‘Taking it off means you don’t respect yourself’ and other dangerous lies we tell girls

Last week the internet brought us the following sexually suggestive IDGAF pic of Kim Kardashian and Emily Ratajkowski.

Those middle fingers, in case you couldn’t tell, were a response to all the haters who came out of the woodwork to wring their hands over this nude selfie Kim posted earlier last month.

When you're like I have nothing to wear LOL

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Actress Chloe Moretz  tweeted “@KimKardashian I truly hope you realize how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than—just our bodies.”

In what seemed like a roundabout diss, Pink echoed this opinion by posting the following on Twitter:

“Shout out to all of the women, across the world, using their brains, their strength, their work ethic, their talent, their ‘magic’ that they were born with, that only they possess. It may not ever bring you as much ‘attention’ or bank notes as using your body, your sex, your tits and asses, but women like you don’t need that kind of ‘attention.’ In the quiet moments, you will feel something deeper than the fleeting excitement resulting from attention, you will feel something called pride and self respect. Keep on resisting the urge to cave. You’ll never have to make silly excuses for yourself.”

You see, they were speaking out for the children– specifically the little girls out there watching.

Kim wasn’t having it. On her website she clapped back with this message:

“I am empowered by my body. I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin… It’s 2016. The body-shaming and slut-shaming – it’s like, enough is enough. I will not live my life dictated by the issues you have with my sexuality. You be you and let me be me.”

Now to be sure, Kim posting a nude selfie pic is hardly some brave act of defying the patriarchy.  Let’s call it what it is; a stunt-queeny ploy for attention. And, as I’ve written in the past, women putting their bodies on display to be ogled and calling it female liberation is problematic.

But Kim makes a valid point. It seems there are draconian rules regarding female sexuality and what is considered “sexy yet tasteful” and what is considered “ratchet” “cheap” or “slutty.”

We all know the double standard. We’ve all seen it. So often, semi-nude photos of slender women will be called “erotic” or “titillating,” while images of curvier women (especially surgically enhanced women receive a particularly venomous type of ridicule) get called “sleazy.”

Amber Rose, who came to Kim’s defense, asked if classism played a part in the slut-shaming.

Here’s part of what she posted on Instagram:

“Pink, We’ve seen u damn near naked swinging from a rope (Beautifully) but what’s the difference between a rope, a pole and a pic on Instagram? Classism. Because u sing while ur half naked does that make it “Classy” or is it because u have a “talent”? I’m not dissing at all Pink just curious after u said ‘You’ll never have to make a silly excuse for yourself.’”

She wasn’t the first celebrity to question the differences in what exactly gets labeled “slutty” and what doesn’t.

When Nicki Minaj was slammed over the artwork for her single “Anaconda,” she responded to critics by positing a series of photos on Instagram of thin and mostly white, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models striking similar poses and revealing just as much (if not more) skin.

Photo composite via Instagram

But people who feel it’s their calling to censor female sexuality never see their tsk-tsking as slut-shaming rooted in classism, body-shaming and perhaps even hints of racism. Their urgent pleas for women to realize “you’re worth so much more than just your tits and ass” makes it seem as though they’re on some noble mission to prevent the little girls of the world from growing up to become exploited sex workers.

This of course, is utter and complete bullshit.

The “think of the children” argument is a convenient way to slut-shame without appearing as though you’re slut-shaming.  In the past, I’ve usually rolled my eyes whenever people, especially women like Pink and Moretz, get preachy about nudity being an indication a woman has no self-respect, but lately I’ve come to believe that slut-shaming in the guise of trying to help young women, is particularly insidious.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Do I believe that young girls are often sent the message that their value lies in their attractiveness and that being sexually alluring is the best way for them to get ahead? Absolutely. There’s no denying that they are.

But traditionally, the pressure to not appear “slutty” has been a more constricting and socially oppressive force for girls, than the pressure to be sexy. In virtually every high school there’s a girl the other teens will cruelly describe as being a “slut” or “fast” and this label means she’s treated like a pariah. But girls who are singled out for not being sexy enough, for being “prudes” (there’s probably a more current word that my old ass has never heard of!) almost never get this treatment. Sure, they might be teased, but let’s be honest, this kind of ridicule doesn’t carry the same stigma and sting as slut-shaming.

That’s not to say prude-shaming isn’t wrong—as I stated earlier, anytime there are unequal rules regarding female sexuality, it’s a problem. But in addition to public humiliation, slut-shaming can lead to depression and in some extreme cases suicide.

Slut-shaming is what caused 18-year-old Jessica Logan to hang herself in her bedroom. It also made 15-year-old Felicia Garcia feel so miserable and hopeless that she jumped in front of a train.

And this is what critics of Kim’s, admittedly ridiculous, nude selfie need to realize. In trying to communicate to girls that they don’t need to show their bodies to get ahead, we have to remember to not send the dangerous message that explicitly sexual girls of the world don’t have self-respect.

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