One hundred and sixty one years ago, a group of women and men drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, stating that "The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman..." Their immediate goal of equal voting rights for women in the United States has long since been met, but this statement still rings with a tragic amount of truth.
Three years ago, when rageprufrock first began the project that would grow into 14 valentines, she spoke about how women are praised and worshiped, torn down and degraded. We live in a world where our bodies are revered for the ability to give life and derided for leaving behind the appearance of adolescence, where we can rise to the highest offices of power in some countries and are deprived of basic rights in others.
We are told to be strong, to stand up for ourselves, told that we can do anything, be anything - but only to a point, always to a point.
Around the world, women die from lack of basic medical attention, from infanticide, from starvation beyond their control, from starvation inflicted upon themselves in a twisted attempt to be beautiful. We are beaten, raped, murdered, told in so many horrifying ways that we are lesser that we don't matter.
Forty years ago we declared that Sisterhood is Powerful, and it still is. We must remember that, must continue moving forward.
It's 2009 and we've come so far, but there is still more work to be done. We deserve better, and we can do more. We're strong. The next fourteen days is meant to remind us of that. It's our time to take back our bodies.
V can stand for vagina, like Eve Ensler's groundbreaking monologues. V can stand for violence, under whose auspices all women continue to make a home.
V can also stand for victory.
We are finding dissatisfaction in our bodies at younger and younger ages. The number 1 “magic wish” of girls 10-14 is to lose weight, regardless of their bodysize. In 2003, more than 223,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients 18 years of age or younger, and almost 39,000 were surgical procedures.
We are encouraged to be dissatisfied by plastic surgeons, diet plans, diet pills--all of which foster that dissatisfaction to make a profit. We are implicitly told we're not pretty-skinny-flawless-perfect enough by magazine covers, billboards, and advertisements--all of which are photoshopped and unrealistic.
When we are being marketed to in all ways by manufactured perfection that we can't possibly embody, where can we turn? Books like Body Outlaws inspire us to love ourselves and be healthy, no matter our size or appearance. We look to websites like Glossed Over, which criticizes all of those fashion magazines that lie to us so prettily. Those of us in the UK can turn to Any Body, a web site that challenges the physical representation of women in media and society.
When we love ourselves rather than covet and pine for impossible standards, we are happier, healthier, and ultimately more fulfilled.
[Today's essay courtesy of idyll.]