By Claire Farrow
Demi Lovato posed nude and without makeup for Vanity Fair Oct. 2. The photos aren’t photoshopped or doctored in any way. These pictures evoke a sense of acceptance and vulnerability, and they are beautifully done. In a short video about the shoot, Lovato opened up about how this experience was about her coming to accept her body as beautiful, as a statement of how she is overcoming her past struggles with an eating disorder.
This amazingly powerful stance made by a women of influence in the media should be celebrated. However, why does Lovato’s body positivity and acceptance trump other women’s? Is there really a significant difference between her and others like Miley Cyrus? If you were to see these pictures without the context of the Vanity Fair interview, your perception would be different. You’d be less empathetic towards Lovato if you thought she stripped down for a less sensational cause.
There is a thin line in society between what a woman wears, says, or does as being construed as empowering or demeaning. One woman shows off her bare, well-endowed backside and is slammed by how pathetic and tasteless her choice was. Another poses completely naked in a tub and reveals her backside and is applauded for her bravery. While the emotional weight in these pictures are different, the medium isn’t.
The tone of media is extremely black and white; either the goal is to venerate or villainize. Simply examine the perception and reception of a celebrity like Nicki Minaj. She fully embraces her sexuality and her body, but there is constant judgement on how gross or cocky or overtly sexual she is. Nicki is simply doing the same as male artists in her genre and, unlike them, has the full right to present her body the way she wants. Her male colleagues are generally not viewed by the media as outrageous, at least not when it comes to exploiting women for their oversexualized videos. What needs to stop is the obsession the media has with covering female celebrities’ weight. Too fat, too thin, letting herself go, too uptight– the list of polarizing criticisms goes on. The media is never satisfied; and we are bombarded with such messages, and begin to adopt them as our own.
To say that Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj don’t embody emulate the same empowerment as other entertainers such as Beyonce, Portia de Rossi and Demi Lovato is grossly skewed. While saying that every woman should feel free to get naked in front of a camera may be met with intense disapproval, why exactly is this freedom so wrong? It’s as if when a female celebrity does something, everyone in the world must watch and judge. True, celebrities are meant to be watched, but this viewership needn’t always come tethered with a novel’s worth of judgement.
Here is the bigger issue: our society has an insatiable need to have women find their confidence in their physical appearance, because God forbid they have an intact oneness of self and evoke an aura of self-power. This is not to say we should belittle a person’s struggle or ignore their journey to self-love. However, to put these individuals on a higher level of respect over those who seem to have always had confidence in their bodies and sexuality is wrong. In a way, Demi Lovato’s photoshoot speaks more volumes about the vicious atmosphere of celebrity coverage than about her as a person.
True, strength can come in vulnerability, but it can also come in ownership. To hold a person in lower esteem because they have always viewed their bodies as whole is reprehensible. The same is true for being judgemental of those who have struggled with their body image. Having respect for both parties is intrinsic to female empowerment. You do not need to struggle with your weight or have crippling body image issues to be respected or applauded, but you shouldn’t be made into a joke either. A woman is allowed to be in control of her body, and should never be made to feel less of a person by others’ perceptions of her image.