Al Araibya reports that women in Iraq now face the prospect of FGM — female genital mutilation:
The al-Qaeda-Inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has ordered all girls and women between the ages of 11 and 46 in and around Iraq’s northern city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, the United Nations said on Thursday.
“It is a fatwa (or religious edict) of ISIS, we learnt this this morning,” said Jacqueline Badcock, the number two U.N. official in Iraq.
The “fatwa” would potentially affect 4 million women and girls, Badcock told reporters in Geneva by videolink from Arbil.
“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she said, according to Reuters.
And here’s a story from The Guardian about how men feel completely comfortable telling women they do not know personally what or how to eat:
That so many women have reported this frankly quite incredibly patronising experience, is testament to the strength of the myth that a woman’s physical form exists, above all else, to titillate men. It’s the same mistaken assumption that lies behind the command to “give us a smile”, or the belief that a woman in a low-cut top must be looking for male attention.
As incredible as it seems, some women actually experience moments in their lives when their entire sentient being isn’t focused exclusively on providing men pleasure. They might wear a strappy top because they are hot, for example; eat a burger because they are hungry; or drink a diet soda because they quite like the taste. Explosive revelations, I know.
You might laugh, but for some, the belief that a man has an automatic “right” over the body of any woman he encounters in a public space is worryingly ingrained.
Should we laugh, cry, get angry — or start an MGM movement in reply?
It’s must-read material for every girl and woman who worries about her body and whether or not it is thin/shapely/pretty enough.
Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter…
Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe.
Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.
Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork…
Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture…
Pass on your love of being outside.
Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages.
It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.
Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.
If you — like me — have no daughter (or kids), I still hope you’ll share this important reminder with all the girls and women in your life, of any age or size, who long to be told how terrific we are as is.
Not just when we’re sufficiently skinny/pretty/media-approved.
I was debating whether or not to blog this major news, but decided to do so anyway:
The Obama administration has decided to stop trying to block
over-the-counter availability of the best-known morning-after
contraceptive pill for all women and girls, a move fraught with
political repercussions for President Obama.
The government’s decision means that any woman or girl will soon be able
to walk into a drugstore and buy the pill, Plan B One-Step, without a
The essential issue, which never changes for women, is control of our bodies and their reproductive ability.
Our lives, in short.
The most fortunate of women have a few choices, many of them culturally pre-determined:
Never have sex unless or until you want to become pregnant
Never have sex unless or until you are married and have a partner to help you raise a child
Never have sex
Have an abortion
Put your unwanted child(ren) up for adoption
Many of us have, or will have, a sexual life beyond the boundaries of marriage or the explicit, specific desire to become someone’s parent. For some of us, it may result in an unplanned pregnancy — or pregnancy scare.
Ready access to Plan B means any woman who fears she might face an unplanned pregnancy has the option to forestall that terrifyingly, permanently life-changing event.
Those of us who delay marriage — or may never even choose it — and wish to have a sexual life without the result of children must have access to safe, affordable, accessible choices beyond the Religious Right’s favorite method — snapping our knees safely shut from puberty to menopause.
Managing one’s sexual impulses and desires, let alone those of our male partners/husbands, is sometimes challenge enough. STDs are rampant and add another layer of worry or concern, as they should.
Then there is the matter of one’s fertility, for some a coveted gift, for others a burden. Shit happens. Condoms slide off, or break or, yes, sometimes never get used at all.
And I am speaking only of consensual sex, not the many women suffering rape and its aftermath, emotional and physical.
Plan B is a much simpler choice — on ever level — than abortion for many women.
This is huge step for American women’s reproductive rights, and one that’s only — really — about 40 years later than what Canadian women took for granted when I was in collegeand needed access to Plan B. There, it was an easy, quick, non-political issue.
I moved to the U.S. when I was 30, still unmarried. I have been nauseated, enraged and wearied ever since by the relentless, ferocious, get-the-the-fuck-away-from-my-uterus political battles in this country over when, where, or even if a woman should have ready, safe, affordable access to birth control information, birth control and/or abortion.
It’s my body.
I do with it — tats, piercings, hair color, shape and size, clothing (or lack of it) — as I wish.
Those who remain utterly determined to control and manage women’s sexuality, by trying to demonize and/or politicize our most personal and private decisions, are anathema to me.
“Guns”, i.e. the upper part of the arm, where the triceps and biceps, when toned, make a clearly defined curve. I’d never heard that word until a few days ago.
When Katie Couric,the first woman in the U.S. to become a network television anchor, spoke at a New York City conference I attended last week, BlogHer, the 5,000 women attending, (most in their 20s and 30s), sent in their questions for the on-stage interviewer to ask her.
I was excited!
I expected smart stuff from these hip, young bloggers, like:
What do you think will happen in Syria?
What story has moved you the most?
What do you think of this year’s Presidential race?
What’s your best advice to a young journalist?
Instead, one of them was: “Great guns! How’d you get them?”
Yes, her upper arms, for a woman of 55, were strong, smooth and toned.
But, seriously, can we not, possibly stop focusing on what a woman’s body looks like?
My favorite part of the Harry Potter films is the invisibility cloak.
If I were granted a super-power, this is absolutely the one I’d choose. I’m damn grateful my culture doesn’t force me into a chador, seeing the world only through a tiny mesh screen, but I’m so weary of the 24/7 yammering about how thin/smooth/hairless/flawless my body must be in order to be attractive to others, both men and women.
I saw a woman on the train into Manhattan that morning, like so many I see where I live, in an affluent suburb north of New York City. She wore a tight athletic vest and workout pants, lean as a whippet, defiantly hip-less. Easily in her 50s, possibly beyond, her eyes and stance had an intensity I find really unsettling.
You can smell the desperation to be better than, the angry determination to rule their flesh, to beat back the softness, roundness or dimpling that betrays their body at its true age, 55 or 62 or 47.
So their weirdly ropy guns — Madonna has them — have created a whole new arms race, with flesh-as-metaphor: I’m fitter/better-toned/stronger/healthier/prettier/more disciplined than you.
As a 55-year-old feminist, a former nationally ranked athlete whose sport — saber fencing — left me covered in small bruises people assumed meant I was a battered wife — I find this sad, and ironic.
I’ve known elite athletes whose bodies didn’t even look like this.
Jocks of all ages, male and female, have a sort of walk I find insanely sexy — a rolling, relaxed gait that shouts, quietly, how comfortable they are in their bodies. They know they’re strong and fast and flexible. They don’t need to prove anything.
I love being strong. I can still hit to the outfield. I value my muscles and what they do for me. I’ve always had big thighs, and use them happily for hiking out of a sailboat or hiking the Grand Canyon (four hours down, eight hours up.)
But, with age, my body is changing, softening, drooping. Thanks to my new hip replacement, I now have a shiny six-inch scar on my left hip. No bathing suit can possibly cover it.
I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror for the first few months, so shocking was this new permanent part of my body. Now I bear it proudly, running and dancing and climbing stairs as I once did, with breathless ease.
I wish our minds were as valued as our bodies.
I wish our arms were valued most for their willingness to embrace, to comfort, to soothe. To wave a banner or placard of protest. To plant and hoe and paint and execute a lovely port de bras.
I wish women — and men — would cherish our bodies, above all, for their strength, flexibility and power.
This morning I got out of the shower, walked to my room naked and stood for a solid 15 minutes looking in my long mirror at my naked body. It’s really amazing what I noticed. I have kinda flabby arms, I never noticed that I had some muscle in there. I found a big freckle on my right breast and a birth mark on my left thigh, things I never knew I had.
Why did I never know? I’ve never really stared at my body before. I don’t have terrible self-esteem, but I don’t have great self-esteem either, so why have I never done this before?
While looking at myself, completely exposed I thought “I love my body.” I really do. Yeah, I have a stomach, bigger thighs, my legs aren’t shaved and always have some sort of bruise or scratch on them and my arms are big and my nails are bitten, and I could think of many other things that are wrong with me but so what? By thinking of all these things am I really helping myself? Is my image really that important?
So then I just had this extreme loving thought towards myself. That I love my body, I DO love my curves and my back spots and my bigger arms and my freckles. This was then slammed down a second later by another voice in my head asking why? Why should I love this? There was so much disgust in this voice, I was shocked. How could I have such a loving moment to myself then followed immediately asking myself why I should ever feel such love towards myself when I look this way?
I make it a point to look at myself in a full-length mirror in broad daylight every day. Like millions of others, I’m trying to lose weight so it’s not pure vanity, but necessity. But unless you have a “perfect” body — and even models think they’re flawed — it’s often not amusing. No one wants to face “failure” head-on, but if you’re otherwise healthy yet have let your body turn to flab and jiggle, you’ve got some thinking to do.
Aging and bearing multiple children take their toll. But go to the right gym, pool or yoga class and you’ll find women, and men, in their 60s, 70s, 80s, who are still working it. Women are so constantly barraged in the West about the hideousness of wrinkles, sags or loss of muscle tone that a mirror’s judgment can feel frightening.
And women in many cultures are taught our bodies are a source of shame, something to flaunt sexually or cover up, but never acceptable — let alone valuable and worth loving — in all their fleshly corporeality. Men, still, often get a pass.
But the mirror isn’t the best judge of your body. It’s useful if you’re heading out for a professional meeting or date — it will help you catch any stains, tears, a rip in your stockings — but it’s not a place to obsess. Health and strength are key, not being skinny or Botoxed.
Having studied ballet and jazz for decades, I know that a mirror is simply a tool. It offers you information and feedback on your alignment, line, grace, turnout, epaulement.
I think two groups of women are consistently ahead of this curve — moms and athletes. Having used, relished, tested their bodies’ strength and capacity, we know our body is also a determined, sturdy vessel, a smoothly-functioning machine. It can be both a tower of strength and a soft, comforting place of nurture.
When Glamour magazine ran a photo recently of model Lizzie Miller, her belly hanging ever so slightly over the top of her panties, I thought I was hallucinating. Happily. A girl with some meat on her bones! Gorgeous, check. Happy, check. Pooch, check.
Readers’ reaction to this image — truly revolutionary in the insane women’s magazine world of praying-mantis 15-year-old models we’re told we should look like (genes and age be damned) — was huge, visceral and emotional. “Shame on Glamour for thinking this was sexy!” wrote one reader. “Holy hell, I am normal!” exulted another. “Thank you for the self esteem,” said another.
Any woman who wears a size 14 or higher continues to struggle finding beautiful clothes, because most high-end designers — even mass marketers like French Connection (nothing over a 10) — refuse to let fatties wear their schmattes. J.Crew, basking in the reflected glory of filling out First Lady Michelle Obama’s wardrobe, only has size 16s on-line or in their catalogs. In the current, November issue of Glamour, we’re told of the very few clothing makers — Michael Kors (expensive), Isaac Mizrahi for Liz Claiborne (a much-hyped commercial disaster) and Baby Phat (please) — who’ll even tolerate the excruciating embarrassment of a woman-with-hips wearing their designs.
Do you really — women-only question, for a moment — long to look like the model in this photograph?
Several bloggers here at Trueslant have recently focused on how much some girls and women loathe their bodies, starving them through bulimia and anorexia in an effort to mimic the sleek, long-limbed specimens shoved in our faces daily by the media. Yes, we all need to reach and maintain a healthy weight — not sliding into diabetes or obesity. But this absurdly narcissistic focus on the size, shape and allure of our noses, breasts, faces, hips, thighs, bottoms and even our genitals (yes, women are paying surgeons to alter the shape of those, too) has to stop. Why?
Hating the parcel of flesh that is now carrying you through this lifetime — to the movies, to work, to win (or lose) a soccer game, to make love, to produce, nurse and hug your kids, to enjoy a sunset — is madness.
There are six reasons I love my body, with all its spider veins, moles, wrinkles and double digit size. (And, no, that’s no a size 00) You should love yours too.
Maybe one of these will resonate for you:
1)Between 2005 and 2007, we lost 12 friends, colleagues and relatives forever. I felt like a figure in some 15th. century woodcut cringing in a corner as Death swung his scythe hard and fast and furiously all around us. Trish died at 49 of ovarian cancer, “Killing Fields”photographer Dith Pran at 65 of pancreatic cancer, Sandy at 63 of lung cancer, my aunt Barbara, at 82, of cancer, my Daily News boss, Bill Boyle, at 59, dead of melanoma, New York Times editor David Rosenbaum at 63, murdered the day after he retired. What wouldn’t every single one of them have given for another day, week, month in their bodies, in this world?
2) If your life/body has never been threatened, you may not realize its value to you or others. My mom, at 75 still kicking my butt, has survived three kinds of cancer: thyroid, when she was 30; breast cancer, and a brain tumor at 68. A very thin scar circles her throat, as much a part of her as her bright blue eyes and ready laugh, the scar from her first cancer surgery. I grew up knowing cancer, and its shadow. Before her six-hour neurosurgery in 2002, I reassured her she’d be fine — but she doesn’t remember, so badly affected was her cognition at that point. Two days later, with 20+ staples in her scalp, we fell happily back into intellectual argumentation. (There’s a piece about this on my website.) I’m deeply grateful she’s survived what her physician airily called “her malignancies”, and equally grateful having learned, early, how fragile our bodies can be.
3)Millions of people around the globe want nothing more, this second, than reliable access to sufficient, clean, safe food. They are dying of starvation. For a little perspective, consider this map of the world showing countries well-fed as thin and those whose inhabitants are dying of starvation swollen by these deaths. Obsessing over calories when we are drowning in their easy, cheap availability seems a little neurotic to me.
4) My body still allows me to enjoy the life I most value. I’ve had two knee surgeries and a shoulder surgery since the year 2000 and tons of re-hab. After the age of 35, it helped me climb the rigging 100 feet above the deck of an Australian Tall Ship, to compete nationally as a saber fencer, helps me hit to the outfield most Saturdays. I can’t play squash three times a week anymore (my knee cartilage now shot), but I can, and do, walk, ski, skate, run, play softball, dance, travel. Spoiled, demanding, impatient, I used to rage at its deficiencies. Now I thank every ligament, tendon, muscle and bone for its continued service.
5)Love your body, then form a fan club for it. If your partner, whatever their gender and putative desirability, demands you be rail-thin and wrinkle-free to win or keep their love and undivided attention, why are you putting up with this? (Parents, if you’re doing this, shut up!) Yes, we all need to maintain a healthy weight, and it’s nice to take care of your appearance. But spending time with someone, let alone internalizing their hatred of your body as it is, who consistently picks at the psychic scab of your self-loathing and shame, is not a wise choice.
I’m lucky to have found a sweetie, (10 years so far), who loves my curves. The size of my brain and heart matter more to him than the size of my butt. (Tell ’em I love your butt, too, he insists.)
6) If your body is strong and healthy, that is enough. On March 16, 2007 I was admitted to my local hospital with a temperature of almost 104 degrees. In the ER, the doctor read my chest X-ray and closed the curtain around my gurney. That’s never a good sign. “I think you might have lung cancer,” he said. “The spot on your lung is very big.” There are no words for that moment. I did not have lung cancer, only pneumonia. Self-employed, scared to disappoint clients and lose income, I had driven my body like some Dickensian factory owner, working it non-stop through worsening illess. In the hospital shower, drenched with fever sweat, so weak I could barely stand, I apologized aloud to my body. Never again would I — will I — treat it with such dishonor.
The next time you choose to hate your body’s imperfections and weaknesses, please stop.