Are naked calendars for charity ok?

I deplore Page 3. I think women who willingly market themselves as a piece of meat like Katie Price are betraying the sisterhood. And that frankly the women in most mainstream Hollywood films need to wear more clothes. Yet, when confronted with the issue of naked calendars for charity, I find myself opening and shutting my mouth like a particularly confused fish, no sound emitting, forehead creased in an alarming way that will no doubt cause early onset of wrinkles.

I’m not the only one, if we are to judge by this article from that notorious hate-inducing establishment The Daily Mail – “So that’s why they fought for equality. Female firefighters strip off to pose with Santa and his hose (all for charity of course)”. Once you click through to the article, it has a different name, which interestingly highlights the complex issues around naked calendars – “Smokin hot! Female firefighters strip off for Britain’s first ever all-women charity calendar to raise money for Cancer Research UK”. Then, in the article we learn that the women involved did not take off their bras because they didn’t want to bring the fire service into disrepute.

So here, we have the crux of the problem – is it ok to ogle women as a piece of meat if it’s in the name of charity? And, isn’t it kind of sad that women have to bare their bodies to encourage people to dig into their pockets for charity?

This charity calendar wouldn’t have got coverage in The Daily Mail if it didn’t give that bastion of misogyny a chance to show off scantily clad women and thus drive up viewing figures.  The two headlines also highlights that institutions lust-hate relationship with women, the former headline allowing it to cast judgement on women’s right to equality because they are scantily clad and then having the latter headline which just screams that the writer/sub-editor in question is practically wanking over the article.

I have deep respect for female firefighters (and indeed male ones but I appreciate how much harder these women have had to fight to get ahead in this male dominated profession) and I applaud these ladies for getting up and doing something for charity. I do however find the concept of the naked calendar a puzzle from a feminist point of view.

It’s the nakedness of the women that is driving the sales of the calendar. I’m pretty sure if it were just pictures of these ladies going about their everyday job, which is a pretty amazing job, rapid sales would not be made. The nakedness of women in calendars reduces women to meat, regardless of whether the proceeds go to charity or the purse of the woman in question/ her manager. The unease of the firewomen about going the whole hog and taking off their bras highlights an awareness of that. Yet no one wants to say otherwise because the proceeds are going to charity.

On the other hand, women shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies. If you want to get it all out for charity, why not? And the more variety of body shapes involved the better! Go out there and prove you don’t need to be stick insect with breasts the size of water melons to be attractive and attract men’s attention.

These women clearly had fun. No one was coercing them. They are not doing it because they feel it’s the only way they can get ahead in life.

The poses in most naked calendars for charity are also tongue in cheek – mocking of the vapid, pouty, over-the-top erotic poses employed by glamour models. By poking fun at that and acknowledging that they are still catching the viewers eye despite not being the standard glamour model, the ladies of charity calendars are in control.

It’s also not like naked calendars for charity are the sole preserve of women: plenty of male sports groups and professions get their kit off for charity. Such as firemen. Can it be called sexist if the men are doing it too?

It’s a tricky issue and I would almost be inclined to say naked charity calendars aren’t sexist. But I can’t shake that nagging feeling that us women shrugging it off as a laugh and a bit of fun and that you are boring if you don’t agree is a triumph for centuries of male objectification. And that frankly, some men may be doing it for charity, but I bet they don’t have to worry about keeping their boxers on to keep their profession out of disrepute.  It’s a whole different ball game (no pun intended) when its men stripping off instead of women – the audience views it differently. This is of course the fault of the audience, not of women, but women stripping off for charity, while done with the best intentions, may certainly not do much to fuel the fires of feminism.

One thought on “Are naked calendars for charity ok?

  1. Julie Moore

    You completely reflect my mixed feelings on this subject-like you I do the fish impression!! For most of my time I reside in the equestrian world which is a particularly empowering one for women as we compete head to head with men but stripping off for a charity calendar seems to be very popular with young women. And even though the word ‘fun’ is used they’re still trying damned hard to look sexy-obviously long leather boots and whips make this particularly easy to achieve!! You could argue that it’s because they’re very confident but I think it still taps into an underlying anxiety young women have with their bodies and the need for approval from men. And of course if you’re part of the group and you haven’t taken part you’re obviously either not attractive enough or a bore. If it’s all for a good cause, is it OK? Opens and closes mouth….

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