Mags: Is naked necessary?

Glossy Talk

Following on from marie claire's nudie, un-airbrushed Jen Hawkins cover, which aims to promote positive body image, Sadie Frost, 44, has stripped for UK Grazia, also with minimal digital manipulation (two bruises were removed). Setting aside the coverline that reads "On-Trend Figure-Fixing Tricks Inside!", which to me somewhat undermines the whole notion of self-acceptance, Frost, who guest edits the issue, tells the magazine that the motivation was to help the sisterhood:

"The whole issue for me, the reason I wanted to do it, was because I wanted to put such emphasis on being healthy and holistic. And I felt that there’s been so much pressure on women, and I’ve noticed such a negative movement over the last few years on how peoples’ bodies should be. Really, I just think it’s sending out the wrong message to women. So I thought it would be really good, and that’s what I talked to everyone at Grazia [about] and they’ve been incredibly supportive with doing something that was much more realistic. So there’s no airbrushing; what you see is what you get, and I just wanted to give people some idea about healthier options and not to be too extreme or too punishing, and be a bit kinder to ourselves and maybe be a bit more sisterly, and that’s what I enjoyed talking about doing."

Frost also told The Daily Mail (which called her "voluptuous"): "I, like many women, am anxious about the way I look, but I've overcome my fears and posed nude to show that I'm like any other woman. I have bits I like – my boobs, my shoulders, my arms; and bits I'm not so keen on – my bum and my stomach. But I love my body because it works. It's given birth to four children, it's healthy and, like everyone's, has been through some tough times... I want us to forget about faddy diets and frenzied 6am gym visits. It's time to treat our bodies with a bit more TLC. Do you really want to be size zero? Especially if you are missing out on the finest delicacies in life? You can be naturally fit, yet feminine – happy and healthy in your own skin. You don't have to have that perfect body, because that perfect body doesn't really exist. The last decade was all about size zero and surgery. It was so bad for women, so bad for our self-esteem, our bodies."

As with marie claire, the reaction has been mixed. One comment on Grazia's website reads: "How exactly did you think that seeing a naked celebrity who is 5 feet 5 and weighs 8 and a half stone, would make the average woman feel better about themselves?". Another is more encouraging: "I think that while there are undoubtedly braver things done by some women, a 40-something celebrity agreeing to pose naked without airbrushing is pretty damn daring - and rare - in this day and age."

While Frost, despite not being a former Miss Universe, has the kind of body the average 44-year-old would kill for, her comments are as legitimate as the next woman's. But do pictures speak louder than words? And is getting naked necessary to make a point?

Because what this really says to me is that a woman is the sum of her body parts – nothing about being naked speaks to me about her talents, passions, intellect, etc. One anonymous comment on the Hawkins cover hits the nail on the head: "A lot of the insecurities that we have are not so much about body love but self love and ultimately this manifests into the physical. I'd really like to see more discussion on all aspects of a person."

While I was encouraged by Madison's January issue body image story, The Naked Truth, I have always found encounters with magazine features which display women in all their multi-faceted glory, including those fun, Vogue-esque features that profile a lady's style, far more inspiring and positive than bodies in the buff – because they take the focus off our bodies and show us how fabulous, fruitful and full-of-life women can be... with their clothes on.

On that note, Aussie retailer Sportsgirl (which supports The Butterfly Foundation) wins my vote for promoting positive body image in the change room. Check out the 'Positive Body Talk' card available in stores and some pages from the 'Live It Give It' catalogue...

Images: Grazia UK, The Daily Mail, Vogue Australia January 2010

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Fiona said...

looked at a sportsgirl catelogue - I hope they're using models in the (low but) healthy weight range?

And on the trend of naked being the new black to sell mags - I'd rather see people naked than in unflattering clothes, but then would rather see people in clothes that suit their body type than naked.

Tara Moss said...

Erica, I think your piece is spot on.

As much as I enjoy nude photography (I do. It's not necessary, no, but nudity can be very beautiful, as art through the ages can attest. I'll happily look at Jen, Bianca and Sadie. Beautiful.) I do however think there are bigger issues to consider than our stretch marks and the 'integrity' of accepting our wrinkles, and more important and cooler heroines to celebrate than simply those who have a taken a public position of acceptance on the visible aspects of aging. If they are women of achievement, I won't care if they have stretch-marks or not, or how they feel about showing their bodies. Notable women are more than the sum of their (airbrushed or un-airbrushed) parts.

x Tara

Vinda Sonata said...

i think nudity in a magazine is okay, as long as they are done in an artsy way like what french vogue does most of the time.

i'm with fiona on this one.
"I'd rather see people naked than in unflattering clothes, but then would rather see people in clothes that suit their body type than naked."

xenien_x said...

I love your blog, Erica - my many comments over the years attest to this - but I find the vein of prudishness that it manifests very tiresome. Nudity hardly dominates women's publishing - how can it, when most women's publishing revolves around selling clothes? - and I can't think of any women who would see the publication of nude images as somehow demeaning.

Calling nudity "not necessary" is, to me, a demeaning gesture, for it somehow implies that the naked female form is not worthy of celebration.

If I were a woman, I think I would be offended by your trivialising of the female body.

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Hi xenien, thanks for your comment.
As always, you add to the debate. The point I was trying to get at, but might have missed, is that going nude is not necessary for promoting positive body image, not that magazines shouldn't feature nudity altogether. This is such a subjective issue!