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First of all, and before I address all the mess created about my body on social media, I would like to put myself in the position of a polite questioner. This (polite) questioner would ask me: what’s your intention when you display nudity on stage? This is a fundamental question. People should ask me what I think before they assume anything. Before we consider the female as a concept we should know that every female has her own intentions.

So my intention with nudity is none. I have no intention towards nudity. On stage, it means nothing to me. It’s a mere consequence of an expressive activity.

It was quite a shock to see people’s reactions; I truly thought we were more advanced than this. They make sure I know that I’m doing something “wrong” according to them; they make sure I know their disapproval and, which is quite laughable, they say I display nudity because I’m seeking attention. This is a very common response to women, quite generic and pathological. There’s something very wrong with people that make sure you know they dislike you. Any psychologist knows this. And this syndrome is displayed daily and worldwide under the name of cyber-bullying.

I never think about nudity before a show. Actually, I do not think about anything before a show. The truth is, either you love me or hate me. I don’t show nipples to have attention. Make of this confession what you will. Judgments are collateral consequences that have nothing to do with me. I naturally separate things very well.

I’ve been reported and banned from social media countless times, not only by the platforms themselves but also by people who constantly report me to those platforms. Whilst I know Starsha Lee might not be to everyone’s taste, I certainly think the constant reports are absolutely juvenile.

You have to have a serious lack of alternative music history to get upset by our repertoire. I’m not doing anything that wasn’t done already – so get over it, babies.

Now, we all know women have been in a huge battle since forever to have an identity in society. Women’s identity is linked to being beautiful and maternal exclusively within the male-dominated environment. However, being beautiful is undoubtedly a poisoned gift. As a woman, you cannot use the body within art or else you’re a whore with no talent and no morals. As soon as you speak with your body in the language they created as sexual, you are perceived as sexual, and there’s no way out of this; you’re in a trap (a misunderstood trap).

 

 

You see, all the bad names toward women were a result of people’s judgement. They’ve nothing to do with women. Certainly, nothing to do with me. No one asked me anything; they assumed everything. And it’s unbelievable how some women side with this. A female friend once told me she couldn’t understand the feminist revolutionary act of taking off bras with the intention of burning them. She said it was stupid. Needless to say, I was hugely perplexed by her lack of empathy and understanding. Taking bras off and burning them has nothing to do with not liking bras for no good reason. The intention of those feminists was to release women from the male eye that shapes them, creates them and calls them names. I don’t mind bras (they can be functional) but I understand why they wanted to burn them. It’s the symbolic act that is important here. I see people being quite careless when judging women’s struggle – just like the struggle for animal rights also. It’s quite sad. But those judgements will not be part of progress. Women’s rights are part of progress. Animal rights are part of progress. I repeat, my intention with nudity on stage is none. It is not intentional. It just happens. I don’t even think of it. And if my mentality towards my body is something that unusual, I cannot change it.

When I was growing up, I had very little contact with the world of so-called girlhood, and this made me think everyone was like me when I was a child. I truly thought women’s nipples would not be provocative. I thought that provocation would belong to other contexts. It’s quite insulting when people assume you’re provoking them sexually when it never crosses your mind. It’s quite insulting, making their intentions mine.

Maybe my case is a little extreme but it gave me great conclusions about human’s societal standards. I can explain.

My upbringing was with a misunderstood artist as a father who was forced to give custody to my abusive and absent mother. My body, as a so-called girl, was completely ignored due to this. I had no female references. I had no mother around. She was never there. I never had a pink-dot swimming suit to wear to the beach like my female colleagues at school. I had dark blue shorts and was always bare-chested like the boys until my body visibly grew up. Every time my body changed I had to ask my friends at school about it because my mother just didn’t care. One Christmas I remember sitting in the living room looking at the blue toy I received as a present and thinking, “Isn’t blue for the boys?”  I was 8 years old. I was intrigued. But soon enough I would have my answer. Soon enough I understood there’s no blue for the boys; there’s the colour blue – for whatever you want from it. Gender to me started to be very questionable and it seemed to me it was pretty much invented. I grew up with my own conclusions alone and that was it.

Again, my intention with nudity is none. And it was none until people pointed their fingers at me and tried to make me feel that my stage persona is linked with low, sad behaviour and lack of art.

Well, as an Art History graduate I can tell you that the body was a subject of creation extensively in the 60s and 70s already. Look at Performance Art. And if you want a woman’s work, look at Ana Mendieta, for example. Look at Carolee Schneemann. Look at Yoko Ono (yes, I’m mentioning her).

If you feel the need to express something in Performance Art, you use the body – what else is there that can be you as a whole? This is the point. And Performance Art is not an excuse for lack of art – it’s a way to escape other mediums. I know that can lead to severe subjectivity that risks the doubt of the public, but that is up to the public, not the artists. I see people often criticising Yoko Ono because of her vocal delivery when her vocal delivery is beyond vocals. It’s meta-vocals. It’s conceptual. She tries to escape mediums. You can use voice as you like; the important thing is to have a message. Voice is a medium as any other medium so, therefore, its presentation can vary according to one’s self or sensitivity.

Women need an identity created by women. This is urgent. When they don’t represent the role that society’s structure gives them, they’re forced into an anonymous position or a whore’s position. This is still a reality.

As Virginia Woolf said, “The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages” (An Unwritten Novel). It fits very well here. Often she also addresses the problem of how women writers have had to struggle to have a presence in society.

There were women writers in the nineteenth century that changed their names to male names to have a place in society’s structure. Like George Eliot who had to have a male pen name to “be taken seriously” (her real name was Mary Ann Evans). And this was in the nineteenth century!

Every girl should read Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, read Simone Beauvoir, try to understand why Valerie Solanas was extreme, and why Germaine Greer said women were eunuchs (The Female Eunuch, 1970). We should read our past in these women to understand the struggle. We should understand every corner of this battle. For example, one time someone was very upset with me on social media because I posted a photo of  Valerie Solanas. This person hated her so much that he had to make me feel bad about myself. We all know that she shot Andy Warhol and we all know that (thank god!) she didn’t kill him. But we all should pay attention to who Valerie Solanas was and why she wrote the S.C.U.M. Manifesto. She was a consequence of a time, of a struggle. A very complex struggle as a woman and as a lesbian (especially back in those days). Now, I don’t think women should hate men and create repressive behaviour towards men, because that is doing what a male dominant society did to women. That’s a medieval priest’s point of view, and common sense says two wrongs do not make a right. I agree.

We have to understand the facts and not what we want the facts to be, or else we do not understand other people. Historians would not be historians if they were exclusively morally judgemental in their books. As Nietzsche said: “There are no moral facts, only moral interpretations of the facts” (Beyond Good and Evil).

So, as for the performance-with-nipples, the body is the place of everything. It begins and ends with you in every experience. In life and death.  Experience is quite subjective. We should be careful with our judgments or we end up only projecting ourselves onto others. And that’s not intelligent.

 

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Sofia Martins is also the lead singer for her band, named after her alias Starsha Lee:

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Cover photo by Chris Patmore