But if you’re going to argue that something women are freely choosing to do with our bodies is still harmful to other women, and that we ought not to do it, you need to actually make a strong positive case for that position. The default assumption should be that women are free to do with our bodies whatever the hell we choose, and that feminists ought to not only accept and tolerate each other’s right to make those choices, but actively support it. This should be the default assumption… unless you can make a strong positive case for why a particular choice is harmful, and we ought not to make it.
And you haven’t made that case. All you’ve done is re-state your conclusion, again and again, using hyperbolic language that makes it sound as if you’re making a case. All you’ve done is say, again and again, “It’s always bad to offer pictures of naked women for money, in all circumstances, because… it just is. By definition.”
Now. It is certainly the case that my choice to participate in this calendar was made in the context of a sexist culture: a culture that treats women as sexual objects rather than subjects, a culture that treats women’s bodies as commodities, a culture with a strong tendency to value women primarily as ornaments, sexual playthings, and babymakers. My choice to pose naked for this calendar and let the photo of my naked body be (a) disseminated for free on the internet and (b) sold to raise money for feminist causes… yes, that choice was made in the context of this sexist culture. It was in some ways influenced by that culture, and in some ways it contributes to it.
And your choice wasn’t?
Your choice to scold me, and the other women who posed in this calendar, is somehow magically free of this sexist culture? It somehow has not been tainted by the sexist culture that treats women’s bodies as shameful, the culture that reflexively abjures women to cover our nakedness, the culture that demands that women share our bodies only with the men who rightfully own them, the culture that reflexively slut-shames women for enjoying our bodies and our sexualities and making our own decisions about it? My selling photos of my naked body to raise money for a cause I believe in is automatically part of the commodification of women… but your attempt to enforce the standards of modesty has nothing to do with women’s physical and sexual suppression? I am a cog in the machinery of this culture… but you, magically, have freed yourself from it?
And as a result, you have earned the authority to tell me what I should and should not do with my own naked body?
I have heard arguments like yours many times, aimed by women at other women. “You should never sell images of your naked body — we live in a culture where female bodies are commodified, and even the consensual display of female nudity contributes to that.” “You should never have consensual sadomasochistic sex — we live in a culture of violence against women, and even consensual SM contributes to it.” “You should never have sex with men — we live in a culture of deep power differences between men and women, and even a consensual heterosexual relationship can’t escape them and contributes to them.” And yet the women passing these judgments, the women demanding that other women make complicated choices about their bodies based on someone else’s rigid ideology, never seem to say to themselves, “You should never shame other women about their consensual choices with their bodies — we live in a culture of relentless slut-shaming, in which women are not seen as having physical and sexual agency, and these judgments contribute to it.”"
This is a really great blogpost.