Body positivity project defies misogynistic views of female nudity

Education major sophomore Katherine Bensburg poses with body art by communication major junior Anna Tailleur for the “Grow Through What You Go Through” project. In the face of cyber sexual harassment, the project stands by its principles of self-love and body positivity. (Photo courtesy of Carly Anzalone)

Geneseo local sorority, the Royal Lady Knights recently held their annual Positive Body Image campaign. The campaign is a week-long movement featuring talks, a photo campaign and other events driven toward promoting self-love and body positivity. 

This year, RLK members communication major junior Anna Tailleur and psychology major senior Carly Anzalone took it upon themselves to create a project that has quickly gained momentum and an overwhelmingly-positive response. 

The project, entitled “Grow Through What You Go Through,” features women and femme-identifying people posing nude with their bodies painted with various designs and motifs. Tailleur had the original idea for this project and is the artist behind the body painting, while Anzalone acts as photographer. 

As a member of RLK, this project has been profoundly empowering for myself and other members.

Unfortunately, the anonymous social media app Yik Yak became a way for students to produce hateful and misogynist comments regarding the photo project. Some feedback includes comments such as, “I can’t believe how they [RLK] provide porn for this campus” and “Yeah right, I’ll empower them by jerking it to this tonight.” 

Anzalone and Tailleur responded to the comments with a statement, saying, “While the sexually aggressive criticism is upsetting, it also reminds us of why we are doing this project in the first place, and we will continue to spread our positive and empowering message.” 

The Yik Yak comments are infuriating, ignorant and, unfortunately, unsurprising. Leave it to young people to take something beautiful and positive and reduce it to “porn.” It is inconceivable, to them, that women would participate in nudity without the purpose of sexual gratification.

The purpose of this project and the campaign is to provide support and empowerment. When we see the bodies of those we admire, we are more accepting of our own. No two people look alike, and by proclaiming that we are proud enough of our bodies for the whole world to see them inspires others to feel the same way. 

Viewing these bodies in a nonsexual, comfortable and supportive context allows us to appreciate bodies for what they are, rather than what they have come to represent in a patriarchal, misogynistic society.

The phenomenon of men begging to see nudity comes to a screeching halt when a woman does so of her own accord. The purpose of this photo shoot was not to please or to impress anyone but ourselves, and this is when reactions arise. 

Regrettably, self-love has become reduced to a controversial and pornographic act.

This is further aggravating considering the way male nudity is accepted, to the point of being humorous. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a fraternity brother’s butt against my own will, I would be able to pay off my student loans today. You would be hard-pressed to find a woman who has never received an unsolicited “dick pick” via texting or dating apps. 

Bodies aren’t shameful, and they aren’t dirty. Women are historically used as muses time after time—expected to mold themselves to the desires and visions of men. It is when they become the artists that men criticize, ridicule and shame them. 

They conflate nudity with vulnerability, and by proudly and boldly flaunting our nudity, we become less vulnerable and less controllable.

By unapologetically showing our bodies in their rawest form, we can feel proud of our different shapes and we can glorify pieces of ourselves we once tried to hide. Tailleur and Anzalone have expressed interest in expanding this project due to the overwhelming popularity it has gained, and hope to diversify their subject base. 

The Yik Yak controversy has only served to further their message, emphasizing the need for a project such as this. So “jerk it” to that, hateful misogynists.