caitlin stasey is reclaiming the female body by publishing her own naked photos on the internet
The outspoken Australian actress’ new website Herself.com has garnered a lot of attention since it launched. Publishing photos of real women – un-airbrushed and un-hacked – next to deeply intimate interviews with their subjects, Caitlin is pushing...
If you're in your early to mid-20s, you might recognise Caitlin Stasey from her role as Frankie in The Sleepover Club 10 years ago, her stint on Neigbours five years ago or her current starring role in Reign, but you've probably never seen her like this. Since launching her website, Herself.com, images of her naked body and those of the other women featured on the site have been shared, ♥'d and commented on all over the web. The difference is, these pictures taken by photographer Jennifer Toole, have not been plucked from their private iClouds and posted all over the internet without their consent. Instead the focus is drawn away from any kind of sexualisation by publishing them alongside insightful interviews carried out by Caitlin herself, delving into topics that are typically considered a no-no in conversation that's generally carried out, well, sober. Openly discussing their bodies, puberty, masturbation, faking orgasms, religion, abortion and their own experiences of objectification, 25-year-old Caitlin and the women she has recruited to take part are reclaiming the female body away from the male gaze, and have pushed feminism a hefty step forwards in 2015. We speak to Caitlin about the reactions she has received - good and bad - to the site so far…
How did the idea for Herself.com come about?
Originally as a forum for women to discuss health issues, UTI's, sexual dysfunction etc. But then after witnessing a year of incredibly vocal feminism online, #yesallwomen, #whyIstayed I knew I wanted to create a platform for women who wouldn't ordinarily be asked these questions.
What are the best reactions you've had to the website?
Incredible emails from women all over the world who have found themselves through the words, bodies and stories featured on Herself.com - I've also had beautiful emails from fathers of young daughters who can't wait to share the site with them one day.
And the worst?
Far and few between. Mostly just moronic journalists misusing the phrase "male gaze."
Are you always as open about your feelings and your body?
I try to be, not because I seek an audience but because I know as a young girl I had no point of reference, no women telling me that I wasn't alone, that what I was going through was totally normal.
Do you think more people should be?
I think people should allow for others to use their bodies as they wish. No one should be campaigning against reproductive rights, no one should be slut-shaming, body-shaming or imposing their own insecurities onto others.
What do you want to say to those who argue that by posting more nude images of women on the internet, you are just fuelling the beast that objectifies them?
Women are objectified regardless of their dress or actions, a woman only need be existing for a man to sexualise her, for the world to assume they know her intentions and desires. To state that appearing nude publicly feeds back into systemic oppression is not only incorrect but dangerous, it implies that women are responsible for the actions against them, that women must be mindful of how we are perceived for fear of inciting violence against us. This attitude is called rape culture and it's far more subtle and insidious than we realise.
Where does the line lie between reclaiming the female body and conforming to society's objectification of it?
Wherever you, as a woman, draw it.
Casey Calvert, who you interviewed on your website argues that feminism and porn go hand in hand - do you agree?
I believe it if she believes it, it's her story, her opinion and who am I, who is anyone to tell her that she's wrong? Through her work she has found empowerment, many women who aren't sex workers never feel that kind of agency, it's all about personal experience.
Do you still get insecure about your body?
Of course I do, I have as many fears and doubts as the next woman, but they all stem from a narrative that was never written by us but FOR women BY men.
What do you hope young women take away from the website?
Solidarity, a sense of sisterhood, a love for themselves, a love for others and a voice.
Where do you see the website going?
Eventually I'd love to travel the world with Herself. Turkey, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and so on; meet women from all over the globe and hear their stories, their opinions and their hopes for the future.
Do you think things will get better in the future?
Progress is slow but it's always happening, we evolve morally and logically and I feel that while it may not happen in my lifetime, we are on the right path towards equality. Whether humanity survives long enough to enjoy it is another story.
Text Felicity Kinsella
Photography Jennifer Toole