Picture taken by Patrick Demarchelier for Interview Magazine
Last Friday, November 7th 2014, I came across a Gawker link that discussed actress Keira Knightley's photo shoot with photographer Patrick Demarchelier taken for Interview Magazine. When asked if she would pose topless she agreed on one condition: that they wouldn't alter her body. She explained that photographers always add volume to her breasts in post-production using programs like Photoshop and this had been bothering her for years. It's common knowledge that the media portrays "perfect" breasts as large, plump, non-sagging, and symmetrical; yet this isn't the reality for the majority of the women in our world. So, being an artist that promotes self-love and celebrates natural beauty, I felt it would be an inspiring story to share with my fans. I happily posted the link with a message of, "I think it's really wonderful that actresses and models are starting to demand their images are published unaltered. Keira Knightley's small asymmetrical breasts are beautiful just the way they are! :)". I had no idea the post would be seen by over 1 million people and I certainly did not expect the wide variety of comments I received. In the end I think it proved to be an unexpected social experiment of which I learned a lot.
The nearly 400 comments can be classified into seven distinct categories, each saying something different about how our society perceives and reacts to female beauty and the female body.
1) The Supportive and Inspired
Many people, both men and women, commented with words of praise for Keira. They agreed her body was beautiful, applauded her bravery in showing her body wasn't what the media claims is "perfect", and were supportive of the move towards admiring natural beauty and natural bodies. Some women even responded with deep gratitude saying the post inspired them to see their body more clearly and see beauty in the things the media tells them isn't up to par. Too all of these people, thank you! It's great to see there are so many of you with open minds and open hearts! To the women who are inspired to love themselves more deeply; I am so glad! This is something I hope to achieve with my artwork so it is great to hear it was also achieved with this link. :)
2) Pinning One Against The Other
A lot of women still feel the need to defend their beauty against other types of beauty. I received a lot of comments about Keira's slender frame. "Great, another image to make us fat women feel ugly" and others along those lines. We have to stop thinking of beauty as either thin or thick. Bodies can be attractive at any size and it's time large women stop being offended by the sight of slender women. Instead of shaming one group let's encourage the media to portray a wider variety of women. I also received a lot of comments that would celebrate Keira's small breasts by mocking large breasts. "Good for her, big tits are gross" ... "Who wants big saggy boobs anyways" ... and the likes of that. While I know I can't control people's thoughts or avoid what comes out of people's mouths I would like to encourage people to give all body types the same beauty inclusion they would like for their own body. Big, small, and in between; breasts are beautiful.
3) Affronted By The Description
There were quite a few people who were rather upset with me for writing "small asymmetrical breasts" in my description. They felt that by pointing out the size and shape of her breasts I was somehow "adding to the problem". Because these are "negative" descriptive words I was apparently being unkind in using them. To this I say, WHAT? Who claimed "small" and "asymmetrical" were negative words? These people were proving my point. It is the fact that we see these words as insulting that is the problem. I have to say that the vast majority of women have asymmetrical breasts, some more so than others, but typically one is always a little bigger. This is natural. This is normal. This is beautiful. I specifically pointed out these attributes because they go against what the media says is "beautiful" and by saying they are beautiful I was implying that the media is wrong. Still insulted? Sheesh ... I hope not.
4) The Skeptics
I won't waste much breath on these comments. These folks felt the photo had still been altered using lighting and other camera tricks. To these people I say, "So what?". It wasn't about the complete lack of editing. It was about creating an artistic portrait of a women without changing the natural shape of her body. Some people also thought it was all part of Keira's plan for added publicity. To these people I say, "So?". If her publicity stunt includes making women feel better about their natural bodies then why be so upset? Celebrities are publicized whether they want it or not. At least this is helping to move our society forward in the realm of imagined v.s. natural beauty.
5) Those With "Shame"
Sadly when it comes to nudity there are still far too many people who are behind the times. I received quite a few angry messages from folks demanding I remove the link as well as messages warning me of my downward path to hell. All rather amusing to me. There were many comments exclaiming how undignified the women is. Some used vulgar language which was immediately deleted. I couldn't help but find it hypocritical that someone would claim female breasts being exposed was blasphemous one moment and then use such hate filled language the next. My thoughts on female nudity, especially with regards to breasts, is that the age of body shame needs to end. Women's breasts are much the same as men's except, for some, they are filled with more fat, and when the time is right, they feed our children. Women's breasts have been sexualized to a point where they are only seen as sex objects. Our body parts, including breasts, are so much more than things to be enjoyed during sex. If we all became accustomed to seeing naked bodies they would simply become a part of us and not immediately associated with sex. Moreover, we would be forced to realize that bodies naturally come in a variety of shapes and sizes and not only one type of body is visually attractive. Now I'm not saying we should be naked all the time; let's not get carried away. I'm just saying we should stop being so ashamed of naked bodies and that journey should most definitely begin with female breasts.
6) The Unkind
While I hate to say it, a huge chunk of the comments belong to this category. Some of the commenters were female and I suspect a lot of these comments are a defense mechanism against their own insecurities. When a person is content with who they are they don't feel the need to make others unhappy. Unhappiness seeks unhappiness, that's what I believe. But the most troubling of "the unkind" commenters were male. A large amount of men felt they had a right to critique every part of Keira's body. Her breasts were too small, she's too masculine, she pouts her lips, her nipples seem unproportionate, and others found she was too thin. I don't understand who convinced these men that they were the ultimate judges of beauty. That their idea of beauty is the only one that matters or, quite frankly, the only one that exists. THIS is the biggest problem in our society's beauty issue. We've been brainwashed by the media into thinking a certain stereotype is the only form of beauty to the point that each person thinks they're an expert! What people MUST start to understand is that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". I know, cliche, but if you think about it it's so incredibly true. We all have different preferences when it comes to beauty. What one person finds to be extremely beautiful another might find ugly. You might not find someone particularly attractive, that's your prerogative, but remember that everyone is beautiful to someone.
7) The Sex Crazed
These comments were difficult to bare. It's one thing to admire someones beauty, compliment their image in a respectful way, or even feel an attraction. But it simply isn't acceptable for someone to describe what they would like to do to a woman's body or what they are currently doing with their body while viewing the woman's body. Not one of these comments were made by a woman. Why is it that many of today's men believe women's bodies belong to them for their sexual pleasure? I attribute some of it to the constant sexual imagery in the media; usually portraying women as submissive or something to be used, not valued. Bad parenting must also play a role I suppose. But the amount of men who felt it was completely appropriate to make these comments still baffles me. Having the thought is normal human nature, but why feel the need to voice it? No one wants to know that. Keep your vulgar thoughts to yourself.
So what have I learned from sharing this link? Well, although there were lots of lovely people who appreciated Keira Knightley's gesture and admired her body in a respectful way, there were far too many negative and objectifying comments to make me feel hopeful about how our society views the female body. I can only encourage those who see beauty in all different forms, and in themselves, to continue to encourage others to do the same. Happy confident people spread kindness, so folks, it's up to us. :)