Bound by society’s tendency to police bodies, celebrities find themselves publicly shamed for what they wear—or do not wear—and how much skin they choose to show. But these social prosecutors fail to realize that a woman’s body can be her source of empowerment. Choosing to embrace sexuality does not make women objects. A woman’s sexuality does not have to define her, but instead can make her stronger.
Pop culture is revolutionizing the public’s view of the feminist movement. In 2013, Beyoncé sampled Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech “We Should All Be Feminists.” Arguably one of the most powerful entertainers of our time, Beyoncé has used her music career as a platform to empower women in numerous ways—encouraging financial independence, and supporting social and political equality of the sexes. Yet, when she chose to label herself as a feminist, some believed her fishnet stockings and mesh leotards proved otherwise. Dissenters argued she is over-sexualized and thus not a “real feminist.”
Beyoncé believes the power of owning one’s sexuality. For her and others like Kim Kardashian West, embracing sexuality is liberating. Rather than viewing nudity and sensuality as synonymous with objectification of women, choosing to show off their body is a sign of ownership—they do what they please with what belongs to them.
In an interview with OUT magazine, Beyoncé said sexual liberation does not threaten her role as a woman.
“You can be a businesswoman, a mother, an artist, and a feminist — whatever you want to be — and still be a sexual being,” Beyoncé said. “It’s not mutually exclusive.”
Also embracing her sexuality, Kim Kardashian West posted a nude selfie to Instagram, pushing many people over the edge. In response to the scrutiny from fellow celebrities and the public, Kardashian released a short essay with a message very similar to Beyoncé’s.
“I am a mother. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, an entrepreneur and I am allowed to be sexy,” Kardashian said.
A victim of prudish attacks, Dita Von Teese—the modern-day Bettie Page—supports West’s nude selfie and feels the decision to disrobe in front of an audience—virtual or in-person—will invariably be accepted by some and shunned by others. Given the public’s mixed opinions, women cannot please everyone—they only need to please themselves. A burlesque performer who rejects attempts at body policing, Von Teese considers her risqué costumes and erotic numbers to be a feminist art form in itself.
“The thing that I always say about what I do for a living, which could be perceived as empowering or degrading, is that everyone’s got a right to their opinion,” Von Teese said. “It’s really how you view it. It’s not about what that person is doing; it’s about how people translate it.”
Shaming women for embracing their sexuality is inherently anti-feminist. When celebrities use their bodies for a purpose of their choosing, they express independence as women. Rather than perpetuate the objectification of women, Beyoncé, West, Von Teese, and the likes create avenues for the everyday woman to be sexual and proud.
Medardo Perez is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.