Rihanna’s lingerie show marked a new age for women’s sexiness. What once was a market dominated by the male gaze is now a place of self-expression and female empowerment. The famous lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret was actually designed to make men feel comfortable buying lingerie for their female counterparts – even their stores were decorated as boudoirs. In recent years, however, women are reclaiming their sexiness. Sex appeal used to be a way of controlling us: a woman’s worth was dependent on her looks, as evidenced by advertising, yet could be negatively manipulated — being too sexy caused women to be labelled as whores, sluts or bimbos. Now, we equate sexiness to power. Movements such as #freetheenipple have aimed to take back women’s control of their bodies. And I am here for it. Rihanna bombarded the fashion industry with her diverse and empowering showcase of what it means to be sexy. It’s every body type. It’s power. It isn’t a form of belittling and controlling women.
Females in the music industry are also taking back control of the image they wish to portray. The difference between male and female performers is very stark: one can wear oversized t-shirts, have their hair scruffy, and even give off a look of “I-don’t-even-care,” while the other is expected to appear polished, with multiple wardrobe changes and intense hair and makeup. It seems as if to be successful, women need to fit a specific and unforgiving image. But the game is changing. Female artists are now choosing their own image. Ariana Grande is a huge advocate for females to define their sexiness. She has a trademark look, which she chose to uphold at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. However, Grande was harshly criticized by the public for the length of her skirt. The internet was quick to scorn, believing that she was disrespectful. But I argue she wasn’t at fault. She gave an incredible tribute to Franklin and her skirt shouldn’t cause offense because, frankly, it doesn’t affect anyone else — this is just an example of unconsented imposed sexuality. On the other hand, Billie Eilish chooses to hide her body and favors oversized fashion akin to many male rappers. How women choose to portray themselves should be solely based on their opinions, whether it be short skirts or oversized t-shirts. It shouldn’t matter if a personal choice is viewed negatively by others if it affects no one but the chooser.
Though I’ve focused on people who identify as female, these ideas do not only apply to a small group of individuals. The movement is universal. For example,Victoria’s Secret recently cast their first trans-woman model, Valentina Sampaio. Their fantasy is no longer as limited, but it still has a lot of potential for even greater strides.
This isn’t a war cry to suddenly don a full latex catsuit or attend lectures in heels and lingerie (however, if you so wish to, go right ahead). The message I’m trying to share is: what women wear shouldn’t be twisted to demean them. Women being sexy isn’t a sin or a threat. It is only defined by what YOU think is sexy – and that can be anything. Whether you feel most sexy fully clothed or in all your naked glory, that is a personal choice which should be accepted, not assailed.