You are blindfolded. You see nothing but blackness but feel the warm air around you dance across your bare skin. You hear the footsteps of college students patter around you. You are vulnerable to the gawking eyes of passersby and their undefined judgement for your nudity as you sit on the college steps of Texas State University.
How does one go about making a statement that best honors Sexual Awareness Month and one of the most primal flaws in the image of women? For TSU senior Monika Rostvold, this moment was one she decided would be her empowering senior art piece. She would use her art to destroy the entitlement society claims towards a woman’s body.
On April 27, 2015, Rostvold sat naked and blindfolded on the steps of TSU’s Albert B. Alkek Library for 45 minutes. Despite being initially confused by Rostvold’s actions, viewers became attentive and quick to listen to her story.
Somewhere along the way women were taught to cover the casing of their bodies and to constantly question the way they present themselves for fear of being labeled.
Seriously, we have evolved from thinking the globe was square to chartering flights into outer space, but the image of a woman’s body has yet to redefine itself as something other than a censored object. The ability girls have to own their bodies and express themselves has been locked away by the morals of being “appropriate.”
We can write about it, paint the most detailed picture, or photograph the censored nudity of a female body. But as Rostvold piece revealed, the strongest form of protest is in the actions that go against what is accepted by society, a new idea. Her piece was so demanding and influential because it went against every standard about a woman accepted today in a real life situation.
“The message I was trying to get across was that we shouldn’t be seen as sexual objects,” explained Rostvold to Cosmopolitan Magazine in the April 2015 issue. She reached out and touched women, who like herself, have been victims of sexual assault. They endure the pain of seeing society spit out a message that implies that the attention women attract are reflections of who they are. The strength and pride that being a woman should bring is striped away by a place we should be able to express ourselves freely and call our home. “We’re beautiful and we’re powerful and people should just respect our bodies in that way,” Rostvold continued in the article.
A woman should not have to filter herself or her body for the approval and maintenance of a character that has been constructed by society because of its obsession with control and entertainment. In some countries like, New Dehli, India, the body of a woman is seen as a temple, adorned with empowering beauty when in its natural state. Yet all around us we hear the lectures of elders telling young women to “Cover up! Hide your skin! Don’t bring negative attention to yourself! Don’t give him reason to approach you!”
There is no sign I am wearing on my body that would give a man the same consent as if the words had left my mouth. It seems as a trend of having society and men interpret what a woman is trying to say has infected our generation. As I start to grow into a woman, I see the value in having a voice in this world and the responsibility it brings.
Through words, actions, ideas, I do not want someone to stand in front of me and consume my chance at being my own person. No one would want that for themselves, their mother, or their daughter. Of all the things I wish for myself in my future, finding a point in life where I have a voice that stirs others, diminishes the boundaries I grew up with and can be heard would be the greatest.
Feminism is not about empowering women to a new level. We are already empowered. It is about changing the way people recognize this empowerment. This word is not about a woman who desires a competition with the male sex but a life where she is not spoken for, not controlled by a man’s judgement, and not shamed by the form of beauty in which she entered this world.
The art piece of Monika Rostvold exemplified something about the power women have. When we live in a world where women must reshape the boundaries that have been set up for us, we need to see ourselves in a powerful light and change the perception of those around us with that power. The power of women is not in the word “feminism,” but in the actions, significance, and ambition it represents.