When we consider images that originate from the high fashion sphere, you wouldn’t bat an eye-lid if nudity was a feature among them. The omnipresence of nudity in artistry or rather more specifically, in the fashion industry is accepted as simply functioning as an aesthetic attribute. However, when we consider the reaction produced from nudity in self-taken photos or ‘selfies,’ there is an immense difference in the amount of controversy that is created.
An excerpt from a Popular Photography magazine notes that “since the ‘50s when Stern photographed Monroe for Vogue magazine, nudity in high fashion presentation has taken on a harder edge” (Kalmus Y, 1983). Now it seems that this shameless attitude has flourished not only into 21st century fashion, but also onto our screens in social media. With the proliferation of social media almost demanding ‘self-expression’ and ‘individualisation’ through our own means, when we see nudity it sparks a debate about the message individuals are trying to send to their viewers about themselves.
The selfie culture that has risen with the popularity of social media has seen associations of nudity with women be interpreted in a multitude of manners. For example, there are instances where nudity is utilised as a form of body positivity, self-expression or even liberation which has seen some objections claim that it is a move to empower women and defend feminism. However, it is in these cases that controversy is fed.
A notable article written by Hayley Phelan explores the conflicting views on such media posts and attempts to discover why it fuels diverse arguments. The apparent “double standard” that exists for women on social media has created an arena where their images are more likely to be “criticised for being exploitative, slutty or demeaning.” However, in mainstream media, we are continuously bombarded with photographs of “scantily clad women,” (Phelan, 2016) but are less likely to hear about the negative connotation of such images.
The obvious reason why women receive such backlash on images is due to the sexualisation that tints such photographs of them. As stated, it can be argued that audiences can “damn a girl for visual promiscuity, yet enjoy the spectacle at the same time” (Nelson, 2013). Furthermore such depictions of women, or rather younger teenagers also brings into the spotlight the ‘moral panic’ concerned with the nudity and the depiction that they dispatch to the public eye. This opinion that sexualising begins at a young age further highlights the “anxieties, concerns and ‘panics’ about the sexualisation of girls” (Gill & Scharff, 2011) and brings into question the inappropriate ways that they can be viewed via selfies made public on social media accounts. This reinforces that such ‘personal’ images are never confidential to harmful comments that intend to ‘slut-shame’ and demean users.
The way in which we view nudity in different arenas provokes a diverse amount of controversy and debate about what should be accepted as appropriate. No matter if we are looking at photographs of Bella Hadid’s fashion shoot featured in Flare magazine or images of a friend on Instagram, the ambivalence will always hold a presence in the message of the image.
Gill R, Scharff C, 2011, New Femininities, postfeminism, neoliberalism and subjectivity, Palgrave Macmillan Publishing, UK, p. 134
Kalmus Y, 1983, Popular Photography, Nude between the covers: a study of recent publications, volume 90 number 6, New York USA, p. 116
Nelson O, 2013, The Age, Dark undercurrents of teenage girls’ selfies, viewed March 12th <http://www.theage.com.au/comment/dark-undercurrents-of-teenage-girls-selfies-20130710-2pqbl.html>
Phelan H, 2016, ELLE, Is the Naked Selfie Good for Feminism? viewed March 12th <http://www.elle.com/culture/a34928/naked-selfie-and-feminism/>