For something so natural, Nudity seems to really rub people the wrong way. It has been less than a week since Marie Claire shared the images from their 2017 Naked Issue featuring the likes of Bailey Schneider, Nomzamo Mbatha, Thando Thabethe and Omuhle Gela among others.
While the aim of the issue is to capitalize on the power of nudity for a good cause, a lot of people haven’t been able to get passed the actual nudity and see the campaign for what it is.
“Although we live in a country enshrined by a liberal and progressive constitution, we are still a deeply conservative and patriarchal society. We can debate that too, but look at any of our major institutions: schools, universities, churches or parliament: we’re liberal, but only to a point. We are quick to police the naked body, and particularly women’s naked bodies,” writes Marie Claire.
Despite the backlash, it is the innate power held by nudity that the publication has decided to use to drive their message home.
“On the streets, or on online platforms, we are told what we are and are not allowed to do with our bodies. For that very reason, nudity can hold immense power, because in being visibly nude, we resist the gaze and, more importantly, we resist the rules that we are told to follow.”
It’s a good thing that rules aren’t law and are therefore meant to be broken in some cases.
Whenever we as a society discuss sex and nudity, we talk of values and morals as if we are all assigned the exact same set at birth and are required to follow them to the tee without developing our own.
Society also makes the mistake of viewing sex and nudity as one thing.
We spoke to Thando and she put a lot of thought into what she did and is a grown woman who is capable of understanding what this means as well as making her own choices. Therefore, for those asking/wondering what her parents and boyfriend would say, know that she spoke to them before hand (you can’t exactly surprise the people in your life with something like this).
We also spoke to Omuhle Gela who said,
“first of all, stripping down for the whole nation, especially as a woman (I’m speaking from my point of view) is not an easy thing to do because as women, we generally have like a lot of insecurities. I’m certain that there is no woman that is a hundred percent happy with their body regardless of how other people view it. So for me, it wasn’t an easy thing to do but I did it because it is for a good cause.”
And while we do not know exactly how Thando’s conversation with her parents went, the fact that she went through with the shoot hopefully means that they understood and respected her choice and her right to make that choice.
“I don’t think any parents would be like “oh, okay. Go for it,” but you have to sit them down and like sort of explain what it’s for... But I’ll be honest - my mom is for it but my dad was just like… He didn’t even see it. I did obviously prepare them beforehand,” said Omuhle.
“I’m an activist, feminist and huge supporter of women’s rights. The Naked Issue campaign has allowed me to celebrate my body, and I wish for all women to be able to do the same,” explained Thando in a post-shoot interview with the magazine.
All of the people featured in an issue enjoy a special position that allows them a wide platform that they can use to highlight issues that would otherwise go ignored.
“Like it or not the, the work I do gives me a voice,” says Thabethe before adding that she uses her voice to amplify the important messages shared by others.
She also hosts an annual netball event called the Thando Thabethe Women’s Day Netball Challenge, which is currently in its fourth year of inviting ordinary people and corporates to donate funds towards fighting violence against women.
In response to the critique that there are other ways of championing a cause, Omuhle advises those who have complained to get involved in charity work, “ by buying the magazine or go to the website to donate directly under each celeb’s pic. But all in all if they wouldn’t take it as far as we did, they can always just volunteer, donate etc. There are so many other ways.”
And in case you are still holding on to your bias and using it as ample ground to judge others, hopefully Thabethe’s answer can shed some light:
“Shocking measures to get people to talk about things they otherwise would prefer not to. The campaign also exposed just how much people (generally men) still have a long way to go in terms of seeing women naked and not thinking they are just a piece of meat,” she began.
“I also didn’t get it for the longest time, BUT, a lot of people watch celebrities Monday to Sunday and there are a lot of people who want to see them that way so that creates hype and that helps the magazine sell even more and that’s the whole point of the Naked Issue because proceeds from the issue go to the charities,” added Omuhle.
“A tweet I read said "you posing naked is you asking a man to rape you." It's scary really how people in 2017 have that mentality. Ladies on the other hand also had their bit to say… Slut shaming etc etc for posing nude. Things that shock us sometimes reveal our insecurities,” said Thando.
“I personally have no regrets. I’m happy with the way I went about it because I know this money will make a difference to the home I personally selected,” clarified Omuhle.
So, to conclude, Marie Claire summed it perfectly:
“Nudity has power, yes, but it isn’t empowering for everyone. It’s about choice, and what you choose.” So, when it comes to the life choices made by others, let us change our default setting from ‘judgment’ to ‘respect.’