Laverne Cox’s objectified body ’empowers’ no one

What the fuck are you trying to sell us, America? This month, Allure featured a nude photo of transgender actress, Laverne Cox in the magazine which she herself, as well as a number of sites, have presented as empowering and groundbreaking.

Laverne Cox. Photo: Norman Jean Roy/Allure

The Cut, for example, spoke with Cox about the shoot, who admitted she *gasp* ate mac ‘n’ cheese the night before.

“The day before we had done the Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon with a bunch of the ladies from Orange Is the New Black. So that night we went out to dinner… I was like, I want to have mac ’n’ cheese. I know I have a nude photo shoot tomorrow, but I want to have mac ’n’ cheese tonight. I don’t like to talk too much about this, but I was my biggest weight during that photo shoot, and so I was like, Gotta love yourself. You got to embrace all of this.”

This was deemed “radical self-acceptance” by The Cut. Ok, so we are to believe that, 1) Achieving a “perfect” body, as defined by a patriarchal/porn culture, through plastic surgery, then presenting it as a sexualized object for public consumption equates to “radical self-acceptance”? 2) Eating food is “radical?”

Cox explained that she decided to do the shoot because she felt it “could be really powerful for the communities that [she] represents,” adding, “Seeing a black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about herself might be inspiring to some other folks.”

This statement strikes me as all kinds of backwards. Is it really a sign that we “love everything about ourselves” (which, for the record, I hardly expect anyone to do. Women, especially, are taught to hate their bodies and work to alter them to suit the expectations of a misogynist society. Trans people have received the message that, if they don’t properly fit into the limiting and oppressive gender binary, there is something wrong with them that can only be resolved by embracing the opposite end of the gender spectrum) if we alter our bodies through surgery and hormones? It seems clear that “radical self-acceptance” is not at all what Cox is experiencing or conveying to her audience.

“There’s beauty in the things we think are imperfect. That sounds very cliché, but it’s true,” Cox said. But where, in this image, are the “imperfections”? She and Allure seem to have done everything in their power to create and present a “perfect” female body, offered up to the male gaze for consumption, but sold as “radical” and emblematic of “self-love.”

If women or transwomen were truly allowed to love themselves, I doubt they’d be spending thousands and thousands of dollars sculpting their bodies in order to look like some cartoonish version of “woman,” as defined by the porn industry and pop culture. The fact that Cox’s body is seen as “subversive” because she is trans doesn’t change that. Her body doesn’t look subversive. It looks like any other objectified female body, sculpted by surgery and enhanced by Photoshop.

“Gotta love yourself. You got to embrace all of this,” Cox says. Ok. Then do that.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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