Modelling from a feminist perspective
I find it a bit provoking that I always must defend my values and reliability as a feminist because of my job. Most, if not all, social structures are infused by the patriarchy but I’m sure women in other industries do not have to defend themselves in the same way as I do. Also, I’m not my job, not just a model, a psychologist or student. I’m so much more. But here we go;
How can I model and still be a feminist?
Modeling gives me opportunities and for that I am so grateful. I make a decent living and get to travel the world. It’s not all glamorous, long hours, cold sets, outdoor shoots in the rain are not always fun but I sure find it more appealing than working long hours with no passion. It’s a job. And it’s an awesome job. I like to think that I’m exploiting the patriarchy to get what I want although I am aware that the exploitation goes both ways. For me personally it is worth it as I have gained a public voice. I use my voice to bring awareness to social justice issues and issues I passionately support.
I started modelling at 16. My mother was a model in her younger years, and provided inspiration and motivation behind my desire to follow her work. At 19 my dream was taken from me. Being in an abusive relationship, I was no longer capable of making my own decisions. I was restricted and controlled to the point where being a model was not an option. For four years, I was longing to model and stressing losing my “most profitable years”. The fashion industry is plagued by this notional myth, 70-year old photographers telling models, like me, at 24 that you only have one year left to make it. When I finally escaped the abusive relationship, I went right back to modeling with an "I can do whatever I want"-attitude. Celebrating that by being photographed is an act of freedom for me. Most days I don't look glamorous, I'm comfortable in tracksuits and au natural face but I do like to dress up, or dress off, and pose for the camera. Its expressionism, its freedom.
I’m my own boss
I haven’t signed with any agencies. What I have achieved is all me. I have previously pursued representation, top agencies require models that are super skinny and an inch taller than myself, ironically the one time size apparently matters. I’m 5”8 and my BMI is on the border of underweight, this is not always deemed to meet industry requirements, a perspective that challenges my perception of fashion and leaves me feeling the industry is sick. So, I’m pleased that I’ve found my own way, independently achieving and striving for more. I choose the people and the companies to work with and represent, that is a privilege and blessing. Personally, its important that people understand my photographs are at times edited and that cosmetic procedures have developed my appearance, I encourage industry efforts to support honesty and openness on both editing and surgery . I make sure to follow and praise models of all colours, sizes and shapes. I can change the industry from within.
I use my body to express art. Mostly, my work is nude art or somewhat close to that. I like to use my body to express different moods and styles. I challenge the idea that nakedness is shameful. Throughout that I'm told I should be ashamed, sexualized and demeaned, why? Multiple times every day, shaming, sexualise, demean and shame. I keep going. There is nothing shameful or sexual in my naked body itself. I seek to express sensuality over sexuality. Admiration over objectification. Understanding and acceptance over shaming and degradation.
Let’s not shame each other
Fighting the patriarchy is hard, hard but not fruitless. It’s not feminist at all to judge other women on how they look or what profession they are in. We are all products of a patriarchal, capitalistic society. Although we try to change it, that IS reality right now. You can’t remove yourself from this reality but you can educate yourself and become aware of how structural sexism affects your life.
Raised in a male-dominated world has led to me having certain beauty preferences. I’ve always sought to be conventionally “pretty”; skinny, ultra-feminine, blonde, big breasts etc. I’ve identified so strongly with this image that I’ve felt the need to altercate my body through painful procedures. It would be naïve to believe that those choices of mine weren’t influenced by years of seeing close to only one type of woman in the media. I did not create that beauty ideal in my head – it was imprinted onto me, year after year, and reinforced. Becoming aware of having been primed to idealise a certain type of beauty you can make more informed choices. It does not give you the freedom to shame women who make different choices than you.
I am a supporter of the body positivity movement. But being somewhat close to the conventional beauty ideal I try my best to learn about my own privilege and listen to other fierce women telling about all the different aspects of not fitting in regarding to looks. Please read this awesome article on why body positivity wasn't made for thin people: (https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/07/body-acceptance-not-for-thin-ppl/). With that point made, conventional prettiness does not automatically equal a positive self-image. I can honestly say that I’ve never once in my life met a woman who was 100 % happy in her own skin. Neither am I. And that is okay too. You do not have to love your body. Preferably you should feel comfortable. Other things are far more important than looks.
How can I pose for Playboy as a feminist?
Being a feminist does not mean that all aspects of your life are feminist as we do not live in a world with gender equality, yet. Posing for Playboy certainly is not a feminist act. But, for myself and numerous other, posing for Playboy is the highest recognition and appreciation, a goal since I started modelling again after my escape. To my surprise I got chosen to pose for Playboy. Only a few Danes before me have done that and I’m very proud of this fact. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all aspects of the company itself, I can’t change the fact that it’s the one of the most prestigious magazines for me to pose in as a nude model. And it sure has given my career a boost. It has sure been the most important investment I’ve made in my career.
Holly Randall was the director of my Playboy shoot. Holly identifies as a feminist working in a male dominated industry and yet has gained notoriety as a highly skilled and sought after director and photographer. She is in short a major feminist success. Apart from working with Playboy, her projects are artisitic, detailed and considered. She stares in the Netflix series Hot Girls Wanted: Turned on where she shares a feminist perspective on erotic photography and filmmaking. So maybe posing for Playboy isn't that anti-feminist after all?
Photos by Dylan Perlot