As the struggle against unrealistic body images portrayed in the media continues it takes extreme courage to stand up and put oneself in a vulnerable position in society. Jae West takes a stand against body shaming and unrealistic body expectations. “The Story of a Girl Undressing in Public” is a recap of West’s social experiment in London.
West, a member of The Liberators International, stood in the middle of Piccadilly Circus and exposed herself by stripping down to her bra and underwear and placing a blindfold over her eyes. The Liberators International is an organization that strives to create a change in the world and see beyond differences to create human connection. In order to follow the Liberators mission, Jae’s movement had one request. Her request was simple; support her message by taking the time to draw a heart somewhere on her body. I feel like in today’s society we are continuously showing nudity in the media but when a woman exposes herself in a nonsexual way to stand up for herself, it is odd that it must be first cleared by the authorities to ensure that she is safe and not breaking any laws or rules. In today’s society, female nudity in everyday life makes the average person uncomfortable. All the while in the media it is praised and cherished. By standing there she is not trying to make anyone uncomfortable but trying to find comfort in her own skin. She allowed herself to feel extreme vulnerability in order to create self empowerment. As with any movements, people just want support. The feeling of the felt pen on Jae’s skin was exactly the support she sought. In watching the video, it is at first uncomfortable because many people walk by and ignore her initial request of supporting her message. It took a catalyst, one single person drawing the initial heart, for others to follow suit. Most people are afraid of vulnerability and when they see it they tend to shade away and avoid it at all costs. When you see someone’s vulnerability it reminds you of your own, and that’s scary. Most movements start with a single supporter that is brave enough to make the initial move for everyone else to engage. While West’s bravery is what created the movement, whoever drew the first heart is brave as well because it takes a lot of courage to break social norms. Doing this is something that is considered weird or not normal.
Our society tends to be one of conformity and standing up for a radical belief is hard for fear of being ridiculed or mocked. Our society has not always been so supportive and the most amazing part of this article is the mass amount of support she was able to draw. She mentions a father that explained to his little girls why she was standing there in nothing but her underwear. Both the father and the little girls understood that is important to feel safe and beautiful in your own skin regardless of shape, size, or color. Her message is simple: you are beautiful. This message is so powerful and because of her venerability so raw. The wide range of acceptance Jae received was not always the norm in society. In 1965 Yoko Ono did a similar social experiment and sat on a stage with a pair of scissors, not explanation or instructions on what to do. The reactions of the onlookers were completely opposite to how they are today. In stead of supporting her they tore her down, cut off her clothes, and exposing her; leaving her more vulnerable at the end than in the beginning. There are very little differences between the execution of the two works; however, the difference in results is astounding. Yoko Ono began unexposed and grew more vulnerable because of societal actions, while West began exposed and was able to become less vulnerable through societies actions. The importance in comparing these two pieces is to see the shift in self-acceptance and the acceptance of others that is occurring. While it is shifting for the better, there are still monumental strides that must happen. This is one movement, one girl, one city and in order for everyone to have confidence in their own skin and self acceptance it must spread. The movement must grow larger and gain more support to see permanent change and acceptance. It is important to feel worthy and love yourself so you can believe that you are worthy of other’s affection and love.
One thought on “Exposing Vulnerability”
This is a very beautiful story with a warm hearted intention. Vulnerability could create distress feelings, but what West did was seek empowerment through such action. It is also amazing to see the interaction of bystanding father and daughter and the message that was sent.