A little while back, a trend started popping up everywhere: candles shaped like naked women’s bodies. I saw a steady stream of them in the curated tableaus of influencers on my feed, in home décor store windows and in shopping roundups from my favourite websites. It felt like I couldn’t escape them.
To be specific, these candles weren’t just shaped like any body, they were shaped like Kim Kardashian. They featured a mind-blowingly small waist starkly contrasted with a perky, synthetically round breasts and an equally as voluptuous bottom. In short, an unrealistic, hyper-stylized, sexualized interpretation of a woman’s body that began at the neck and was cut off just below the vagina.
What message do these candles send to women? That their bodies too can be reduced to their parts that provide male pleasure?
Shortly after, another iteration of the candle popped up: this time, a “curvier” version. It had slightly less unrealistic proportions – a thicker waist to be sure, larger, less perky breasts, a subtle stomach pooch and wide hips with legs that touch. Despite this attempt to represent more bodies in this bizarre form, these candles still gave me the ick, but I couldn’t really place why.
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What I mean when I say ‘candles shaped like women’s bodies’
I mulled it over and asked myself: What message do these candles send to women? That their bodies too can be reduced to their parts that provide male pleasure? That their body has value only so far as it can be ogled and used up?
On a very base level, any object that reduces a woman to her sexualized parts feels anti-feminist, and frankly kind of gross. But beyond that, creating it as an object to be burned, melted and consumed in the name of “self-care” by women, the very people they’re meant to represent? In my opinion, that’s messed up.
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Celebration or objectification?
Some might say that these candles are a celebration of women’s bodies, and not the subtly misogynistic objects I’ve come to interpret them as. I’m not opposed that general idea, and truthfully have a lot of naked women-themed art in my own home. But even going beyond the base-level implications of creating a burnable woman’s body with no head to speak, and no legs to run away, the two popular iterations of candles seem to reinforce that there are two kinds of women who can exist: the mother and the wh*re.
These outdated tropes serve to further identify women as objects whose value is determined by the ways they can serve men.
While the Kim Kardashion-esque candle conjures a seductive, nubile image, the “curvier” candle seems to imply a more homely, motherly iteration of a woman’s body. These outdated tropes serve to further identify women as objects whose value is determined by the ways they can serve men. It’s a retrograde view of women and their bodies, and it’s being peddled to us in the form of vegan soy wax in scents like Vanilla Cashmere and Cookie Dough. It’s enough to make Andrea Dworkin roll over in her grave.
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The naked form as art
There is indeed history behind the visual of a naked woman: naked sculptures have been around for ages and are some of the most prized forms of art. But it’s important to note that the torsos you’ll find in art galleries and museums are not the stylized interpretations of celebrities who have had countless cosmetic procedures – they’re modelled after real people, and they come in as many varied shapes and sizes as real people do. Artists spent months, often years, capturing the delicate curves and bumps of real human bodies.
I don’t think that the sellers of these candles have malicious, misogynistic intentions: I think they found a buzzy, sellable object that capitalizes on the trend of candles shaped like things that aren’t candles.
The mass-marketed candles you can buy that take inspiration from these works of art likely all come from a handful of the same candle molds. Frankly, I don’t think that the sellers of these candles have malicious, misogynistic intentions: I think they found a buzzy, sellable object that capitalizes on the trend of candles shaped like things that aren’t candles. Women’s bodies just became collateral damage in the process.
I get it. Candles shaped like things that aren’t candles are fun. I have a candle shaped like a block of cheese sitting on my desk right now. But the visual of a woman’s body is so much more loaded than a block of cheese, it’s frustrating to even need to write this sentence.
To me, it feels like performative commodification of feminism at its finest. At face value, a candle shaped like a woman’s body may seem innocently naïve at worst, and celebratory of the female form at best. But if you dig a little deeper, it becomes disturbingly clear that even something as simple as a home décor object can be laden with problematic messaging and history.
However, the nice thing about a candle is that it can be burned, and hopefully something a little more empowering can take its place.
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