Gaze at Something Else
Isabella Millington, Content Creator for OHNE on why feminist artists, brands, and movements are embracing the female body - body rolls, bleeding and all...OHNE is a bespoke, organic tampon subscription service dedicated to breaking down taboos and hustlin’ for healthy vaginas. Find us online at ohne.co or on twitter and instagram @im_ohne.
The Male Gaze
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a pair of eyes must be in want of a slim, white, voluptuous woman to gaze at… or so contemporary social conditioning would have us all believe.
It’s no secret to anyone who has taken the Feminism 101 that is activist Twitter or body-posi Instagram that women have, for millennia, been held to an unrealistic standard of beauty designed to appeal to the Male Gaze™. This model is necessarily unattainable, because not only is capitalism built upon selling women shit they don’t need to solve problems they don’t have, but the very model of ‘beauty’ itself depends on the woman never realising her own attractiveness.
The second a woman relishes in her own beauty - especially if said beauty doesn’t fit the conventional model of acceptable femininity, slenderness, cis-ness, whiteness, etc. etc. ad nauseum - she is suddenly deemed unacceptable by society’s standards. Women exist forever in flux between one point of the double-edged sword and the other; we must be beautiful and must strive to be so, but to acknowledge our own beauty is to make ourselves necessarily less beautiful. To find ourselves beautiful when we don’t in any way resemble the societal ideal is even more repulsive - not only are we daring to exist in the world, unashamed of where we have placed in the genetic lottery, but we have the audacity to celebrate it. A beautiful woman must be looked at but must not look at herself. A non-beautiful woman must not be looked at at all.
Capitalism thrives off this paradigm. A beautiful woman is one who does not know she is beautiful, a beautiful woman is insecure, an insecure woman is easier to sell to. From razors to wonderbras, telling women that they are too much or not enough just the way they are is a profitable industry.
Which is why the notion of running a feminist business can sometimes seem like something of an oxymoron. When Jazz - founder of Mude Threads and creator of the blog you are currently reading - wrote this brilliant article for our website, ohne.co, she explored the idea that feminist businesses don’t have to be run by the tried and tired rules of traditional business models. These models weren’t created to serve us, but rather to exploit and manipulate us into parting with our money. So we - self-proclaimed feminist brands - are creating our own model. One based on mutual support, admiration, and sharing - of ideas, skills, even followers.
But what are businesses like OHNE and Mude Threads contributing to feminism beyond the way in which we interact with other businesses? What are we doing that rejects Old White Male Capitalism more explicitly, more publicly?
Women’s bodies are ‘supposed’ to be under the gaze and control of the patriarchy. As soon as you wrest back that autonomy you’re seen as controversial and contumacious, but no one blinks an eye at Great Male Artists™ depicting female nudity for their own pleasure.
“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting “Vanity”, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure.”
- John Berger, Ways of Seeing.
Art, be it an oil painting, a t-shirt, or an Instagram photo, which depicts the female body in a real, confronting, tender, personal way; art which addresses the bodily functions of the female body; art which celebrates all the parts of our bodies we have been taught to hate - is repulsive to this traditional male gaze, because it de-sexualises female existence. A woman eating, peeing, masturbating, or bleeding is a woman who is not serving a man, the male gaze, or the patriarchy more broadly.
Female artists and businesses such as Mude Threads, Pot Yer Tits Away Luv, Liv and Dom, and many, many others, are reclaiming the female body and the bizarre societal rules that allow men to paint naked women and have their art be considered beautiful, visionary, respectable, but prohibits women from doing the same thing. With their own goddamn bodies. With every lumpy, small, or spotty boob sculpted, every menstruating vulva sketched, and every roll of body fat lovingly hand-embroidered, women are re-asserting power over their own bodies.
Running a feminist business means you are inevitably going to run up against criticism from those who think your work is too controversial or simply too different from what they are used to seeing. Images of periods, body fat proudly displayed, saggy boobs hanging free (sidenote: check out Chidera Eggerue, AKA The Slumflower’s #saggyboobsmatter movement) are censored and shamed because these aspects of female existence are supposed to be hidden. It’s become taboo to show, talk about, even to acknowledge the functions and so-called flaws of the female body simply because they are not considered beautiful by this elusive, disembodied Male Gaze.
Periods are an especially salient example of this. They have always been considered inherently repulsive in much the same way as a breastfeeding woman has always been shamed in the public sphere; because these entirely natural bodily functions serve as reminders of the myriad ways in which the female body is not, in fact, designed to serve men and their fantasies.
At OHNE, we pride ourselves on being not only unashamed of periods and the realities of living as humans who menstruate, but being deliberately and specifically proud of them. We want women and other people who menstruate to feel emboldened when they look at an OHNE image, to know that their blood is not shameful, that their hormones do not make them crazy, and that their bodies are beautiful and hashtag-insta-worthy just the way they are.
Social media is often criticised for allowing people to show a filtered or even false representation of their lives online, but rarely do we talk about the ways in which this kind of autonomy over our own image and story can be a powerful tool for social change. Social media, for all its flaws, offers brands, like those in our little community of feminist artists and activists, the chance to make a real difference in the narrative young women and other people are being sold about the way in which they should exist in the world. We can post images of our period blood because it belongs to us, just like we can make stunning, uncensored, and downright confronting art out of our own naked bodies. Because they belong to us.
And attitudes are shifting. In our little corner of the internet we’re seeing women and brands living out Shine Theory every day, reclaiming their image, joining the Self Love Club both literally and metaphorically (sidenote: check out @frances_cannon on Instagram) and refusing to feel ashamed or less than because of the bullshit we’ve been taught to believe about our looks and our behaviour.
We’re seeing mainstream media outlets talking about periods and period poverty more and more frequently. In my own life I’ve cheerfully observed the ways in which young men and teenage boys do not flinch as their fathers or grandfathers do when I tell them I work for an organic tampon company (though I have to admit I do quite enjoy making my dad’s colleagues squirm and desperately try to come up with anything to say in response that won’t result in having to hear me say the word ‘tampon’ again... ). We’re seeing more awareness and activism of how we should be caring for our bodies in ways that doesn’t shame or trigger us; in ways which demands more of our education system (better sex ed in public schools, please) and more of the companies profiting off our existence (less chemicals in our tampons, please); in ways which opens up more space for any and every type of body to be celebrated.
On social media, in the hands of these artists and brands and activists, the male gaze becomes redundant. There is absolutely no question of who these images are made for and who these bodies are serving. They’re for us. You can only look at our bodies because we chose to show them to you, chose to upload them onto your social media feed, chose to create the products that serve them, and chose to love them enough to paint them, photograph them, sculpt, embroider, stitch, perform, model, collage and sketch them.
Psst… Use the code OHNEMUDE to get your very first box of organic tampons totally free.
Here's a low-down of our incredibly breathtaking three-week tour of Slovenia, Italy and a dash of Austria.
We’ve just got back from our jam-packed roadtrip around Slovenia (hopping over into Italy and Austria too)! We spent three weeks travelling, eating, drinking (2 Euro cartons of wine only!) and sleeping in our rental campervan. From stumbling across local farm-stays, to swimming in pristine alpine waters. From ziplining (and simultaneously screaming/shitting/crying) our way through the mountains, to sipping on local wine in Slovenia’s answer to Tuscany. From sweating our way round 50 hairpin corners, to staring silently at green-screen views (#fakeviews). Its safe to say we listened to way too many Guilty Feminist podcast episodes on the road (we say 'on the road now', cos we're rad and cool and camp and stuff). I'm feeling #inspired to share our finds of hidden gems and must-sees in Slovenia and Italy!
Follow our route here - you have so much flexibility in Slovenia, since its such a small country. A change of heart can mean just a 1 hour journey to a totally new place!
As many of you requested...
After months of being wayyyy too emotionally invested in my Dissertation, this is the final copy that I am super excited to share with you. Feel free to comment on the findings...
The purpose of this study is to demystify the underlying motivations of the millennial women purchasing
feminist fashion, by identifying frequently occuring value chains. Following a means-end approach and
using in-depth laddered interviews of millennials who have actually purchased feminist fashion
commodities, this research found seven underlying values that drive their choice to consume feminist
fashion commodities. The ubiquitous ‘Girl Power’ narrative in fashion stores and online is unmissable. A
Fourth wave of feminism has descended onto the marketplace, fuelled by millennials who are using their
remarkable online connectivity and consumption habits to take a stand for social justice. Brands are
acknowledging the power of associating themselves with empowering female narratives, as a means to
expand markets and remain relevant to young consumers. The results offer qualitative insight into how
management should market fashion commodities with feminist signifiers, pointing towards a variety of
target segments: Educators, Rebels, Self-Expressors, Community Builders, Self-Esteem Seekers and
Helpers. Each segment is driven by a correlating underlying value including the desire to educate others
about feminism, rebellion in the face of society’s sexism, feeling a sense of belonging to a community,
self-esteem and supporting others. This study has identified that female millennial consumers purchasing
feminist commodities are not solely driven by the desire to present a positive image and/or the desire to
remain consistent with internal values, as presented by literature into prosocial behaviour (Kristofferson et
al., 2016). Instead, since the nature of feminist fashion commodities is controversial, millennial women
are also driven by the desire to disrupt the status quo.
Download the whole file below :)
"Can nakedness ever be empowering or have our nude forms been hijacked by the male gaze forever?
It feels as if nudity and sex are naturally intertwined, after centuries of patriarchal structures cementing this notion in place. Can we really look at our own bodies and breasts with a purely neutral mind, after a lifetime of conditioning that they are there for straight-male pleasure?"
I recently wrote an article for the trailblazing platform Temper Femina. They're dedicated to spotlighting women in the arts!
Last month we made our way down to London for a day of nakedness and celebration in a small studio, filled with amazing humans. The aim of the shoot was to respond artistically and powerfully to the recent deactivation of the Mude Threads Instagram account, after it was taken down for 'sexually explicit content'.
We wanted real people to bend the rules of gender, highlighting the hypocrisy of nipple censorship online. We wanted to challenge long-standing gender stereotypes by presenting soft-featured men, and power-posing women.
Mude has been featured in our first big print magazine...WHAT THEEEEEEE!?
"In The Moment is a beautiful, practical lifestyle magazine for the modern-thinking creative woman. Enjoy practical creative projects, positive features and stories to inspire, adventures near and far for a healthy body and mind, and ideas embracing every aspect of women’s lives: friends, family, self, work, rest and play! It has a sense of community and fun, and you will be informed and entertained by knowledgeable experts and humorous columnists. With content covering wellbeing, creating, living and escaping, its monthly publication will reflect latest trends and encourage you to make the most of each day by living ‘in the moment"
Grab a copy from WHSmith, and most of the big supermarkets.
I've teamed up with the Babes behind OHNE to create a badass tote bag, celebrating International Women's Day!
OHNE are dedicated to delivering (YEP! Straight to your door!) organic tampons, so you can be sure what you're putting in your body. Ever wondered why mainstream tampons don't have an ingredients list...yeah, worrying.
"Because we're calling bull on tampons made with pesticides and other junk being wrapped like harmless, delightful sweets (and we're pretty much done with heading out in our PJ's at 11pm to buy them, too)."
Get yo' hands on one of these FREEEEEE tote bags from OHNE, there's only 50 so make sure to get an order in soon!
Every order will now receive a ‘got your back’ postcard, so you can remind a gal pal you got them. Send nudes or send mudes 😏
Last weekend I travelled from my humble student abode in Leeds, into the wilderness of Scotland...St Andrews! After a jam-packed weekend of incredible speakers and eye-opening topics of discussion, I'm so pleased to say that my workshop was a huge, nakedness-filled success!
I met the queen of body-confidence, Danni, who is the founder of the Cha Chi Power Project: "My name is Danni. I started The Chachi Power Project in January 2017 to promote body positivity and to encourage everyone to improve their body confidence. I think learning to like, or even love, your own body can change your world and in turn, you might be able to change THE WHOLE WORLD" . Expect a blog post about this energising woman, who oozes self-confidence, very soon!
Thanks for having me, St Andrews Sexpression!
The process is wildly empowering and humbling and many women have chosen to do this as part of their self-development to become super confident and loving of their own bodies. The process takes from 1-2 weeks, as each commission is completely unique. Purchase your nude commission here
The images below have been shared with the consent of the women they are based on
1) When you're ready, you can send me a relaxed nude or semi-nude photo via email, Instagram or Whatsapp. This photo is stored in a passcode-protected and hidden file and is deleted after stage 2.
2) I translate every curve of your unique body into a line drawing that provides the blueprints for the final embroidery. You're turned into a piece of art!
3) You choose where you would like the line drawing to be hand-embroidered. A popular choice is a sweatshirt since the most empowering thing is wearing yourself, baring all and being unapologetic for it. I can hand-embroider onto a tote bag, a sweatshirt, a tee, a cushion or onto a fabric in a decorative hoop (perfect for hanging on the wall).
I will never share your design without your enthusiastic and explicit permission. It may be a personal journey for your eyes only and that is absolutely possible.
If you have any questions or would like to hear from women who have been through the process, email: