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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Our bodies, for ourselves

“What makes YOU feel sexy?”

“What do YOU love most about your body?”

I am tired of these questions. Part of me wants to say that nothing makes me feel sexy, and that I don’t really mind. Or that I don’t love my body, and maybe never will, because loving my body seems like it would require too much goddamn work, pushing back against too many forces and, let’s face it, working out more. Plus, I have better things to worry about.

I am sick of certain feminist agendas that tell us we should love our vaginas, our bodies, our orgasms, whatever. My vagina is a body part. My body is a body, a vessel for my full self. My orgasms are none of your goddamn business.

These feminist “positivity” movements, while empowering for some women, only provide added pressure for others, including myself. Being told to "love our bodies" and to "feel sexy" doesn’t seem that different to me from being told to think, do or feel anything else -- which is to say, it feels uncomfortable, or at the very least, forced.

Moreover, positivity movements seem to imply that the only alternative is negativity. These movements are seen as ways for individual women to push back against negative ideas about women, their bodies and their sexualities, but at the same time, they don’t do much to counteract societal or structural issues. The focus is entirely on the individual: 'Hey you! Figure out how you can feel sexy! And if you don't, pretend you do!'

But even if women do feel good about their bodies, this does nothing to counteract the unfortunate, age-old idea that physical beauty is a woman's most important asset. Plus, these positivity movements are incredibly gendered, and often geared toward straight, feminine women, with little focus on how to dispel white-centric beauty standards.

There’s a recent trend in advertising in which Dove soap or tampon companies attempt to show women that they can feel beautiful (if they buy the product in question), which is certainly a nice way to counter advertisements that emphasize everything that’s supposedly wrong with women and their bodies. But it’s starting to feel like these body-positive and sex-positive ads and campaigns are only furthering negative ideas about women. Men’s advertisements don’t attempt to make men feel good about themselves and their bodies, implying that men already do feel good about themselves, or that they simply have more important things to worry about. When women’s advertisements like the ones promoted by Dove suggest thatwomen are beautiful, whether they know it or not, these ads still perpetuate the idea that women’s looks are extremely important.

Why do we need to “reclaim” the idea that we are beautiful, or that our bodies are sacred? Why can’t we just work to nix this idea altogether? It’s become a trend for women to post ridiculously perfect photos on social media and for other women to shower them with loving compliments about their looks, sometimes even in the name of "positivity." If this is what helps some women feel good about themselves, then more power to them. But I worry that by and large, our society’s obsession with body and sex positivity in women is really just another form of a general obsession with women’s appearances and sexualities.