Self-Expression Without Objectification

Recently, I’ve been listening to the podcast Beginnings, which explores the question “where do creative people come from?” Hosted by comedian Andy Beckerman, the show has featured a whole host of interesting guests – including filmmaker Gillian Robespierre (e.g. Obvious Child), writer Simon Rich (e.g. The Last Girlfriend On Earth: And Other Love Stories), and actor Alex Karpovsky (Girls).

Two of my favorite interviews thus far have been with Lola Kirke and Marcelle Karp.

Lola is daughter of Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke and Geminola owner and designer Lorraine (née Dellal) Kirke, and sister of actress Jemima Kirke. An actress in her own right (e.g. Gone Girl), she stars in Greta Gerwig’s latest feature Mistress America (slated to open in theaters this August). I can’t wait to see the film!

Marcelle co-founded Bust magazine, has worked as a writer, television producer, and director, and happens to be the mom of Ruby the Feminist.

What struck me about both of these interviews was the refreshingly nuanced, empowered, and eloquent ways in which the women discussed inhabiting, accepting, and celebrating their bodies.

For example, Lola, describing her ongoing struggle to define herself beyond the realm of her family’s and society’s expectations for how she should look and behave, discusses how she walks a fine line working in an industry that perpetuates beliefs she disagrees with:

“It happens to all women–that moment where you suddenly start to become a woman and then you start being objectified in certain ways, and I think it’s just how it makes you feel. It can feel really fucking great to be thought of as sexy, and it can feel really really reductive as well. So much of what I do now–the system that I’m participating in – is perpetuating a really sad representation of women. I weigh like, I don’t know, 150 lbs. – I’m totally ok with saying that. And it’s so funny because I think that that weight is the reason that I’m not being cast in certain roles, and why I’m being cast as intelligent more. As white trash, or as gay – which is kind of the scope of the work I’ve done so far. And I like those roles a lot. I think they’re interesting. I also think it could be really interesting to play a sexy person. And I think that these people are sexy–you know, people who are white trash or gay or intelligent are totally sexy! Um but I meet so many actresses who read to me as normal size women on camera. And then when I meet them in person, I’m like, ‘fuck. Not you too! You’re 100 lbs!’ I guess, all this to say, I think that this is a really interesting time to be a woman. I think that there’s a lot of re-evaluation of the way that we represent women. And then there’s also still Victoria’s Secret Angels and Dallas Cowgirls…I think there should be more noise…I think that anybody who has any kind of platform to be heard and be seen–you can do that and just do your job, or you can do that and maybe try and help somebody feel a little bit better about themselves, and therefore effect change in the world. And, I’d like to do that too.”

Marcelle, in response to a question about whether–by celebrating their sexuality–third wave feminists were in fact co-opting the male gaze, said:

“You know the male gaze is something that you as a feminist are constantly aware of. But also as a feminist you have to protect your own interests and how you want to express yourself and how you want–what your physicality is. So if you wanna wear red lipstick and have your hair be pink and, you know, wear tube tops–fuckin’ do it. And don’t be worried about the male gaze. Just be who you are and who you want to be. I think that the male gaze should not hold any feminist or any woman back from how she wants to dress. I see women my age hiding behind their clothes because they’re not feeling comfortable in how their bodies are evolving. And I see also at the same time–almost parallel–teenage girls hiding behind clothes because they don’t like the way their bodies are evolving. That’s incredible to see.”

What do you think? How do you navigate expressing yourself without feeling objectified?

P.S. What do you wear to sleep? And, praise for the black jumpsuit.

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