Sexuality and Power: Why the Female Body is So Scary

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting on the playground at work listening to a couple of my kids talk about life (because, honestly, what’s better than 6 year olds talking about life?). One of the children was a girl and one was a boy. At one point, the little girl looked over at the boy and said, “Is it awesome to be a boy?”

I had to hear the answer to that one.

The boy set down the tire chips he was carefully building into a pyramid so he could give this question his undivided attention. He said, “Oh yeah, it is. You get to take off your shirt whenever you want and you don’t have as many private areas.”

Spot on, kid. Spot on.

This got me thinking. Why was it that the male workers could be shirtless when we took the kids to the pool but I had to go out and buy a $40 one piece? Bikinis cover all of our “private areas.” What’s so much worse about the female stomach versus the male stomach? Obviously, it would be inappropriate to take children to the pool if you were wearing one of those tiny string bikinis – but a normal bikini that covers an adequate amount of skin?

I’m not usually one for feminist-esque rants; it just isn’t who I am. But I got home and chatted with my rommate about the swimsuit issue – in other words, I vented my frustration over the fact that one piece swimsuits are expensive – and we came to the conclusion that we’re teaching children that the female body is something to be hidden, something inappropriate.

So, why do we give the female body so much more power than the male body?

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The media. It’s no new news that the media has been over-sexualizing the female body for decades. You can’t go to a PG-13 or R-rated movie anymore without seeing as least a few sets of boobs. Sex sells, and the media knows it. As many of you know, I am the editor of a city magazine. I recently did an article for the magazine featuring a woman, Windie Lazenko, who is an active advocate in the sex trafficking industry. Many of the things that she said stood out to me, one of which being, “Whether you want to call this a feminist movement or a women’s rights movement or a female empowerment movement, it’s about women understanding that they’re worth more than their bodies and their looks. I think that women and girls need to stop buying into the lie that they need to be these sexual beings in order to get their needs met.” (If you want to read the full article, it’ll be out in July, by the way!)

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Society. From beauty product and perfume commercials to dress code rules, society seems to be becoming more and more enthralled by the female body. One of my photographers and I wandered around downtown looking for interesting people and products to shoot earlier this week and had at least two men whistle at us, one yell something on the street and one honk and yell something out of pickup truck. No, we weren’t walking down the street in our underwear. No, we don’t live in a seedy city (like… at all). It’s become commonplace and normal for men — obviously, not all men — to act this way, which is something I don’t understand. My female friends often express concern over what they’re wearing, asking whether their knee-length dress is too short. One of my female relatives recently posted about how, after telling a friend of such an encounter, the friend asked, “Well… What were you wearing?”

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Women. As Lazenko said, women need to stop buying into the lie that they are worth nothing more than their looks. Every morning, I consciously look at myself in the mirror and ask if the outfit I’m wearing is going to solicit unwanted attention. And, clearly, I’m not some long-legged beach babe who lights up every room she walks into. Either way, though, we should not be dressing for other people. Women (and men, for that matter.. but that’s a different rant) should not be dressing to please — or not please, in this case — the rest of the world. If you want to wear a short dress or shorts or a pencil skirt that makes your ass look good, you should be able to do so without the fear that someone is going to yell at you on the street.

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