Accomplished Australian actress Caitlin Stasey has launched a website to create a new online space for women to tell their stories safely and honestly. On Herself.com, women are posing nude to challenge objectification; the idea being that on the site their bodies become the subject of their own narrative, rather than the object of someone else’s.
The site is designed to recontextualise women’s bodies and return agency to the women themselves, challenging the disempowerment and mistreatment Stasey has witnessed women’s sexuality undergoing in recent years.
The former Neighbours star was catapulted to fame with her role in Tomorrow When the War Began, and has been an outspoken opponent of Hollywood’s treatment of women ever since. She was born in Melbourne but now lives and works in Los Angeles.
Stasey told Women’s Agenda her aim for the site is to encourage support between women and to tell stories that women would find comforting and empowering.
“My main focus has always been, continues to be, solidarity – the only relief I feel when faced with an issue is to know I’m not alone, knowing that women, ones whom I may never meet, are out there rooting for each other and persevering,” she said.
“Nothing warms my heart more than sisterhood, and it is my sincerest hope that women who view the site, participate or even simply hear about it are encouraged to band together with love and compassion.”
The website is made up of a series of photo essays and in-depth interviews with their subject. The interviews deal with a wide range of women’s issues, from relationships to sexuality to reproductive health.
Stasey said the purpose of the nude photos is to regain autonomy over the female body and therefore reclaim control over all the difficult issues associated with its misuse.
“A woman’s sexuality is inextricably linked to her physicality in the minds of some, tragically most. The fact is you cannot stop someone from sexualizing you, which is evident every time someone cat calls you from their car, chats you up at a bar or even when you’re waiting for the bus,” she said.
“We as women are constantly told to modify our own behaviour, that if perhaps we hadn’t ‘led him on’ or ‘gotten too drunk’ that we wouldn’t have to deal with assault or abuse. We all know this isn’t true, and yet we still have to work overtime to ensure our own safety. The only way we can combat this is to take control, to regain agency and autonomy and You can do it naked or you can do it covered head to toe, it’s YOUR choice.”
Stasey says the purpose of the interviews is equally important, and two-fold: to allow women to reclaim the narratives associated with their bodies and also to allow them to re-examine themselves in this new context.
“While I know there is a great deal of irony in this statement, I am tired of the world turning to the rich and famous to weigh in on social and political issues. I wanted to give women a chance to speak about the subjects they are authorities on, their hopes for the future and themselves,” she told Women’s Agenda.
“I am hoping I am asking questions that these women have never answered before, that give them an opportunity to reevaluate, reexamine and understand themselves fully if they didn’t already.”
Stasey herself has been an advocate for women’s issues for some time, but we have recently witnessed a number of women in the spotlight doing the opposite. Feminism has gained a lot of public attention in recent months, with several women condemning it and others embracing it. Stasey said this process actually helped her develop her own ideas about feminism.
“Tragically I didn’t come to identify as a feminist until early 2014. I always knew I wanted people to get off my case about the number of sexual partners I’d had, and I was exhausted by the constant objectification of women from EVERY angle within this industry but I never knew the words to use,” she said.
“It took witnessing a lot of women publicly discrediting feminism for me to start defending it and then subsequently becoming one.”
If there is one way to sum up the purpose and power of the site, it is perhaps Stasey’s own words left right at the bottom of her interview on Herself.com.
“Women – Love each other, support each other, defend each other. It comes at a greater cost to you to attack the women around you than it does to empower them.”