Proud of my Body
by Kathleen Murphey
“I’m proud of my body,” said the young woman,
sporting attire that one might expect on sex workers
or by women in most music videos today.
She’s a sexualized object on display—
judged by her cleavage and curves—
despite telling her she’s so much more
than an idealized body image.
She’s personality and
strength of character
integrity and smarts.
When you’re dressed like a sex object,
what does that say?
And why should anyone try to see you another way?
“I’m proud of my body,” a woman might say.
But that’s not what people see.
They see a woman who defines herself by sex
and who is sexually available.
She might not mean that,
but that’s what they see.
Just a sex object on display.
“I’m proud of my body”
and “though I look like a ho’
that doesn’t justify rape.”
Nothing justifies rape,
but clothes make a statement
about how we see ourselves
and how we expect to be treated.
Tits and Ass—
that’s all they’ll see
through clothes so tight or scant
there’s nothing left to the imagination;
it’s all just shouting out—
“Tits and Ass, I want sex,
that’s why I am advertising it.”
A sexual object on display.
Those women in music videos
are performing in sexual costumes to sell the music
—sex sells after all.
That’s different than wearing sex kitten clothes in everyday life
—because you’re not performing or playing a role.
Yes, it’s confusing.
But remember those women in music videos and sex worker clothes,
they have staff members, managers, and body guards to make sure
they don’t get groped, or worse,
because of those clothes.
Your everyday young woman in sex worker clothes—
she doesn’t have those protections
and she’s not playing a role to sell music.
So what’s she selling—except herself—
Sex object on display—
putting her herself in harm’s way
in a culture sending so many mixed messages
she can’t see it that way.
Didn’t the APA say to stop sexualizing girls years ago?
And yet we haven’t—
Padded bra tops for toddlers and thongs for girls and women.
Slutwear is everywhere!
Bare legs, short skirts, cleavage, cut outs.
Sex objects on display
When will it stop?
It’s even hard to shop today,
for something that doesn’t make you look
like a sex object on display.
Be proud of your body!
Be so proud, you won’t be reduced to
a sexualized self.
Be more than a sex object on display.
* * * * *
Kathleen Murphey is an associate professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia. Recently, she has been writing fiction (both short stories and poetry) on women’s and social justice issues. To learn more about her work, see www.kathleenmurphey.com.