites for citing ‘pornographic imagery’. But censorship of these images gives in to the idea that there is something to hide or be ashamed of, and there isn’t”.
Over-sexualisation of female body parts such as breasts is arguably part of the recent debate over breast feeding in public.
It seems people are incapable of seeing breasts as something functional as opposed to something sexual, leading to an uproar with ‘indecent images’ such as (female) nipples being shown on social media; which is prohibited by Instagram’s guidelines.
Disobeying these guidelines means the photo and sometimes even the Instagram account, can be removed, hence why Kardashian’s selfie was pre-censored.
Although interestingly these guidelines do not apply to male users.
Since Kim Kardashian’s post, a wave of other naked selfies have surfaced on the Internet, showing the genuine power of liberation she has demonstrated.
With many quoting from her essay about self appreciation, these photos are the ultimate middle finger to the patriarchy.
Much like Kristina’s work, these photos focus on the celebration of women and their bodies and how they should be free to act in whatever way they want, without being objectified.
If we’ve really progressed into a world than is more concerned with shaming women’s bodies than it is with helping those is genuine turmoil such as war or famine, then what kind of future are we moving towards?
International Women’s Day is a day dedicated to celebrating women in their entirety.
The notion that to celebrate the body is to devalue the mind (and vice versa) is getting tiresomely repetitive.
A Facebook status from one user, which has since been deleted due to going viral claimed; ‘what is the point in a women’s day? What about a men’s day?! Stop complaining about inequality and get back to the kitchen!’ proves that sadly these outdated views are still being generated.
What this user hasn’t considered however is that if women’s achievements were celebrated, like men’s, for the other 364 days of the year, maybe we wouldn’t need an international women’s day.
Featured image by Kristina Gauraca