Katrina Man asks whether the Female Nude has been reclaimed

Herself.com, launched by Australian actress Caitlin Stasey, uses intimate interviews and striking nude photography to explore the much-contested issues of gender, sexuality and feminism.

Stasey spotlights one woman each week, posting a personal interview illustrated by a series of beautiful nude portraits taken by photographer Jennifer Toole.

The direct questions probe deep into issues of gender and sexual awareness, aiming to open up pressing debates currently being played out in the feminist arena, from views on contraceptives to the portrayal of women in the media.

What is most captivating is Stasey’s bold use of nude photography. Rather than presenting the females as objects of sexual desire, the portraits embrace and accentuate the unique features of each individual. The women’s exposed bodies extend the narrative of the interviews, becoming strong statements in their own right.

The women are using their naked bodies as powerful tools through which to engage with current discussions of gender, sexuality and feminism.

However, whilst the nude photography is a brave and compelling method of representing the women, it raises the ever-present question intrinsically bound to depictions of nude females: why must women feel the need to use their naked bodies to make a statement about gender, sexuality and feminism?

On the one hand, Stasey’s presentation of the women’s naked bodies redefines the female nude in the visual arts sphere. The photographed women are no longer simply sexualised objects. They portray real women with emotional journeys and personal thoughts to share.

The women are using their naked bodies as powerful tools through which to engage with current discussions of gender, sexuality and feminism.

Nonetheless, the fact still remains that Stasey and all of the other women involved in the website are using their nudity, and taboos and symbolism associated with this, as a means to further express the statements conveyed in the interviews.

By showing their naked bodies in the context of what Stasey intends as an feminist online platform, it is clear that these women are trying to reclaim the naked female body as a powerful tool of self expression, celebrating every woman’s unique form.

Can these nude portraits really further the feminist cause? As expressed through the torrent of public opinion on social media, many people question the effectiveness of nudity in today’s society, viewing it as an overdone and even obsolete practice that has now lost it’s once powerful impact.

Besides this, the very fact that Herself.com exists as an online platform means that whatever sincere and positive intentions Stasey has for the project, the actual use of the website ultimately extends beyond her control. The photographs are honest, graceful and charged with emotion yet as soon as they enter the expansive public domain of the Internet, anyone can view and use them for purposes far removed from what Stasey had in mind.

Therefore, whether the project really allows women to reclaim their bodies as forceful tools of commuication and present them in a non-sexual, neutral manner remains under intense debate.

Above all, whether these photographs are positively or negatively received, Stasey’s starkly personal and intimate approach are clearly striving to obliterate the stifling taboos that plague issues of gender and sexuality, making Herself.com a noteworthy and exciting project.

Featured image credit: KaoruxAlice

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