Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Thursday, 31 March 2016

What Gives Piers Morgan The Right To Say What Is And Isn\\\'t Feminist?

What Gives Piers Morgan The Right To Say What Is And Isn't Feminist?

The Debrief: If Piers Morgan is so bothered about the threat that Kim Kardashian and her naked selfies pose to feminism where was he in the campaign to ban Page 3? Why does he not speak out about gratuitous nudity in many mainstream Hollywood films? Has he ever seen James Bond?

Feminism is dead. Says who? Piers Morgan. The TV presenter has declared feminism to be over because Kim Kardashian has posted another nude photo on Instagram, this time with Emily Ratajkowski by her side, also in the buff. Kardashian was heavily criticised earlier this month after posting a nude selfie on International Women’s Day but hit back at the criticism, calling those who condemned her out for ‘body shaming’. She said she was sick of being seen as ‘a bad role model for being proud of [her] body’.

Morgan tweeted a screen shot of Kim’s picture next to a portrait of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst with the caption ‘RIP feminism’. He threw his two cents’ worth in by writing ‘if women genuinely think this photo advocates women’s rights and equality, then feminism as it was intended is dead.’ With his tongue firmly in his cheek Morgan wrote ‘classy ladies’. The irony, of which he is perhaps not aware, is that his criticism of Kardashian and Ratajkowski is in the same vein as that thrown at suffragettes at the turn of the last century - that their behavior was ‘unladylike’ - not classy or becoming of a lady - outside of the bounds of what patriarchy decided was and was not acceptable for women to do.

Fortunately, it transpires that few people uphold the 51-year old middle England male as an authority on what is and isn’t considered to be feminist. Kirstie Allsopp, for instance, tweeted at him saying ‘I profoundly disagree, I wouldn’t do it, but feminism is the right to do it.’

Ratajkowski took to Twitter to defend the picture in a series of tweets: ‘however sexual our bodies may be, we need to hve the freedom as women to choose whn & how we express our sexuality’, she wrote.

Ratajkowski’s  touches on a key issue when it comes to female nudity – both women have complete control over the images they have taken. They’re not standing in front of a camera which has a man pushing the button or in a music video directed by men for a male star – they’re owning their bodies. That’s their prerogative, their choice and their right. And, therein lies one of the central tenets of feminism: choice, in everything you do.

In any case, the selfie in question is not particularly ‘sexy’. Neither Kim nor Emily are posing particularly seductively, they’re both flipping the bird and, if anything, exposing their breasts feels like an affronting as opposed to a titillating gesture. You can't actually see either of their boobs, which are covered by a thick black strip because nipples are censored on Instagram. Why are we so bothered about boobs anyway? What is it about the naked female form and a woman choosing to expose hers that prompts somebody like Morgan to make a value judgement about whether or not they are ‘classy’? Why is Kate Moss posing, boobs out, in a high end designer advert on a billboard any different to Kim getting hers out on Instagram? Why is one considered OK and the other prompting moral panic? What, really, is there difference between them? Perhaps, maybe, Mario Testino’s involvement.

Nudity, it seems, in the eyes of some, precludes you from being intelligent despite the fact that, at some point during our day to day lives, we’re all butt naked.

As controversial radical protest group Femen, the topless female activists, put it in 2008, ‘Our mission if protest. Our weapon is bare breasts’.  They came under fire for perpetuating racial stereotypes but they are by no means the first group of feminist activists to use nudity to get their message across. See Barbara Sutton on naked protest in Brazil, Tunisian feminist Amina Sboui and the hundreds of women who used their bodies to protest against Shell in the Niger Delta in 2013, to name just a few. In fact, didn’t Lady Godiva use her boobs to further her own political agenda in the 11th century? Also, PETA anyone? Boobs have always been a main battleground for feminism, in all of their shapes and forms. Today, the key issue when it comes to nudity is consent, particularly when it comes to revenge porn and hacking of celebrities iClouds.

Ratajkowski and Kardashian might not be stripping off to further their social justice agenda and there are, probably, questions to be asked about at whether this is all just a slightly misguided publicity stunt. If their selfies are about anything it's not feminism, it's money. The point, however, is this: when it comes to nudity consent is key. It’s your body and you can do what you want with it. If you choose to photograph it and share that image, whether that’s with a love or on social media, then who is Piers Morgan to wade in and use women’s bodies to locate his own moral value judgements? It’s about autonomy, empowerment and agency.

The regulation of female nudity, in the name of feminism, is no more than an example of a man trying to pit women against one another to reinforce the hierarchies that already exist and perpetuate entrenched gender binaries.

Women are more than the sum of their physical parts. It might get tongues wagging, likes, shares and rewteets but there’s nothing shocking about female nudity. By the same token there’s nothing anti-feminist about female sexuality, despite the fact that men have been using it to help to sell papers, magazines, perfume, booze and pretty much anything else you can flog since pretty much forever. Both become threatening when women try to take back control for themselves or, in Kardashian's case, make money for themselves.

Anyway, if Piers Morgan is so bothered about the threat to feminism that female nudity poses where was he in the campaign to ban Page 3? Why does he not speak out on the broad brush strokes stereotyping of women and gratuitous nudity in many mainstream Hollywood films? Has he ever seen James Bond? If, as Morgan says, feminism really is dead, these are terribly urgent times and we must know where he stands on all of the above. ASAP.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

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Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

Tags: Sexism, Kim Kardashian, revenge porn