When I first read that Caitlin Stasey, one of the lead actresses on the CW's Reign, had launched a, to borrow the words of E! Online, "NSFW Website Featuring Nude Photos of Women (Including Herself)," I'll admit I rolled my eyes. But then I actually looked at Herself, Stasey's feminist project that highlight's women's sexuality on their own terms and realized that—as far as celebrity web ventures go—this one was pretty damn good. (Nude images to follow.)
Stasey described Herself to Clem Bastow at Daily Life, saying:
It was really born out of hearing the incredible stories of the women around me, both socially and online. With #yesallwomen and #freethenipple I was opened up to a whole world of women struggling for equality, demanding to be heard and finding empowerment through honesty and solidarity. I want to help demystify the female form, to assist in the erasure of coveting it, and to help celebrate the ever changing face of it. We consider a woman's sexuality so linked to her physicality that for a woman to appear naked publicly is automatically an act of sex and not for herself. There's also a very specific construct of woman we are all used to seeing, and while those women are no less women, I was so desperate to see different faces, different bodies.
Each entry on Herself profiles profiles a different woman, always asking similar questions like, "Can you remember any key moments in your formative years that shaped you?," "When did you become aware of your gender?," "Have you ever been embarrassed, burdened or ashamed of your sexuality? If so why?," and, "What does the word 'woman' mean to you?"
The questionnaire is accompanied by portraits, all taken by a female photographer, depicting the woman naked, but—ideally—free from the male gaze.
So far, the women involved in the project come from Australia, Canada, the U.S. and Brazil. They are of varying economic backgrounds, races, body types, and orientations.
"Society very cleverly and insidiously compartmentalizes and pigeonholes women, and we are so often isolated because of it," Stasey tells Bastow. "I hope more than anything that women will come to Herself.com and find themselves there, scattered throughout the stories and bodies of others."
It certainly has potential.
Images by Jennifer Toole, via Herself.com.