FROM The McGill Tribune, published by the Students' Society of McGill


Women need a body-image overhaul to better appreciate their undressed selves

By Melanie Herscovitch
Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Standing in the women's shower at Currie Gym, I was suddenly inspired.
Surrounded by half-naked girls, I thought to myself -- what better bunch to
talk to about nudity than the swim team? We shower together, we change
together, we are basically nude together.

While the swim team probably has the least qualms about being in the buff,
the girls still agreed that nudity continues to be a crucial issue in
society. While most are practically indifferent to male nakedness, female
nudity is undeniably a controversial issue with which Western society
continues to struggle.

For the most part, nudity still has a bad rap. People aren't necessarily
expected to keep their clothes on under the sheets, but it's the
associations that are made with being nude that get us sidetracked. We
flick on the tube, and boom-bare skin is popping out like crazy. Christina
Aguilera basically rips off her clothes in her latest music video, "Dirrty."

Yet, to a certain extent, these celebrities aren't intentionally trying to
act promiscuously. Christina and Britney, though trying to make money and
using sex to do so, are presumably proud of their bodies (fake, real,
whatever). It's the way we automatically label them and scorn them that
causes all the commotion. And, who are we to judge? What woman wouldn't say
that it makes her somewhat content to get a little dressed up, show a
little cleavage and to put on a bit of make-up?

"Women dress sexually as opposed to men. It's not that men are
uncomfortable with their bodies. It's just that women need to dress not
particularly to impress, but to outdo and compete with their competitors --
other women," says Kelly Sauve, a U2 Education student.

The hunt continues: men are on the prowl for good-looking women.

"Women, on the other hand, are looking for mates who can support their
offspring," says Katherine Trajan, a U1 Civil Engineering student.

And what qualities does a man possess, enabling him to support a family?
Brains. Power. Money.

"A good body is just icing on the cake," says Nat Kehle, a U2 Environment

Without attaching a label to men's physical appearance, generally, men find
it easier to just take it all off. When talking with guys about nudity, it
becomes clear that they are fairly comfortable with themselves in the nude.

"From my experience, we tend to be a lot more at ease when it comes to
being naked. I think it's just that women are more susceptible to live up
to what society has created for them," says U1 Political Science student
Matt Tontini. "Men, on the other hand, don't feel the same pressures to be
beautiful. We're not inundated with the same degree of symbols and images
as compared to women."

Men's bodies aren't being used to sell products and services to the same
extent as women's bodies, because they're not valued in the same way. And
with no label on what men should look like nude, it makes it easy for them
to be bollock-naked in front of anyone, anywhere, at any time, as many of
us may have oddly experienced at one point in our lives.

Talk to any girl and she'll most likely say that being nude with a partner
doesn't bother her. But compare her feelings about being in the nude to
those of her partner, and you might get a different reaction.

"When a couple is naked together, they're both thinking about the same
thing -- the woman's naked body. The woman is self-conscious of what she
looks like, while the male is admiring her body," says Trajan.

And it is this struggle of being sexy and exposing yourself versus being
overly sexual and becoming objectified that puts women everywhere in a
difficult position.

"The very consciousness of their nature must evoke [in women] feelings of
shame," writes Naomi Wolfe in her book, Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle
for Womanhood.

"What feels like sexual pride one moment can turn into shame the next,"
adds Wolfe, when discussing how females continue to feel about sexuality
and their bodies.

Do we dress provocatively if we're proud of ourselves, but risk being
labeled a whore? And finally, how can society as a whole get over its
preoccupation with female nudity?

Society needs to relax. The more we focus on the negative aspects of female
nudity and sexuality, or try to deny them completely, the more women feel
the need to cover up. Instead, we should try bringing female nudity out in
the open to breathe, and then maybe we can move on to more substantial