The Empowered Nude: Is Female Nudity Always Sexual?

A reflective brain-dump by Jazz Moodie, founder of Mude Threads. Jazz hand-embroiders nude designs and nude commissions onto clothing as a means of reclaiming control over how female nudity is portrayed in society.

 

Until recently I have run Mude Threads alongside my University studies, making it really hard to dedicate 100% to either! I am finally creating art full-time this summer, until I start a full-time job in September. As a freelance artist I have faced quite a few challenges that I wasn’t expecting. Running Mude Threads full time has made me realize how important self-imposed structure and self-motivation are. It has become so important for me to set myself goals at the start of every day, so that I don’t slip behind! My advice:

Set your ‘work’ goals at the start of the day, so you can feel a sense of achievement when you tick off orders and admin.

I’ve recently found it really important to put time aside to create art for myself, not for business. That means, saving time to go with the flow, use riskier materials and be okay with pieces that come out ‘wrong’. I always need to remind myself that sketching and embroidering nakedness isn’t just for fulfilling orders…I started this ‘business’ because I loved doing those things for feeling of sharing and wearing my creations!

The second challenge I find running a feminist art business is that some people disagree with my art. Over the last year, I have received a handful of messages from outsiders who have interpreted my art and mission as ‘problematic’. It has led me to this point – I need a big ol’ brain dump of my thoughts and feelings to really reflect on the art of embroidering real womens’ nudity.

Can nakedness ever be empowering or have our nude forms been hijacked by the male gaze forever?

It feels as if nudity and sex are naturally intertwined, after centuries of patriarchal structures cementing this notion in place. Can we really look at our own bodies and breasts with a purely neutral mind, after a lifetime of conditioning that they are there for straight-male pleasure?

Mude Threads’ mission is to celebrate the empowered female form on our own terms, in the face of censorship and sexualization of our bodies.

A few days ago I received a pretty loaded DM via Instagram from someone who didn’t understand the ethos of Mude Threads: “I don’t understand why the sexual aspect should be removed from it [the female form], or treated as if it’s a bad thing”. This was a refreshing take on my mission from an outsider. Sometimes I assume that everyone has a clear understanding of my mission and the message behind my artwork. This particular question made me realize that Mude Threads sits on the knife-edge of empowerment and ridicule.

For me, embroidering real women onto clothing has never been about ‘removing’ the sexual aspect of our bodies. Instead, it is about making room for an empowered version of nakedness in a world that only has space for sexualized and objectified nakedness.

If my mission was the remove all sexuality from the female form, I’d be fighting a losing battle. It would also be a battle I wouldn’t want to be a part of – our bodies should, and always will, be naturally intertwined with sex.

SEX IS GREAT! Our bodies are great for sex!

The female body is scattered with erogenous landmines (anywhere on the body that has a heightened sensitivity and can elicit a sexual response when stimulated). The nape of a neck, an inner thigh, an armpit (who knew!?) – proving that ‘removing’ sexualization from the female form would quite literally require a physical removal of our naturally occurring erogenous zones.

In my eyes, we don’t need to completely eradicate the sexual meaning of female nudity in order to make room for a new meaning. My experiences of drawing real women have helped me to understand how empowered nudity can coexist alongside sexualized nudity. I have received intimate nude photographs from countless women who have trusted me to turn their body into a work of art.

The majority of nudes that I receive are unapologetic and natural – by this I mean, there’s no tummy-sucking, there’s no spine-arching, there’s usually unruly pubes, there’s body rolls and stretch marks, there’s funny faces and smiles. They certainly don’t feel like the nudes we’re used receiving, sending, or imagining.

The rules suddenly shift when women realize they can take nudes for themselves as an act of rebellion and/or self-love. When women acknowledge that the only viewers of this intimate image are themselves and an artist (a woman myself), any burden of appeasing to the male gaze can evaporate. Nakedness becomes empowering. Instead of avoiding spending time with their own nakedness, these women challenge themselves to spend hours with every inch of their bodies, for no reason other than art. Power-poses replace ‘sexy’ poses. Body rolls replace tummy-sucks.

Context changes everything – nude art created for women by women is powerful. A woman displaying her nudity for herself and for the process of turning herself into art, has no sexual baggage.

The current view of the female form is lazy. Society’s no-nipple policy is lazy.

Without bothering to understand new contexts, any kind of nude female form is sexualized. Humans are so much more complex than viewing a nude form and being immediately and uncontrollably titillated…(and if you are immediately and uncontrollably titillated by static nudity, check yo’self).

We can appreciate art, we can appreciate the curvature of a line intended to represent a breast, we can appreciate a nude female body as an act of self-love not solely as an act of performance for a viewer’s pleasure.

For women to reclaim control over the female nude, we need to create an abundance of new material. For every derogatory and hyper-sexualized image of female nudity, we need an empowered image of female nudity. Unfortunately for us, there are structures in place to stop us from carving out this new meaning…the elusive female nipple is censored and removed from any portrayal of the female nude, sexual or empowered. My original art account was deactivated with no warning by Instagram for ‘sexually explicit content’, despite all images being of a sketched or embroidered empowered nude.

Until we can display our own nudity on our own terms, our bodies will continue to be sexualized without our consent. Until we can display our own nudity on our own terms, there will be little means of creating a counter-gaze of empowerment. Until we can display our own nudity on our own terms, I will continue to sketch and embroider the empowered nude form!

By Jasmine Moodie

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Future of Streetwear

Fashion really embodies what the trends of the streets are, at that given time. This is how streetwear essentially first started, what brand you say sports being played in, what brand people were hanging out in. People are defining a lot of product as high fashion right now. Can a crewneck really be high fashion? If the materials are quality, and they are shown on the runway, does that make them “high fashion”? In my opinion, not at all, this is almost disrespectful to the people really trying to make a high fashion brand model. Clothes will a small styling change up and coloration to what is essentially streetwear are the ones essentially destroying this traditional model.

It isn’t essentially one vs the other, one better than the other, it is just now apparent how brands are taking this sly business motive to make very wearable clothing, a high fashion status. This means charging $1500 dollars for a sweater is nothing but a number of collectors buying this clothing. Brands known for this recently are Balenciaga, Vetements, and Gucci just to name a few.

Their inspiration and style are obviously repurposed from streetwear using tracksuits, hoodies, and athletic sneakers as the main flagship items. Balenciaga is doing a great job of marketing these new items, as it was named the top profitable clothing brand in the world.

Their items such as the triple S Sneaker sell out in a matter of minutes after being released online. The brands figured out that it is all about marketing the product to the younger age brackets, essentially millennials “The ecosystems have changed, particularly where the much-discussed millennials are engaging with fashion, style, and culture. For a luxury brand, it’s very important to understand how that dynamic is changing as our engagement with the millennial segment is growing quite dramatically,” says Robert Triefus, chief marketing officer at Gucci in a recent interview. This is thinking about the future, yet affecting today’s markets immensely.

The streetwear trend is heavily influencing today’s fashion collections using a street staple. My favorite that has recently been done Is the Balenciaga cap. The ball cap has been a classic item in clothing culture since the beginning of time. An outrage for this style of the cap had been seen everywhere when baseball starts to gain trends in the US.

 

Balenciaga reinterpreted the ball cap hat, adding their custom typeface font and dressing it with a silky, made of Italian cotton. This basic hat creation by the high fashion house is an example of developing a very wearable product, with a high end feel and look coming in at a 385-price tag. For a long time, luxury brands kept their distance from publications and the “lower end” of what fashion was. They did not want to be accessible or have younger people wear the items they produced.

We can see these statements being reversed completely in 2017 and for years to come. Fashion is a never-ending creative expression that is always changing to better the system. Fashion has changed a lot over the years, especially now expressing a new theme revolving around retro styles and 90s culture. The luxury brands are utilizing these trends to secure their positions in younger culture today, to have access to controlling the future of fashion.

 

By James Dais

@Jamesdais_