I wrote this nearly five years ago. Still relevant….
The Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli’s most recognized work is the Birth of Venus, a masterful rendering of the naked body of a nubile woman (‘birth’ notwithstanding). She is young, perhaps late teens, with buff arms and abs, pert tits, creamy smooth thighs, luscious hair the color of ripe papaya draped demurely across her pubes, and a belly that pooches sweetly beneath her navel.
Modern images of women would feature most of these traits as representative of the ‘ideal’ white woman’s body. But the belly would have to go. Flat and taut across the pelvic bones – that’s today’s beauty burden. Mostly this is a young woman’s fad. Producing a baby or two makes a Botticelli belly the normal for another vast group. My observations at the gym suggest that even women who work out have belly, and many have much more than a Botticelli belly.
Body image, one of the many battle grounds on which women get stranded, is the insidious usurper of self-worth. We do not choose our genes, but too often find ourselves regretting the ones that did not provide the ‘right’ hair, body shape, skin color or texture. That’s time wasted in the much more urgent struggle to live powerfully.
Women are the planet’s transformers. We advance in this purpose only by repudiating – loudly and publicly – the demeaning messages, the false ‘idols’, the egregious transgressions of men, and the insidious dictates of patriarchal culture.
We’ve also got to reconcile with our dark side, our most troubling behavior: undermining other women. Whether through verbal or physical assault or a ‘freeze out,’ few actions are more likely to damage a woman’s soul. We know how to ‘get to’ each other. Inflicting hurt never produces anything worthy of women.
The best of our female nature – intuition, a capacity for nurturance, strength of mind and heart for human needs – adorns us with unique power. To turn the testosterone tide of our culture, we’ve got to run with our natural gifts.
In her book Solomon’s Song, Toni Morrison wrote: “She needed what most colored girls needed: a chorus of mamas, grandmamas, aunts, cousins, sisters, neighbors, Sunday school teachers, best girlfriends and what all to give her the strength life demanded of her – and the humor with which to live it.”
This is every woman’s need – and every woman’s gift to give.