If you couldn’t tell from her Dame of the Day blurb, Laverne Cox is a boss. From her stellar performance on Orange is the New Black to her activism and advocacy for the trans community, Cox consistently pushes herself to do more. She even embraces opportunities that require her to take risks and be vulnerable. Last month, she took the plunge with 15 other celebrities and posed nude for Allure. (Spoiler alert: she looked fantastic.) Although she was nervous, Cox explained, “I honestly just want to make myself happy most, and if other people like it, then that’s great. If they don’t, then I’m still happy.”
Image courtesy of GLAAD
Yet while actresses Katheryn Winnick and Sandrine Holt received praise for their spreads, Laverne Cox’s photographs raised some eyebrows. What’s even more infuriating is that the commentary in question came from a self-proclaimed radical feminist. In a recent blog post, author Meghan Murphy insists that Cox’s use of hormones and plastic surgery nullifies her message of self-acceptance. Instead, she proclaims, Cox buys into the idea of the “‘perfect’ body, as defined by a patriarchal/porn culture.” According to Murphy’s view, trans women fall outside of feminism’s purview because they modify their bodies and offer them up “to the male gaze for consumption.”
Needless to say, I find this opinion to be completely ridiculous. The very title of the post, “Laverne Cox’s Objectified Body Empowers No One,” misses the point entirely. In a society where murder rates for trans women of color grossly outnumber any other group, Cox’s decision to pose nude is incredibly revolutionary. Defying the din of voices telling trans women of color that they are not light enough, not feminine enough, and not worthy of love, Cox’s portrait contradicts all these assertions and loudly proclaims: “I am beautiful and I am enough.” If Murphy doesn’t feel empowered by that statement, then perhaps she’s lucky enough to not need it for survival.
Murphy’s views are not uncommon in the radical feminist community. Debates over whether trans women “get” to be considered women have persisted for years. Just a month ago, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival announced it would rather shut down than include trans women in its lineup. Yet the argument that trans women are men infiltrating “women’s space” is utterly bogus and hypocritical. Women policing the bodies of other women not only wastes time and increases factionalism, but it also perpetuates the very same bullshit feminists purport to dismantle. Why should some women (particularly white women) get to dictate a narrow definition of womanhood for others? Whether it’s applying eye shadow or getting plastic surgery, what Cox chooses to do to her body is her choice. It’s not being disingenuous; she’s living her truth and expressing who she is. At the end of the day, Cox just wants to make herself happy, and that, perhaps, is the most radical form of self-acceptance.