Yes, nudity can be feminism. It can be liberating. It can be empowering for women who have been taught to repress and cover. Nudity can be a political choice, because the control over women’s bodies have been politicized. I still stand in admiration of Egypt’s naked blogger, five years later.
However, the Republicans’ opposition to women’s reproductive rights is a greater issue in feminism — and a greater danger to women — than whether or not a woman has the right to pose naked and profit from it (and I think she does). To me this is the real issue: that Republicans have opposed abortion, access to birth control and emergency contraception, sex education in schools, and even pornography, but that Melania’s photos are the feminist right that needs to be protected and championed is the real hypocrisy.
When it comes to the question of making money off one’s own body, I’m squarely a second-wave feminist. I don’t think taking off your clothes is liberation or empowerment as long as the men are the ones making money off your body (and they still do no matter how much the top models are paid. Just look at the way the fashion industry serves the billionaires at the top, like Jean-Francois Pinault).
As I said in my previous post, the way Melania Trump posed for her photographs is, in my eyes, not feminism, but the intersection of capitalism, chauvinism and patriarchy disguised as feminism. Women can be feminist in deciding to take control of their bodies and make money off them, from sex worker to top model and everything in between. But women can also ally themselves with a system that does not serve them, nor place them at its top levels. In my opinion third-wave feminism may have succumbed to capitalist pressures by making women the producers and owners of their own objectification.
The truth is that every time a woman takes off her clothes in a commercial setting, a man profits from it more: look at the salaries of the photographers, the media barons, the heads of the fashion houses — they are far higher than the models. Only when it is women running the fashion industry, the porn industry, the media, will I relent and say that yes, this is feminism.