Reign actress Caitlin Stasey recently launched Herself, a website of nude portraits and disarmingly frank interviews—like Into the Gloss if they covered masturbation, reproductive rights, and atheism—as "a gesture to women for women by women; a chance to witness the female form in all its honesty without the burden of the male gaze, without the burden of appealing to anyone."
Super, right? But even with such an explicit mission statement, people are totally, frustratingly, expectedly missing the point. Internet randos male and female alike are calling Stasey and the eight other women featured on the site "exhibitionists," "show-offs," and "attention whores," and willfully ignoring the cue to talk about female bodies in a not condescending or accusatory way. And, oh yeah, they're fixated on the nakedness like 12-year-old schoolboys standing in front of a Courbet.
Let's get this straight: Herself is about women presenting themselves as they want to be seen. It's about women baring their bodies as they bare their innermost fears and memories. And yes, it's about pride. All those things together—freedom, self-love, being able to choose for yourself—that's what makes this feminist.
"It comes at a greater cost to you to attack the women around you than it does to empower them," Stasey says in her own Q&A. Hear that, internet?
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Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.
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