Caitlin Stasey is best known for her role as Lady Kenna on the CW series Reign. But the 24-year-old Australian actress is also an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and the diversity of female desire and experience. To further those causes, last January Stasey launched the website Herself.com, where she posts lengthy interviews about topics like gender, sexuality, body image, sexism and feminism with an variety of women, each of whom poses nude. The decision isn’t based on a desire to use sex for clicks, though. For Stasey, it’s a way of reclaiming the female form, to “tie into the narrative that nudity doesn’t lend itself to sexuality or sexualization.”
Stasey talks to FLARE.com about how she came up with the idea, what it means to be naked, and the questions she doesn’t like being asked.
How and when did you come up with the idea for Herself.com?
About a year ago I first had the desire to create a website for women; I just didn’t know what form it would take. After witnessing what I thought women were hoping to see, I sort of tailored it to fit that—like women wanting to see versions of themselves where they otherwise wouldn’t be, and for women to have a platform for themselves to speak out.
Was there a moment that triggered the creation of the site?
Yeah, my whole life I’ve been intimidated by men, threatened by men, as every woman has been. So, throughout the course of my life I have become incredibly hardened to that and I suppose over the past year as I’ve been incredibly active on social media my hardness has withered and now I’m more just outraged.
I can’t say there was one particular defining moment. I think living as a woman is enough of an example and enough of a reason to want to take matters into your own hands.
The site features lengthy interviews with women, and each woman is photographed naked. What was it about the vulnerability of being naked that appealed to you? What does the nudity represent? The thing is the more vulnerable you are the less vulnerable you are, right? Because what else do you have to hide now? The fact of the matter is nudity isn’t offensive. Nudity isn’t intrinsically linked to sex. Also, female nudity is so rarely regarded as being for her own reasons, it’s constantly peddled as this tool to capture the attention of men and I just think it’s bullshit. We allow men to roam topless down the street when it’s warm, yet if a woman is wearing a sheer shirt she’s endlessly, mercilessly mocked for it, or vilified. Female nudity represents nothing other than the freedom of that individual and also resistance to being defined by it. When you’re naked you have nothing to hide.
Related: Why It’s Time to Free the Nipple
Each woman is asked the same set of questions during the interviews. How did you come up with the questions? Why these specific questions?
They’re the kind of questions I wish that I’d been asked or wish that people would ask me.
As an actress you get interviewed frequently. What kinds of questions do you find irritating?
For the most part I just hate being led down a path of typical questions asked to women… and this doesn’t pertain specifically to me, but “How do you balance home life and your career?” or “Show us your f-cking manicure,” that kind of stuff. It’s that kind of narrative that’s incredibly prevalent. In fact it’s the dominant narrative. That’s how people engage with women. They tell us how nice we look before they ask us how we are.
You describe your sexual orientation as fluid, and you’ve been open about the struggles you faced as a girl growing up in the Catholic education system and what had to be a private sexuality for you under the circumstances. How did that influence Herself.com?
I wanted young women to feel as though what they’re experiencing and feeling is not abnormal, and particularly queer women because they’re not really going to have access to queer content until they’re a fair bit older… My main point is that I would love for young girls to be like, “OK, there are women out there like me. What I’m experiencing isn’t evil or sinful or shameful; this is how my biology is, this is how my sexuality is. I can’t change that and even if I could, why should I have to?” I guess it played a role in just that I felt so other when I was young and I want to try to eliminate that for people.