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A Century of Naked Girls? Just Say No.

I first heard about The Century Project through a Facebook group called Say No to Nude 10, 12, and 16 Year old Girls Pics Displays by Colleges.

Shira Tarrant, the Facebook friend who led me to it, writes about the show on her blog Girl With Pen:

It’s a collection of pics — nude girls and women ages birth through 100. (Get it? One hundred years of naked women = The Century Project.) The line-up for 2009 includes shows at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, Rhodes College in Memphis, and the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA.

The pics are supposedly a celebration of the naked female body in a variety of shapes, sizes, races, and ages. Each photo comes with a little story about the featured female. Many of these “moving personal statements,” as [photographer Frank] Cordelle calls them, are first-person blurbs about overcoming abuse, eating disorders, etc...An 8-year-old girl certainly has lots to tell us. But why does she have to do it in the nude?

This brought up all sorts of anti-censorship issues for me; I love the idea of women being celebrated in all their shapes and sizes. But scrolling through the show's website, I was struck by the meaninglessness of showing all these subjects in the nude. It reminded me of a porn shoot I was once on where a creepy old guy was shooting nude photos of a Barely Legal starlet in her white panties.

Here's Shira again:

It’s the same old-same old: girls’ and women’s naked bodies on display. I saw the exhibit and talked to the photographer. For the most part, the “moving personal statements” moved me to want to vomit. The exhibit visually exploited women and put their stories on display for no apparent productive end.

Check the photographer’s website and see what he has to say under the FAQ “Why Women?” I remain unconvinced that he gets the issues. Cordelle’s explanation for exhibiting naked female bodies reinforces assumptions about women as different and needing special attention or unique protection. There’s something really off about it. He puts girls and women on display while claiming concern for our well being. Really, Frank: Don’t.

I asked John Foubert, the founder of the Facebook site, what motivated him to take action. Here's what he said:

I'm glad to see that so many people from across the country are beginning to express their outrage toward a man who takes pictures of nude girls and takes money from colleges to display them. I hope that more people will begin to put pressure on Rhodes College, UNC Wilmington, William and Mary, East Stroudsburg University, and Houston Community College so that these institutions don't spend their money to pay for the exploitation of children.

If you're on Facebook, check out the group.