I was banned once again, I couldn’t post my video on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Vimeo. This is nothing new for those who know Starsha Lee, and, to be honest, being banned from social media for years has given me a peculiar status. Although not a very happy one I must add, as I actually feel quite misplaced in this kind of battle. It’s being an infringement that feels strange.
After a quick research, I learned that many female performers are struggling with the same situation. Mind you, in my case, it’s my hate-base that has been reporting me for years. But I don’t think I should give those people the attention they don’t deserve – so let us concentrate on something more important.
There is a fundamental problem when female performers are banned from social media platforms, the perpetuation of a unilateral and totalitarian perception of their bodies. Even Simone Beauvoir wrote in 1949: “I was hesitating on writing a book about women. The subject is irritating, mainly for women. It’s not new.” (The Second Sex). But just because it’s an old subject doesn’t mean it’s solved, far from it.
So instead of conceptualizing my point as a thesis – here are some facts from my daily experience to illustrate it.
It surprised me very much when I read a male reviewer, from a well-known magazine, observing that I explore nudity on stage – and that this is a “yawn”. Now, if a journalist writes something like that is because he feels that he can. So what makes his point of view legitimate?
And what’s his point of view really? Let’s deconstruct that “yawn” – because it’s not an isolated yawn but rather a massified one. So behind the “yawn” resides a very old, and very prominent, point of view about women that says they are nothing but their reproductive organs. So, therefore, they’re emotionally unstable, clinically hysterical and so on. They don’t make much sense due to their hormonal changes and menstrual period moods (as if men don’t have hormones).
It’s a point of view that exaggerates the ovarian function to the degree that transfers it to women’s identity. In other words, what culture perceives of women is a caricature, and this reduced view of women once massified as a cultural assumption, creates unclarified females. This not only confuses them by not presenting any possible (and plausible) identity they could follow but also manipulates them into believing that’s what they are. We all need our references while growing-up and being a menstrual mood is not a good one.
So behind the dismissive “yawn” is an anti-feminist, anti-progressive point of view that is dying hard in culture. It says that a woman cannot express any kind of artistic language outside sex if her body is not covered. This is what we see on social media guidelines – and everywhere. Never mind those haters that report pages on the internet, they’re nothing but amateurs by comparison to this massified oppression.
As a performer, I must confess that I barely know what I’m doing on stage. And if you think you have something on me now, think twice, because the reason for that unconscious state is that I’m deeply influenced by the principles of Butoh.
The tenets of Butoh seem to have no principles at all to allow your inner grammar to become a body language; this is what made me get up and do it. Once I’ve applied this to rock and roll, it might look strange, or unreasonable, but those are my guidelines. Consequently, I have no intention of being sexual. I also do not think displaying (female) nipples in performance is an invitation for sex.
And by the way, why do they not censor bare-chested-male performers when? Couldn’t that be sexualized as well? This brings us back to the cultural assumption of women’s bodies as a circle without an answer – yet. To me, the answer is a new educational program – because it’s through the ideas of things that we shape things.
Like Nietzsche said, “there’s no moral facts, only a moral interpretation of facts” (Beyond Good and Evil). So, therefore, facts on their own mean nothing, it’s the interpretation that shapes them. We need an effective transition from a diminishing culture to a system of values where women are not exclusively seen as a reproductive body. In other words, a cultural and legal state where women are completely equal to men in rights and interpretation is urgent.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram etc. only perpetuate a negative and narrow point of view of the female body by creating algorithms that discriminate a nipple without any discernment of the context. Displaying nipples in a rock show or a Butoh performance is not porn, so why are these platforms not ashamed of presenting themselves as simple-minded?
It’s because culture backs them up, and they represent culture. This also perpetuates rape culture, a negligent culture towards women, and diminishes them at every level of their identity.
So no, displaying nipples is not porn, it’s not a dismissive “yawn”, it’s just the wrong interpretation. It’s the interpretation where lies the problem – not the female body. Culture needs a reset button – not a report button!
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Sofia Martins is also the lead singer for her band, named after her alias Starsha Lee: