I am a feminist. This is a statement that has garnered a lot of criticism and judgement in recent years, conjuring images of angry women trying to oppress men. This not what a feminist is. A feminist believes in gender equality, and I think it's absurd that we still do not have this in our modern society. Feminism has risen to the forefront of many people's minds this year, in no small part thanks to Emma Watson's inspiring UN speech. But one of my favourite things to appear recently is Caitlin Stasey's new website, herself.com.
The second I clicked on it, I was inspired. The site features photographs of nude women, who have chosen to participate in the site to reclaim their bodies. Nudity is nearly always viewed through the sexualised male gaze, and makes many women feel embarrassed about their bodies. So it's refreshing to see women, of all body types and ethnicities, showing off their bodies and feeling proud and confident in their own skin. These women are not posing for anyone else's benefit - and certainly not any man's - but rather are doing it solely for themselves. When looking through the images, they don't feel overtly sexual - they feel empowering and inspiring.
More than just images though, Stasey's site features interviews with these women (as well as the offer for others to get involved and be featured on the site themselves). Interviews that don't shy away from controversial topics or uncomfortable truths. Interviews that are very raw and very honest. These women talk candidly about sex and sexuality, as well as religion, relationships, reproductive health and how our society operates for women. Their views range from 'traditional' to 'controversial'. But most importantly, all of these views are heard. It doesn't matter that they don't all agree on these topics; the site is not trying to push one particular viewpoint. It is a place where women can express their opinions, openly and honestly, without being judged or ridiculed for them. A simple idea, but a profoundly influential one.
Stasey's own interview will no doubt be critiqued by people, particularly by conservative traditional types, as she dislikes religion and marriage, is open about her sexuality and struggles, and calls polyamory "utopia". But she also recognises that everyone is different and supports women doing what they want to do. The key part of our message is that women should do what makes them happy and do it for themselves, and not because they think it is expected of them by society (even if they do follow the 'traditional' path). I may disagree with some of her personal opinions, but I wholeheartedly agree with this idea.
And it doesn't matter that I agree with Stasey, or any other woman featured on the site, about some things and disagree about others. I will absolutely not criticise their opinions, as they are their own and therefore entirely valid. This site is a space for women to be candid and honest without fear of judgement - particularly by men. This is a step forwards, in women reclaiming their bodies, their sexuality, and their opinions. It doesn't tear down other people; it certainly doesn't tear down all men, just the patriarchal tendencies of our society. I've always been in favour of gender equality, but never written about it on here before; so the fact that Herself inspired me to do so, proves just how influential and empowering it is.