It is the age for nudes and no matter how sensibilities will be scandalized, how many mouths salivate yet condemn with the same lips, I believe certain magical winds from the East have blown in, and the excitement of liberation is in the air. And this liberation is here to stay.
In the eighteenth century, it was portraits, covered in pomp, and ruffles fettered around your neck. In 2014 it’s nudes.
Why nudes? Despite the variety of individual reasons, it is much, much more than just a celebrity stunt, and it’s definitely not a misguided fan attempt, or a claim to fame. It is much more than the need to be sexual or fit the stereotype of sexy bandied about. It is more than all of these.
It is the reaction to a long and painful history of female subjugation and servitude. It is Woman asking, demanding what’s hers, claiming and redefining what’s hers; a body that for a millennium has been claimed, owned, abused, covered up, stripped, scarred, told what to do, told what not to do, punished for disobeying orders, rewarded for obeying orders, by the masters of the universe, a club exclusive to the male species.
Woman has always been a being of wonder, awe, and confusion for man. Woman inspires such strong feelings, is the bearer of so much power that man has, since the beginning of time, fumbled over himself to find a way to control and suppress this power. Over the centuries, the mediums by which this fearsome thing called Woman was ‘controlled’ has metarmorphosed in many ways, with men falling over themselves to find justifications in religion, in nature, in ‘the established order of things’. Thus, the philosophy of the Ruler (man) and the Ruled (woman) became an almost invisible yet omnipresent patriarchal philosophy that has hang over the necks of women throughout history to the present. Simply put, patriarchal attitudes have been so deeply embedded for so long that they seem natural and indisputable.
HISTORICAL PROOF OF THE FEAR OF WOMAN
The Church has always been unapologetically unforgiving in their patriarchy, and are conveniently armed with many bible references as evidence of the need for the subjugation (let’s call it what it is) of Woman. From the beginning of time, woman was given no chance, the way the Church tells it. The driving narrative that would define all things and subsequently define all attitudes was the patriarchal tone of the Creation story: Adam was created first and woman was created from his body to serve and obey him. This narrative consequently insists and establishes women’s ‘natural’ inferiority to men. It ensures strict obedience and servitude to fathers, brothers, and later, husbands. Anything else is considered a threat to the ‘natural’ order of things. Thus girls are indoctrinated from birth (the narrative being drummed into their subconscious) to understand their place, and their roles.
The indoctrination continues today in even more destructive ways. Girls are indoctrinated from birth to understand that they are instruments of the devil who lure men away from God and into sin. I went to a church about a month ago and the preacher unashamedly and not-so-subtly kept drumming ‘woman is the devil’s tool’ intermittently throughout his three-hour postulations. He was given to telling ghost stories as a way of keeping his congregation excited and awake. And every ghost story had a demon (of course) which was subdued by the blood of Jesus. And it so happened that every demon in the different ghost stories turned out to be a very beautiful woman ‘with hair styled in a very pretty way’.
The only reason such nonsense would be bandied about stems only from the sexualizing of women, and women being reduced only to their sexual nature. This preacher man obviously had problems controlling his sexual desires and had found a very convenient outlet with which to blame his ‘sexual sins’ on: the temptress, the seducer, the Woman. The fearful thing about this very convenient cause for blame is that being tagged as a ‘man of God’ gives him an automatic license for validation in the eyes of Ghanaians. I saw the worst of this man-of-God-so-I’m-above-everything mindset, when a ‘man of ‘God’ almost raped a friend of mine, who was saved by her boyfriend. And guess what? Her parents advised her not to take action because he was a ‘Man of God’!
Spiritual leadership of women in the Church is not readily acceptable. I am honestly still waiting on the day when a woman can submit herself for the position of Pope. I tell you that that day the white smoke will blow and blow and blow!
— Sharia Law is known to be extremely discriminatory toward women, dictating their manner of dress, their love and sexual lives, their submission to men, and many more of what I will call, crimes to humanity. Many scholars claim that domestic violence, for instance, is encouraged under Sharia law, from a verse in the Qu’ran (Surah 4: 34) which related the permissibility of domestic violence. I quote below exactly what this verse says:
“Men are in charge of women by [right of]what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance]from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s]absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives]from whom you fear arrogance – [first]advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.” (Sahih International)
What first caught my eye: “But those wives from whom you fear arrogance…forsake them in bed”. Now forsaking them in bed is the first punishment if the woman ignores advice. This is an example of how a woman can be so reduced to being only a sexual being so much that it is punishment to deny her sex! Is it punishment because sexuality is the woman’s only purpose? And if she is not deterred, it says to ‘strike her’!
- On child marriage, Iran, Lebanon and Bahrain are notorious for endorsing the abhorrent practice which is widely believed to be supported by Shariah law. Prophet Muhammed’s lifestyle decisions are viewed as the validation of the lifestyles and way of life of Muslims. And Prophet Muhammed is reported to have married Aisha when she was six or seven years of age, but the marriage was consummated when she was ten. Muhammed was 53 years of age. So it comes down to: If Prophet Muhammed can do it, why can’t I? The only great thing about this story was that Aisha grew up to become a great woman in Islamic history.
Religion is the world’s most powerful medium. In religion, not bodies, or objects but minds can be controlled. Thus, to ensure that religion’s narrative establishes the hierarchy of Man as Ruler, and woman as Ruled, is to enslave humanity in falsehood and fallacy that would prove degenerative to our world, ourselves and natural balance.
I would to give an example from a culture Africa inherited, by war, conquests, subjugation or persuasion. The famous European Renaissance was a renaissance for men not women. Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is an all-time classic encapsulation of the fears of women and female liberation. This, in a time that was supposedly to represent a ‘renaissance’. To quote the infamous words of Katherine, after she had been ‘subdued’ and ‘overcome’ by cruel torture:
“Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labor both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe,
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience—
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband.
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world”
This monologue promotes enshrines the tenets of the Man-Ruler and Woman-Ruled:
- Woman as the weaker, lazier sex who remains in the warmth of home, troubled only by trivialities, while it is the man’s place to conquer the world.
- Woman has an unending debt to man. She should be ‘eternally’ grateful to man as a worshipper is to her god for many vague reasons.
- If she chooses to rebel, she is instigates chaos to what is the ‘natural’ order. Shakespeare says it more beautifully here. She is a ‘Traitor’.
- Once again, Women are defined (sexualized) by their ‘soft, weak and smooth bodies’ which are ‘unapt to toil and trouble the world’. Simply put, just leave the conquering, scientific discovery, religious discovery and leadership, and all great human endeavours to men because you are the ‘weaker’ sex.
- These tenets are enshrined at the heart of social attitudes about women in Africa. In Ghana, the conversation that surrounds the dress, manner and behavior of women is restrictive and based largely on hypocritical notions of ‘respectability’. It is not uncommon to find a woman who is dressed skimpily accused of causing men to ‘sin’ by encouraging them to have sinful thoughts of her body. This kind of thinking, on many levels, makes people more sympathetic to a rapist if the victim was discovered to have been dressed skimpily. ‘She brought it on herself’, as the general lingo goes. But more on Ghana later.
Back to nudes and liberation and the fear of woman
In the very short journey through our past above, it is evident that the narrative for Woman has always been manipulated and controlled: She has been made so low she was useless, and raised so high (The Virgin Mary) that she was too ‘precious’ to do anything substantial. And this, I believe stems from an irrational fear of Woman. Is this fear from the need to dominate, to subdue? That’s a whole other discussion we shall have another time.
In the light of all the above, the nudes and the sex tapes of our time, done voluntarily by women whose bodies have always been controlled by men with the flimsiest of justifications, symbolizes a rebellion against the rules, the rules set for us by our patriarchal history. And this rebellion has spurred a raging fear which has elicited a very many interesting reactions. What is this fear? The fear of the Woman’s liberation, a fear of Woman understanding her power and owning it.
The Ghanaian reactions to the latest splurge of sex tapes and nudes have been an interesting phenomenon to watch. There is the outrage and there is the lecherous excitement. The same lips that are publicly condemning the sex tapes and nudes, are the lips that pass bawdy jokes about the woman’s body, passing judgment about how attractive or not it was, excitingly examining every crevice of her body over and over again, and imagining all manners of sexual acts they could do to that body. What makes this even more disgusting is that this reaction does not have barriers when the girl is under-aged.
The infamous Tamale sex tape inspired national outrage, such outrage that the chief of Tamale ‘banished’ all the women taped by a man who took those videos for his own purposes, of which releasing them to the world was one. The infuriating irony of this situation is that this chief condemning these women and judging them as immoral is most probably in a polygamous marriage to several women, as is the tradition of the culture.
The hypocrisy of the Ghanaian situation is that from birth the culture whispers to you, particularly women, that ‘sex is a dirty thing’, a thing to be abhorred, kept in the dark, not made public. Yet Ghanaians are having sex. In fact, Ghanaians are having so much sex, (we love having so much sex) we make news headlines about it. A rape story reported in the Daily Graphic would contain a lot of lecherous language as though the writer were fantasizing about being the rapist. We’re having so much sex that a Preacher-man’s infidelities are splashed all over the news. We’re having so much sex that discussing a political candidate’s sexual life is lumped together with discussing his competence as the MP for so-and-so. We’re having so much sex that a scandalous sexual story gets more clicks than a story about human rights. We’re having so much sex that it isn’t an abhorrent idea for a man to film himself having sex and then victimize the woman by sharing it with the world.
And in all these, whereas the man may get a simple pat on the back for his sexual prowess, it is the woman who is condemned, ridiculed, shamed and ‘banished’. It is almost as though, at least where sex tapes are concerned, the woman had sex alone in the sex tape!
And I find that this choice of shaming and condemning the woman and not the man, the double standards, stems from the long-seated masculine fear of women, and in this case, women who dared to break the rules, daring to make the statement that “I am not inferior. I am not a dirty, sinful being to be hidden and put in the background. I am Woman, I am Powerful.” It is a fear of what might be social chaos, a threat to the ‘moral order’ and threat to the patriarchal narrative. It is a fear of the unknown if this long-standing narrative is overthrown. What happens if women start to make their own decisions?
It is a fear of liberation. It is a fear of women understanding and preparing to assume her role as owner of what belonged to her in the first place: her body.
The Woman of 2014 has taken so much charge and control of her narrative that they would be bold enough to push open the doors of total liberation in the most poignant and defiant way possible: nudes and sex tapes, not necessarily shared publicly (that’s totally her choice), but taken for her and herself, in private; taken for her daring to enjoy herself and not see her body and sexuality as the dirty, ‘sinful’ thing it has been touted to be, but a beautiful, natural, God-given phenomenon that SHOULD be glorified.
And in this she shames the narrative.
The age of nudes is here, and women WILL claim back their bodies.
First published on my blog darkmosaic.blogspot.com on September 2014