Whitney Bell, Feminist Activist And Artist, Is Joining The New Playboy And We've Asked Her Why

Whitney speaks to us about her choice to pose for the magazine

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Whitney Bell is the woman who wrote for us about her decision to have an abortion at a time when she was grieving the death of her father.

She is also the woman who live-blogged her IUD insertion in an attempt to show how important Planned Parenthood is.

And she, rather controversially, wrote an abortion gift-guide for Teen Vogue, to help girls help other girls and de-stigmatise the fairly common procedure.

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From these three sentences, if you knew nothing of Whitney Bell before, you can gather she's a staunch Feminist, and proud.

So, it may surprise you to know, she has just decided to pose for Playboy.

We wrote about Playboy's recent decision to rescind it's nudity ban, because we were intrigued about the new message they are trying to put out, but we were relatively unconvinced about the idea that the new Playboy might be, in any way, pro women.

It was a little startling, then, to see that Whitney had chosen to go down that route.

Rather than speculate, we got in contact with the activist and artist, to let her speak for herself.

Emma Watson has recently been criticised for being both an outspoken Feminist, and for going braless in a photoshoot - how do you view nudity and Feminism?

Nudity can be empowering to some and demeaning to others. A lot of that, I believe, has to do with self-perception and the puritanical society we still live in. The line between art and pornography is a blurry one, and while I find neither in poor taste, that is not true for everyone.

As long as there is consent and the subject feels empowered in their choice then I stand by them. I am not stranger to posting scantily clad photos to my Instagram and have received negative "anti-feminist" rhetoric in response.

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To that I say: My body has been sexualised and objectified by the world. without my consent, since I was 11-years-old.

Now that I have battled my patriarchal demons and am actually comfortable in my own skin, I have every right to show it off in whatever way I choose.

If I want to use my tits to get some guy who might not otherwise be following a feminist account, who might need a little bit of sex appeal to stick around and hear my message, then f*ck yea I'm gonna do it.

It sounds ironic but if I'm going to be sexualised either way, why not own it, and use it for good.

One of the first comments under you announcement says , 'Feminism is about doing whatever the fuck you want. Do you. Congrats.' What's your response to that and how do you live your feminism?

I don't agree wholeheartedly with that statement. I do however understand what she was trying to say. That feminism is about choice, in this case the choice to cover up or bare it all.

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To me, Feminism is first and foremost about equality for all people regardless of their sexuality, religion, gender, race, ability, etc. You don't need to get an abortion, you don't need to be in pornography, you don't need to be in a homosexual relationship - no one is asking you to do so.

What you do need to do, is realise that you will never be able to understand someone else's lived experience, so you need to allow for and respect someone who makes choices you might not. It's not your place to limit their options, their rights, or the autonomy they have over their bodies.

What did you see about the 'new' Playboy that made you more inclined to participate.

Playboy has undergone a radical re-branding and are featuring far more female voices, tackling real issues like sexual harassment and feminism, and are making a clear concerted effort to change their past narrative.

Sexuality can be extremely empowering, and for me I find that shying away from nudity or shaming someone for posing scantily clad is it's own brand of misogyny.

It's just another way to control the female body and to shame women for being sexual. An empowered woman is a dangerous woman, because a woman who can say yes, is also a woman who can say no.

An empowered woman is a dangerous woman, because a woman who can say yes, is also a woman who can say no.

How important are your words alongside your image, do you think that makes a difference?

I believe that the accompanying interview is very important because it contextualises the nudity. Most of what I discussed is the over-arching problem of sexual harassment, so I do feel that the combination of the two helps to create a new narrative.

I am aware that my image could then be used without the text. Photos of me have been used without my permission in the past and while this is not ideal it is simply a by-product of being a public person in the age of the internet.

Finally, a big part of the problem seems to be that Playboy (and other brands) are still displaying one 'kind' of woman, i.e. white, able-bodied and with a traditionally aspirational figure, do you agree?

That is something I still find problematic with the magazine and something I hope to discuss with my editors. They have made steps towards a new direction, but they still have a long way to go. I'm just happy to be one of the voices involved in that transition.

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