A look at changing attitudes to female nudity on TV.

The Right To Bare All

Nudity and mainstream TV aren’t something you expect to go to together. Turn the TV on and it’s almost inevitable you’ll be able to find a man without his shirt on, showing off his body. If you were to look for a woman doing this, you’d have to turn on the TV much later and to an entirely different kind of channel. Step in Lena Dunham. She’s a young writer/director challenging the normal ways of looking at a naked body, and women in general, with the recent HBO hit, Girls. Most importantly, she’s making it much more acceptable for women to bare all.

It’s fair to say that most of the reviews written about Dunham and her sitcom Girls are by women, boldly declaring how great it is that Dunham “gets her” and how “honest” her portrayal of female nudity is. Sure there’s toplessness a plenty, but what does it actually mean? Well, nothing, and that’s exactly the point. Boobs and bums a-plenty are on show, but it’s very clearly not a sexual thing. The show helps get the message across that they’re just boobs, ain’t nothing to see here, people. In contrast to most nudity on TV, when the girls of Girls get them out they’re not doing it for us. We’re not meant to gawk and get aroused by them. Like a leg or an arm, you’re not meant to get happy when they’re on show – they’re simply another body part.

Now then, a few male bloggers/ critics have said this makes them uncomfortable. And further to the point, Lena Dunham’s body makes them feel the same way. This is because Dunham it isn’t what they’re exposed to everyday. It’s clear she’s a little bit bigger than other people we see splashed across magazines or doing nude scenes in a film or on TV, but that really is not the point. Her body is her body. It doesn’t have to be sexual nor does it have to hidden away beneath layer after layer of clothes because it doesn’t resemble a pencil. Men who are uncomfortable seeing Dunham’s naked self are exactly the type who’d benefit the most from watching Girls. They clearly need to learn that women have more going in their lives than being skinny. These are women with issues – will they have a successful career? Will their relationships amount to something? The question that never crosses their mind is “will me taking my shirt off make the guys watching want to sleep with me?”

So Girls is paving the way for more women to leave their clothes on the floor on TV. It doesn’t just appeal to stick thin women or even just to women. It constantly tells men that women have bodies and boobs, but also have far more important things to do with their lives than get naked for our pleasure.