The Disrespect of Our Sex


thoughts on the imbalance of power

I read another tragic account of the Weinstein crimes this morning in the New York Times. This one candidly written and bravely shared by Lupita Nyong’o. Her description and her words brought me to tears. My tears are a recognition of that feeling and that moment when another human being (men in my experience) forcibly and unapologetically took away my power because of my sex.

Each of our experiences with sexual discrimination, harassment and assault are unique, our threshold and tolerance for such abuses different, but one aspect is the same: the feeling of powerlessness. My independence, my passion, and my desire for life, dreams and experiences were traits that defined me, gave me confidence and pushed me forward. All of that was diminished in an instant when a man decided to knowingly take away that assurance in an abuse of the social power dynamic with a comment, a leer, a grope, and every invasion of my body, my sex and my self.

No one taught me how to say no. No one shared with me what to do in that moment, what to say, or how to keep me safe. Consent was just a footnote in the collective conversation. It was often just implied. Never explicitly asked for or given

Each of our stories rip my heart every time. Each of those encounters, however minor, are wounds reopened, gushing forth red. Red - the shade of pain, embarrassment and shame that I feel for being so small, so unprepared, so violated. For too long the silence has held back the flood of truth. We suffer an epidemic of sexual inequality in our society, our country, and our world. Until we, as women, control our sex and sexuality - embrace it, own it, demand it - we will never be equal. 

Respect begins within. It begins with our acknowledgement of the ugly truth. It begins by breaking our self-imposed bonds of silence and recognizing that our lack of comfort in speaking and acting on our sexuality stems from what we were taught, not who we are. It begins by embracing our sisters who have suffered. It begins by demanding change.

I dedicate the evolution of Respect Her Sex to every woman who has suffered disrespect because of her sex.

In the Nude

thoughts on nudity, art and identity

Historically in art, the female nude has been revered on canvas, in marble and on film - an inspirational muse channeling the artist’s innermost desires. By contrast, in modern society, the nude female body is either censored, sexualized, or vilified. These contradictions can empower  self worth and also lead to personal shame. At this intersection identity, nudity, and art collide.

The female body is central to many of the themes of the Femme Project. Ideas about body image, feminine identity, female sexuality and the right to control our bodies are important concerns to me personally, artistically and socially. Growing up, I had a natural comfort with my nudity, despite a fairly religiously conservative upbringing. I had no frame of reference for normal or different, only art and pornography as my education. 

Art taught me that a woman's nudity was powerful, intoxicating and elegant. My form and my curves were divine, so long as they fit a mold that could be reworked to idealism in paintings and airbrushed to perfection in Photoshop. Beauty was not granted to all, only reserved for a special few, but all women are held to a standard which expects them to aspire to a form of flawlessness.

Where art idolized the female nude, pornography corporealized it. Lips, breasts, vaginas and other secret regions of the female body were captured extremely close-up and, these days, in high definition. Pornography is  sensual and raw, erotic and grotesque. It said my nudity was an asset to be used, displayed, and consumed for the pleasure of others. However, though porn shows us everything, it essentially tells us nothing. Or perhaps worse, it tells us the WRONG things.

Surprisingly, today, female nudity remains a source of controversy. Nipples are inappropriate and censored; vaginas are misunderstood and misrepresented and almost never shown in their natural state. Nudity in art is tolerated, as long as it doesn't make you feel uncomfortable. Nudity in porn is expected, as long as it exudes sexuality and desire behind closed doors. As women, we are told that we need to love our bodies but we are taught to hate our bodies if they don’t meet an impossible standard. We hide and expose based on expectations of propriety. It is ok, in fact encouraged, for women to reveal their bodies without ever really understanding what it means to be women, what it means to be nude, and what implications may come from sharing our nude selves.

Nudity is our natural state. It is diverse, non-conforming and essential. To embrace our nudity is the ultimate leap of faith. When nudity is no longer taboo, we are free to explore an infinite world of possibilities. My journey as a woman has taught me that our nudity is something we need to own. It should not be the domain of male artists, frustrated or driven by their own desires. Nor should it be the domain of pornographers who seek to earn money by objectifying our bodies for the pleasure of others. And neither should it be something that politicians and religious leaders condemn as morally inappropriate for the safety of our society. These various players have tried to take possession of women’s nudity, to own it - every one of them using it to further their own needs or agendas. Their actions, words and characterizations marginalize women, making the struggle for true equality for women formidable. 

WE are the OWNERS of our nudity and in that conviction, we will eliminate the shame, embrace our identity and persevere in equality.

Women's March on Washington

Women's March on Washington

photoblog: Scenes from the Women's March on Washington.

January 21, 2017