This is the lead to an article in the Daily Mail, sent in by Chris W., about the small victories accomplished in 2009 by one “fifty-something” Linda Kelsey. In addition to letting a man see her naked, she lists putting together home-assembly furniture and singing happy birthday in tune:
But back to the stripping. The message she is trying to send is that she feels happy that she’s become more comfortable with her body. She writes:
My fifty-something body, I believed, just wasn’t up to naked scrutiny. And if I couldn’t take my clothes off, that meant sex was also off the agenda.
But then she met someone she liked and yadda yadda yadda.
This is all fine and good, but the image they used to illustrate this particular victory is this:
So the image they used to illustrate her comfort with her body and the fact that “sex is about how we connect, not what we look like” suggests just the opposite. The picture includes two mostly naked models (who are models because they have ideal bodies already); there’s no bodily connection at all and the man’s pose doesn’t suggest emotional connection either.
So women are being told how liberating it is to take their clothes off for men (how convenient for the dudes) and that they should feel comfortable with their bodies, like those young, thin, white, properly-gendered, able-bodied models do.
Now, if good ol’ “fifty-something” Linda Kelsey had posed displaying her newfound body comfort, like she does with her cardboard boxes, it would have sent the message she intended. Instead, it makes us feel bad for feeling icky about our bodies AND reminds us that they are (probably) icky indeed.
P.S.: I just have to say, do you see that picture of her?! She looks fine! What fifty-something woman wouldn’t be pleased with that body?! What woman of any age shouldn’t be pleased with that body? What kind of message does it send when she trashes herbody. She must think most of the population is hideous. We all need to stop trashing our bodies in front of one another, there’s just-about-always someone who ends up feeling worse because they compare their own body to the self-trasher and feel like they don’t measure up even to the body being disparaged. Enough.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Simone — January 11, 2010
I'm 21, and I really hope I look that good when I'm 50...
KD — January 11, 2010
Look at the body language used in the photograph. The man is towering over the woman as he stares down at her, with his arms crossed, signaling defensiveness, judgment and condescension.
Ciccina — January 11, 2010
I think there might be a language issue. If I'm not mistaken, to "strip off" in colloquial English English means taking one's clothes off. It doesn't mean strip tease or "stripping" in the American English sense. She just means getting naked, or letting a man neither-her-husband-nor-physical see her naked. Not doing some sort of gyrating routine or posing.
Really, I think this is a pretty basic article about a condition a lot of women experience, especially widows. I know I had similar experiences after my divorce following a 14 year relationship (though I was in my early 30s). There were certain tasks my spouse always did (assembling flat pack furniture among them). Changing the filtering screen in the furnace. The first time you have to do these things yourself, it feels a bit strange - its new. You're not used to learning new tasks after a certain age. Then you just do it. And its either no big deal, or you resolve to pay someone to do it next time.
As for being naked with a new person, that can be weird too. I mean, 25 years! But you get used to it the more you do it (and with some luck you plenty of opportunities). The self-doubt, the inner cringing - unfortunately, I think that's pretty much par for the course, given our indoctrinated insecurities.
I don't think the article has anything to do with performing or posing, nor does it appear to advocate those things. The photo is stupid, and sexist (showing younger woman), though I think the pose of the male model may have been meant to indicate that he's being judgmental, that the woman is or feels like she is being judged. Thematically that's in step with the article. The age of the models, no - its like they think their readers eyes will fall out if they see a partially clad woman over 30.
Victoria — January 11, 2010
Maybe if she were actually closer to having the types of body issues most people complain about I'd give her more credit but, being seemingly physically fit doesn't often pose a problem to most women. And WTF @ men being the final judge for women? Why do we have to get naked in front of a guy to assure ourselves and the world of our confidence? Would she also "strip off" in front of a group of teenage girls?
Another thing, as I age - the less I care what people think of me and the better I feel about myself. I think by age 50 there isn't much I'd care about. I don't know if she's the same way, but it's something to think about.
Martha — January 11, 2010
I despise this newspaper. Everything they say is ridiculous. It scares me that they have people regularly buying into this sort of 'news' or 'opinion'.
Ciccina — January 11, 2010
She had been with the same man for 25 years. Unless she's used to being naked in front of people, of course she's going to be nervous the first time she's with a different man. If she were a lesbian she'd be nervous the first time she was with a new woman. Ditto for men in the same situation.
Why? Because it is a new experience. The last time she was naked for-the-first-time with a man was likely more than 25 years ago. She was used to her husband's reaction; she didn't know how a new man would react. I presume he reacted positively. Now she knows what to expect, so her confidence has grown. Good for her.
Cut her some slack. This is perfectly normal.
Flourish Klink — January 11, 2010
How does "I don't like my body" translate to "everybody else is also ugly"? I highly doubt that this author believes that everybody around her is ugly. I think it's much more likely that, like many women, she has low self-esteem. Plenty of people have a disconnect between "you are beautiful" and "I am beautiful." It's a lot easier to find someone else pretty than to find yourself pretty.
Rebekah — January 11, 2010
It's become the practice of those who read, write, and comment at Jezebel to call the Daily Mail the Daily Fail. I think it proves accurate again here.
K — January 11, 2010
I think it's interesting that in the cartoonish drawing of the woman with clouds, the positioning of one of the clouds suggests that her right nipple is in the "fourth quadrant" of her breast. Illustrations very often place the nipple high in the middle of the breast, which is the look associated with breast implants.
Annonymous — January 11, 2010
RE: She looks fine! What fifty-something woman wouldn’t be pleased with that body?! What woman of any age shouldn’t be pleased with that body? What kind of message does it send when she trashes her body. She must think most of the population is hideous.
I think this comment over looks the nature of self esteem, drastically misinterpreting the average body image concerns experienced by women in this country. Body image is often not so much about ones body as one's self esteem. She could be the "perfect" size by whatever sick model standards exist and still feel uncomfortable with her shape. And THAT is perfectly normal.
Megan — January 11, 2010
If a dude was standing like that while I was supposed to be taking off my clothes to have sex, I would NOT take off my clothes. That picture is really creepy. His body language makes it look like he's demanding her to strip.
Maggie — January 11, 2010
I used to work at a high-end swimsuit store. I learned not to beat myself up over all my perceived flaws (I'm not perfect, but I try not to anyway). I listened to so many women of all shapes and sizes hate themselves. Life's too short to think you're too hideous for a bikini. Wear the damn bikini and go have fun.
larry c wilson — January 11, 2010
The majority of the population is hideous.
Sarah — January 11, 2010
"What kind of message does it send when she trashes her body. She must think most of the population is hideous. We all need to stop trashing our bodies in front of one another, there’s just-about-always someone who ends up feeling worse because they compare their own body to the self-trasher and feel like they don’t measure up even to the body being disparaged."
I've never been angry at the writers of this blog before, but I am right now. What kind of message are *you* sending by telling women that we should hide the insecurities that most of us harbor about our bodies?
Amy — January 12, 2010
RE: "Now, if good ol’ “fifty-something” Linda Kelsey had posed displaying her newfound body comfort, like she does with her cardboard boxes, it would have sent the message she intended. Instead, it makes us feel bad for feeling icky about our bodies AND reminds us that they are (probably) icky indeed."
I think getting naked for one guy and getting naked for 1000's (or more) of readers are completely different things. I'm pretty sure most of the population is comfortable being naked in front of someone they're involved with, but most people would not pose provocatively for an online publication.
That doesn't mean that maybe they shouldn't have used young models, but I don't think it's fair to expect her to be the one to pose.
Andrew — January 12, 2010
Sorry Lisa, but I read the same article, and I just don't understand what you're reading as self-policing here.
"My fifty-something body, I believed, just wasn’t up to naked scrutiny." This sounds to me like an honest sharing of the author's personal relationship with her body, not a trashing of it. She didn't say, "OMG I'm so fat," or "I couldn't bear to expose my wrinkles," but as far as I can tell only admits the perfectly understandable hesitations she felt before disrobing. Is this just one of those times when the rant comes unhitched from a completely different train of thought that had nothing to do with the content in question?
Or was it that while reading the Kelsey article you also clicked onto this one: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1242339/Billie-Piper-reveals-motherhood-think-twice-getting-naked-screen.html ? It features an actress whining about how motherhood makes her feel so "dirty" when undressing onscreen as her sex-worker character - who happens to be a living person - that she needs "several showers...and a lot of praying."
Roisin — January 14, 2010
While the article may actually be positive, it's in the most women-negative newspaper in this country. The Daily Mail HATES women. It calls feminists "feminazis" which is offensive in so many ways, and I consider any chance to draw attention to their sexism a bonus.
Anonymous — January 14, 2010
wait a second. what do you mean "she" looks "fine."
... isn't that still perpetuating what looks "fine" and what doesn't?
Rebecca — January 14, 2010
wait a second. what do you mean “she” looks “fine.”
… isn’t that still perpetuating what looks “fine” and what doesn’t?
Jessie — January 17, 2010
Yeah, talk about mixed messages--you judge her body while telling her not to judge her body?