Social media hasn't always been kind to women—it might be a platform for us to express ourselves, but it's also a platform for others to scrutinize us on. In recent years, media campaigns have contributed to an ongoing discussion about femininity, feminism and the ongoing objectification of women. Advocacy initiatives such as the #freethenipple campaign and Dove’s "Real Beauty" advertisements have significantly promoted the conversation, bringing questions regarding the female body and female sexuality to the forefront of society's mind.
Now, through the new website, Herself.com, the movement to empower women is going uncensored.
E! Onlinereported that the project, created by Caitlin Stasey, the Australian actress and CW star known for her roles in Neighbours and Reign, is formed around interviews with and personal essays by ordinary women of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities about topics including, but certainly not limited to body image, masturbation, reproductive rights and sexual identity. “This is a site made by a woman for women about women,” Stasey explained.
Stasey told Vice that the “constant gender divide in all aspects of our community,” from discussions of medical conditions to sexuality, inspired and motivated her to create the website. “I wanted women to be able to tell their own stories and talk about their own ideas rather than be subjected to other people's opinions and criticisms of them,” she explained. “I just wanted to make a place where we could say, ‘F*** off, I'm doing what I want.’”
Herself.com is passionate fight to reclaim the female body for women—to highlight the beauty and truth in a woman’s form without sexualizing it for the pleasure of a male (or female) audience. Stasey seeks to accomplish this goal by including a naked photograph of the female contributors—herself included—to their personal essays or interviews. “Women are never just naked,” Stasey explained. She added, “[These images] just show women existing… [P]utting up photos on your own terms is incredibly powerful.” According to Stasey, feminism is fundamentally about embracing one’s freedom; though going full-frontal for the entire world to see may not be liberating and empowering for all women, Herself merely endorses the idea that women need not fear the judgment of others and can proudly own their bodies.
Stasey does not only hope to promote convention in images of the female figure; throughout Herself, one will find images of naked women of color, trans women and disabled women. “I wanted to have pictures of them naked because lots of women aren't reflected in the entertainment they consume,” Stasey said. “We're bombarded by imagery of sleek, hairless women as the faces of humanity.”
Time described Herself as “a much-needed feminist tribute to both the minds and bodies of women” and stated that the photographs’ “overt nakedness is giving a different attitude about the female body the push forward it needs in mainstream media.”
Certainly, the abundance of images of naked women has the potential to attract the attention of male visitors to the site. Yet, Stasey hopes that such viewers will find Herself to be informative and not merely arousing. “I sincerely hope men come to the site and learn to see how women present themselves, how women look when they are not merely objects, but the living, breathing subjects of their own stories,” she told Time.
Herself is not solely a social movement; it is a safe space for women to share their experiences. In addition to visually challenging social norms, Herself puts real women’s issues to the spotlight. Among the poignant pieces is a story of a woman who was molested; another tells of a woman struggling to battle her eating disorder. Stasey herself discusses masturbation. “We need to teach young girls to love themselves and be proud of their bodies. Masturbation needs to be talked about in sex education, and rape needs to be talked about,” Stasey said.
Stasey’s website serves as a haven for women who are looking for a place to share their beliefs, fears and hopes; it is also a profound, unique educational platform to teach young girls about their bodies, sexuality and individuality.
Have you visited Herself? Do you think this unique platform is empowering, and that it will make a change in society? Would you contribute to the site?