Getting naked in the name of feminism

In late December, Madeline Anello-Kitzmiller, 20, was assaulted at Gisborne's Rhythm & Vines festival, in a now infamous incident which was captured on video and broadcast repeatedly across the nation.

Anello-Kitzmiller was naked from the waist up, her chest decorated in glitter and stick-on costume jewels, when she was grabbed from behind by a stranger. Gratifyingly, she then proceeded to march back to the man and thump him in anger four times.

Anello-Kitzmiller's behaviour and attitude since has continued to reflect this fight over flight response - she has refused to sit down and shut up, and instead has organised a protest march - the Glittery March for Consent - which takes place on Auckland's Queen Street on January 28.

The Facebook events page says:

"We stand in solidarity with each other and for anyone who has ever been the victim of sexual assault, victim blame, anyone who wants to stand up and say, 'This is my body and these are my rights!'"

And to add a little colour, the festival wear business GypsyFestNZ will be providing free body glitter decoration - to participants' faces, chests or anywhere they care.

"This is not a requirement," states the Facebook page. "There is NO DRESS CODE. Our freedom to express ourselves however we choose, modestly or not, does not equate an invitation to touch our bodies."

No right-minded observer could argue with Anello-Kitzmiller's right to walk unmolested through the streets of New Zealand. The question is: How does nudity advance the cause? Can nudity be feminist?

Maybe it's empowering


A few years back, a slew of naked celebrity selfies hit the 'gram - Miley Cyrus, Cara Delevingne and any number of Kardashians were stripping off and pouting in their bathroom mirrors for millions of followers.  

And the papers had a field day. “Stop calling this empowerment,” yelled Aussie’s Daily Telegraph.

"Is the naked selfie good for feminism? Let's take a closer look," slobbered Elle.

After Emma Watson appeared on the cover of Vogue with her blouse undone, the outspoken women's right activist was decried as a hypocrite, the argument being that calling yourself a feminist is at odds with revealing your body.

(Watson responded eloquently: "Feminism is about freedom, it's about equality. I don't see what my tits have to do with it." 

Vogue contributor Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote: “Any personal liberation of what one chooses to clothe their own body in is clouded by the misogynistic backdrop of the world we live in. If a woman takes off her clothes, it is seen to be a sign of her insecurity and need for validation, rather than feeling comfortable with herself. Once she’s stripped, that’s all she is.”

Except maybe it's internalised misogyny


According to journalist Naomi Schaffer-Rily, the conflict is that: “When women start to remove their shirts, the people who enjoy it most are men.” So can getting naked ever be an act of liberation?

Kim Kardashian thinks so. Her naked selfie appeared on International Women’s Day, and she took a lot of heat for doing so. Yet if we’re choosing to not get naked because of men, that hardly makes it a liberated choice.

Protesting naked is nothing new
Protesting naked is nothing new Photo credit: Credit - SFWheelchair/Wikipedia

But everybody's doing it


All manner of causes have been protested in the buff: animal rights, land rights, political causes and of course the right to nudity itself.

Femen is a Europe-wide group of radical feminist activists whose members protest topless. They have marched against the sex industry, macho culture and , largely in a state of undress. The group says its approach is provocative, and it attracts media attention, allowing it to draw the world’s attention to its causes. The leader of the Paris branch, Inna Shevchenko, says they use the female body as a political tool: “It no longer works to promote yoghurt and cars.”

So what’s it to be: Is stripping off an act of defiance and empowerment, or just an invitation for men to ogle?

Maybe it’s always going to be both.


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