Lauren Thatcher Ulrich got it right when she said “well behaved women seldom make history”, but what she failed to mention was how hard it is for women to break through society’s barriers.
Society is the king (or queen) of mixed signals. On one hand, it is expected of women to remain body positive and empowered. On the other hand, if these empowered women attempt to confidently show off their bodies, society begins the inevitable “slut-shaming,” “fat-shaming,” name calling, and claims that these women do it for the attention.
So where is the line drawn between sexualization for attention and empowerment through a confident body image?
A few weeks ago, Kim Kardashian posted a nude selfie on Instagram and by doing so, reignited the controversial question: “What empowers women?”
Social media, tabloids, and fans responded almost instantaneously to the selfie that some claim “broke the internet again”; some were critical of Kardashian’s behavior as a mother and bashed her morals, while others commended her body confident attitude. Kardashian responded to her critics with a message of female empowerment via her website.
“I am empowered by my body,” she wrote. “ I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls and women all over the world.”
Kardashian brings about a valid point that women and girls should be encouraged to feel empowered through whatever means possible. Society continues to attack women who seek out, and find, empowerment through control of their body when, instead, communities and media should be encouraging all forms of self-confidence in women.
Not only is society attacking women for their discovery of empowerment through sexuality, but is augmenting the oppression of women through the double standard of men vs. women showing off their bodies.
When male celebrities like Nick Jonas post provocative, highly sexual pictures or are featured, barely clothed, on magazine covers, society hails them as sexy, confident and amazing. However, when other stars of the same rank, like Fifth Harmony, wear revealing outfits, society degrades them and calls them sluts.
Attempting to control a woman’s sexualization and journey for empowerment is yet another societal barrier being placed upon the already oppressed female gender. Society needs to accept that a woman’s decision to be empowered by a certain aspect or factor (her job, her style, her sexuality and body image ) should be respected, not contested.