Why We Need More Naked Women

It says a lot about the state of our relationship to our bodies that I cried from watching this simple video (embedded below) about a simple photo project: Jade Beall is putting together a book of real, untouched black and white photographs of real women’s bodies. Looking at these gorgeous images, with all their supposed “flaws,” you realize how seldom we see other non-model women’s bodies. You also realize how critical it is that we do so.

We’re so used to thinking that women’s bodies are for straight men’s enjoyment that we forget there could be real advantages to presenting images of the naked form outside of Victoria’s Secret ads and Playboy pictorials. This is where women’s bodies, and even sexuality, truly becomes empowerment. I recently did a boudoir photo shoot with my sister, Julie, who runs Chicago Doll Photography, and it is empowering, as a real woman, to treat yourself like a model in the good ways. You don’t have to objectify yourself to feel the effect; there’s simply a power in treating yourself as worthy of being photographed this way, as if you are as “beautiful” as those VS models. It starts sounding cheesy pretty fast here, of course: You are beautiful! You do deserve it! That’s only because the ad industry has taken these images and these ideas from us and used them to sell products to us that supposedly make us more beautiful since advertising began.

This is why we called ourselves Sexy Feminist — because feminism like this is sexy, and wonderful, and delicious, not because we’re trying to be sexy to straight men. This is what the female gaze looks like, cast upon other female forms:

Watch the video, donate money, volunteer to pose, spread the word, buy the book when it’s out — we should all do whatever we can to support The Beautiful Body Project, and anything else like it.


Author: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong grew up deep in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, then escaped to New York to live in a succession of very small apartments and write about pop culture. In the process, she became a feminist, a Buddhist, and the singer/guitarist in an amateur rock band. She also spent a decade on staff at Entertainment Weekly, cofounded SexyFeminist.com, and now writes for several publications, including Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Writer’s Digest, Fast Company, and New York‘s Vulture. Her history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2013; her collaboration with Heather Wood Rudulph, Sexy Feminism, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013. She is the author of the Why? Because We Still Like You, a history of the original Mickey Mouse Club published by Grand Central in 2010. She has provided pop culture commentary for CNN, VH1, A&E, and ABC, and teaches article writing and creative writing. Follow her on Twitter: @jmkarmstrong


  1. lisa thomson says:

    What a beautiful project!

  2. Andrew Patterson says:

    This definitely seems like an important project. It is a shame something like this cannot enter into education for teenage women. The only things worth scrutinizing over a person’s body are what the person themself would consider if living alone and in a remote place, as a thought experiment anyway. I don’t know if my opinion is important, being a guy, but people can’t be happy if they’re not comfortable in their own body and they need to have confidence. With that thought experiment of mine, I should have no reason to feel awkward about my thighs (which I do from my family making fun of how thick my legs are), although I would like a slimmer tummy because it would let me bend down more easily.
    My sister would probably think the majority of the women in this project are ugly and watches way too much television.

    I wish this project as much success as can be hoped for!

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