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  • Mattie Jo Cowsert

Modest is Hottest


As inspired by Neghar Fonooni, one of my all time favorites on social media and all around badass lady, I want to start a conversation around women’s bodies. Shocker, I know.

So Neg is this incredibly physically strong woman (#crossfit), single mom, daily motivator/inspiration, and has also created a multitude of programs for women to reclaim their power and start living comfortably in their skin. I absolutely LOVE the work Neg does and follow her closely because I truly believe her message needs to be shouted to the masses --- We don’t need to play small, ladies. We need to take up space and live in the beautiful feminine power we possess. The world is a much better place when we stop adhering to patriarchal ideas of what we should be. Anyway, I like her a lot and I think she’s fulfilling a really great mission on this earth.

So this guy starts messaging Neghar in response to something she posted about a camel toe, goes on to make a ton of comments about her body and she’s like “Dude. My body is not here for your pleasure. I don’t talk about labia for you. I discuss it to normalize bodies because THEY ARE BODIES.” He didn’t get it right away, but eventually he did.

My body is not for you.

Then later on this same day I had a really great conversation with a female family member. She is liberal, and definitely stands up for women’s rights but argued that maybe we are being a bit confusing in this fight for equality. We say we want to be treated the same, don’t want to be objectified, etc...and yet we still post things or dress in a way to elicit a certain reaction from men. A reaction that will ultimately get us what we want -- followers, a promotion, basic sexual attention -- from the people who still hold the power. Men.

And here’s the thing, I don’t think she is entirely wrong. BUT it’s far more complicated than women behaving a certain way to get a response from men. I think the issue is that men and women have existed and taken specific roles in society FOR SO LONG, it’s going to take a good while to jar some ideas that feel entirely innate at this point. For example, I wear makeup (I say) because I like wearing makeup. I enjoy being traditionally effeminate in this way and so I wear makeup everyday.

But is that true? Do I really like wearing makeup? I mean I have to take it off every night with product I have to pay for, it’s expensive to buy the stuff that doesn’t fuck with your skin, the expensive stuff often STILL causes breakouts, and it stains my pillow cases. Do I like makeup, or do I just like the response I receive from people when I wear makeup vs. not wearing makeup? The truth is probably that I do not actually like wearing makeup, but I do it anyway because it is deemed unprofessional and sloppy not to. The problem is, most people are not taking time every second of their morning regiment to examine if society is the reason they brush their teeth with whitening toothpaste that is probably causing cancer (it is btw #totallyguilty). So we are left with women and men who want something different but still behaving the same and then shouting at each other. Not a great recipe for change, unfortunately.

My Body is not for you.

BUT ALSO, I think it’s important to address women really cannot win in this battle for “respect” or “equality”. Of course, it’s important to take everything case by case and recognize that women (and men!) are individuals with personal motives. But I am just going to speak from my personal observations and experience.

Women are starting to stand up and say “I love my body! It’s beautiful and I’m proud, so I’m going to post about being body positive! Fuck the po-lice!” Then they are shamed for doing so. I’m told I’m “asking for attention” if I post pictures of myself at the gym or in a bikini or even in a cute outfit with my girls at the club. So what are we to do? Hillary Clinton is known for her pant suits and Melania Trump is photoshopped on the US seal in a bikini. We are not enough or too much. And it’s all determined based on how we dress our bodies, how we carry our weight, how we smile. We are either too sexy or not sexy enough.

Growing up in the Evangelical world, there was one message that persisted around women’s bodies -- it was for ONLY our husband’s pleasure. And if we dressed in a way that made other men lust, we were the millstone attached to their ankle in a body of water. That’s right, if we made a man lust based on our attire, we were metaphorically responsible for drowning them in sin (what's funny is this verse is actually talking about making children "stumble". Btu like whatever. Translation amiright?). Well fuck. What can I wear, then? Recently, I even heard a pastor (during a long sermon of pink hat wearing, pig headed, snowflake bashing) say "A woman's skirt should be as long as a sermon: long enough to cover all the important stuff but short enough to keep my interest." ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I will have you know, I promptly walked out of the service. When my father texted to ask if I was okay, I told him I was in the bathroom checking my feminist IUD I got from Planned Parenthood and he could kindly relay the message to that pastor. Seriously if Heaven is full of people like that guy, send me straight to hell in my two piece.

Anyway, at summer camp or summer retreats, the girls adhered to strict dress code rules. Our shorts had to come to our fingertips, no sleeveless shirts (because men cannot be held accountable for their attraction to shoulders, apparently), and DEFINITELY no two piece bathing suits. If we broke any of these rules, we immediately had to go change. I once saw a girl get sent back to her cabin to change into jeans. AT A SUMMER CAMP. We were playing wiffle ball! Wiffle ball for Jesus in JEANS? I guess they wanted to give her a little taste of actual hell.

Meanwhile, the boys ran around with their shirts off all summer, could wear or not wear whatever they wanted, and even posed for their high school-perfect-athlete-abs-group picture before the end of camp/retreat. Cool.

So, even in the name of Jesus, I was taught by like age 8 that my body is strictly for men’s pleasure. BUT ALSO, it was my responsibility to make sure they didn’t see my body sexually. Also also, clearly men with their shirts off is not sexual, it’s just normal. What. A. Mind. Fuck.

So why when men/people see women’s bodies do they immediately think of sex? Because we are conditioned this way. Even the most well-intentioned men and women are still suffering from seeing bodies as, not a vessel, but a means to an end. Do you know what my body did today? She laughed, ate, farted, bled, and a whole buncha other functions that have nothing to do with sex. My girlfriends are starting to have babies now and their boobs are HUGE. Guess why? They’re full of milk to feed a tiny human! But that doesn’t matter. They still refrain from posting pictures if their boobs look too big (even in sweaters), because it looks “slutty.” Sigh.

So, even in the name of Jesus, I was taught by like age 8 that my body is strictly for men’s pleasure

When I was in Japan, I went to a Japanese Onsen -- a completely nude public bath. Never in my life had I seen so many naked female bodies that weren’t in a sex scene of some sort. I saw 80 year olds to babies and everything in between. It was jarring, really, to realize I have never just looked at other women’s bodies (besides my sisters) in a non-sexual scenario.

So why are we shamed? Why are we “asking for it” or “need to try a little harder”? Because when you see the female body you immediately think of sex (which opens another question: Why is sex shameful?)? If this truly is the case, that's prrrrooooobably the problem. And maybe it’s time that changed.

My body is a vessel. It is a way for me to live abundantly on this earth. To run, play, dance, breathe, eat, hug, kiss, make love, have babies, and do it all over again. But it is mine. It is not yours.


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