Largely because I like the BBC TV series Sherlock I got interested in Louise Brealy (see I told you I wasn’t just perving over Benedict Cumberbatch!) She doesn’t just act either, she writes too! This morning i ended up reading this piece that she wrote on how she felt taking her clothes off to play Helen of Troy in The Trojan Women.
As might be expected she was not overly comfortable doing it, she describes it as a primal terror seeping from between her legs. Nudity in public is so deeply ingrained in her as a scary and bad thing that she is really, really scared about it. She explains that she has psoriasis and has had it since she was born and explains that that together with the cultural expectations of female beauty makes her afraid to be naked out in public.
I humbly submit that she’s wrong.
What makes her scared to be nude in public is certainly down to those two things but speaking as a woman with excema (which was at least as bad as her psoriasis at comparative ages) I reckon what makes her most scared is the fact she grew up with (as far as I know) good eyesight.
I didn’t, now admittedly I was also brought up as a naturist from the age of about four or so, which does give you a certain amount of security as regards body-image. However I reckon what really gave me a sense of security in how I looked was it taking seven years before I realised anyone could actually see me if I was further that a few feet away from them. The notion that anyone could watch was removed from me, what followed was the notion that anyone would.
Male gaze theory is frequently misapplied to suggest that women are lumped into the object category and men the active viewers of the objects. Take away the full understanding of gaze and sight and you have a totally different perception on the world and how it works which is slightly removed from the influences of modern society.
The links between physical interaction and mental perception of the world tend to be ignored or discounted as if to say that if we acknowledge them we are somehow bigoted or wrong. Our physical interactions have a great deal of impact upon our perceptions and how they are formed, though it may be pleasant to imagine that we are ghosts in machines whose physical form is nothing at all to do with us it’s not true.
However we think of this meat-bag filter, it’s a part of us and has it’s own effects from the day we are born.