Victoria BatemanMay 16, 2023
Breaking the Cult of Female Modesty
Polity Press 2023
Is it right that, despite the promises of feminism, women’s bodies remain at the mercy of state, society and religion? Should a scantily clad woman, or a promiscuous one, be worth less than a fully covered woman, or a chaste one? Are being sexy and being smart really mutually exclusive? Can a woman be both body and brain? Dr. Victoria Bateman has confronted these questions with actions as well as words. She has appeared naked on national television, on stage, in art and at protests – using her body, as well as her brain, to deliver her message.
In Naked Feminism: Breaking the Cult of Female Modesty (Polity/Wiley, 2023), Dr. Bateman makes a compelling case for women’s bodily freedom, and explains why the current puritanical revival is so dangerous for women. Illustrating the swinging pendulum of bodily modesty through the ages, she takes us on a journey from the ancient civilisations of Egypt and Babylon, through the birth of Christianity and Islam, to the lax morals of the medieval period and the bawdiness of Chaucer and Shakespeare; to the clampdowns of the Puritans and later the Victorians and, more recently, to the re-veiling of the Middle East and the purity pledges of modern-day America. She ends with a plea: feminists must unite to challenge the repression of the female body, as only then can women be truly free.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.