By Damali of Kyanjja, Uganda:
Naked we came into this world. Then we learned to clothe ourselves – to hide, to cover up, to pretend-blot our shame, shame we do not even know. We feel ashamed before we know what we are ashamed of. In our world – this toxic pigsty we have created – nudity is both glorified and shunned, depending on who holds the power. As it stands, one section of the human species holds this power more than others. They get to decide when nudity is acceptable and when it is not. In the entertainment industry, it is almost acceptable to be naked – lucky them! Yes, lucky them. You can leak nude images of the Kardashians and their net worth will only shoot up some more. Leak the nudes of the wife of the president and that may not go very well. Leak the nudes of a CEO of a major bank and that too could go very badly. Our hypocrisies are glaringly appalling – but it is what it is, right?
Every one of us has seen their own bodies without clothes. At least that is my hope. Granted, the eyes can only see so far given that we do not have a pair at the back. However, if you own a mirror, you might have attempted to strip naked and behold the entirety of your physique. Human bodies are so diverse. Strangely shaped breasts. One large, one small. Countless silver or light brown streaks of stretch marks around your thighs, stomach, hips and even on your arms. Perfectly toned skin. Perky breasts. Very dark nipples. A flat butt. Hairy legs. Hairy arms. Boney fingers and dark knuckles. And the crazy scars on your knees. The love handles. The little pot-belly you might have developed over the years – careful now, might that be a fibroid or two?
Still, you cannot see the back side as fully as you would like. But thank God for photographers. Thank God for timers on cameras too. A few nudes – just for my own consumption might be great. A few nudes for a lover – let’s spice up the affair. A few nudes – as South Africans would say – just for just. Should nudes of myself be a crime? Who taught us to be ashamed of our bodies? Where is it written that it is wrong to show one’s nakedness if they so wish? Ah of course, society is governed by a moralistic brain-dead think tank.
Did nude render me brainless?
I started this with the thought that naked we came into this world. Do you remember your mom or aunt saying, “Sit properly, people can see your pantie…girls do not sit like that”. From a very young age, a girl is taught to cover their chest before they even know why – they may or may not grow some breasts at some point in their lives, and this is if they even live long enough to discover some soft, plum agents on their chests. If she is unlucky, she will later hang out with other girls and discover the different shapes of breasts and somehow our present world will tell her that grape fruit like shapes firmly placed on a porn star’s chest but soft nonetheless is the standard. So, she begins to hide…and when she attempts to show a little cleavage, we bash her – she is immoral, maybe even loose?
When a presidential aspirant wakes up to nudes of herself leaked to the public, those of us sitting in the audience are reminded of a masculine power – domineering, ruthless, and oppressive and every bit backward. The aim to is to try and diminish the daring aspirant’s intellectual ability and capacity, boldness, bravery, courage, in the eyes of those who may see her as a glimmer of hope. How threatened does one have to be to stoop so low and dig into one’s personal and private spaces?
To pose nude (whatever the intention was) need not always be reduced to a case of vanity (vanity too is acceptable), and it need not reflect a person’s ideology or intellectual ability. In a world that has been shaped by an oppressive and unjust masculine narrative, where a woman can only feel beautiful only when a man says so, to pose nude is empowering – it is being able to look at yourself and regard all your outer shell with respect, admiration and love, without waiting on any man to say so. But her photos were leaked because again, the power is still in the hands of men…a kind of “We get to decide, as men, when you are beautiful and when you are not, and when we can objectify you and when we cannot. You do not get to decide it for yourself as a woman.” There is always a way of looking at things and men continue to forcefully define the narrative of and for women. Why?
I hope this woman still runs for office. I hope she remains resilient. I hope she perseveres. I hope to be half as courageous as she is. I hope every girl out there who has ever posed nude (whether it was in a moment of ignorance or not knowing better or immaturity or self-love) know that it is okay to do so, grow from it and aspire for public office, and more. After all, this world is only a temporary home for a temporary humanity.
Naked we should exit this world. But, as it stands, when we exit it, we are clothed – fully, if we are lucky, perhaps in a vain attempt to cover our frail, battered, reduced-to-nothing humanity. Our immortality is a reminder that while we may oppress on this side of eternity (for those who believe in eternity), it is all temporary and pointless. Would it be the dead that need covering or are living hiding something when they clothe the dead?
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