Women have hair in areas of their bodies other than their heads.This should be common knowledge and yet, it still seems to come as a shock to many and makes the general public squirm.
Petra Collins, a 20-year-old Canadian photographer, took to the Internet last week to rail against the censorship of her work and her body.
Collins came under fire earlier this month when American Apparel released one of her T-shirt designs depicting the menstruating female anatomy. More recently, Collins had her Instagram account suspended after she posted a photo depicting her unshaven, yet covered, bikini line.
Most were outraged and called the images grotesque abominations and affronts to real art. The photo is hardly the most scandalous thing that has appeared on the social networking site. Why so serious?
The real issue that the public had with Collins’ expression of the female body is that it challenged and questioned the visual palette of the viewer.
As a society we are so inundated with images of the ultra-feminine, sleek and polished woman that when we are confronted with an image of the real human body, we recoil and decry its hideousness.
“I’m used to seeing women being degraded, slut-shamed, harassed for what they look like,” Collins said of the ordeal. “Even the most powerful women in the world are measured by their appearance and constantly ridiculed for it. … I don’t want to be used to this. I don’t want to have to see the same thing constantly.”
Last week, State Press columnist Becca Smouse advocated for women to feel empowered in their bodies, regardless of size, and to not let society dictate your appearance. While this is a sweet sentiment, it is ultimately unrealistic in a society where young girls see women like Collins shut down every day for trying to challenge the generally accepted rules of femininity.
The message has always been clear: If you challenge the status quo, you will be silenced.
We have arrived at a juncture in our culture where women are making decisions on how they want to live and who they want to be. Gone are the days when women blithely stand by while others make these decisions for them.
Instead of letting society dictate when and how we are allowed to display our femininity, we should focus instead on eliminating the binary thinking of “right” and “wrong” when it comes to our appearances.
If not, we only propagate this societal brainwashing and fail to acknowledge that it is the differences between female bodies and expression of those bodies that are inherently beautiful.
We need artists like Collins to continue testing the boundaries of our comfort zone and further reinforce this point to the rest of the world.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @lolonghi