Focus on Women

Our Bodies, Our World

August 26th, 2011 . by Cathy Standiford

I can’t help but wonder if, in our quest for physical beauty that spans a lifetime, we begin to see our bodies as something to be conquered, not something to love.  That kind of disassociation is something that poet, activist and writer Eve Ensler also has been thinking about.  In this video, she takes us on a journey of bodily reconnection–and illustrates how our bodies can be a reflection of the good, the bad and the ugly about our world.

“If you are divided from your body, you are divided from the world.”  — Philip Shepherd

Do I Really Have to Be Gorgeous at 60? Really?

August 17th, 2011 . by Cathy Standiford

While the international community fervently protests French Vogue‘s depiction of a 10-year old girl in full make-up and stiletto heels looking sultry on a tiger skin, perhaps it’s time to take cold hard look at what constitutes beauty in our society.

We are horrified when little girls want to dress like little hookers–but that’s the image of beauty our media has defined for them.  Remember how scandalous it was when Jodi Foster appeared as a child prostitute in the movie, Taxi Driver?  Today, Target sells padded bras for tween girls. Beauty pageants for our little “princesses” turn second-graders into creepy human dolls.

And not only are little girls pressured to look ‘hot’ all of the time, so are we older gals.  The latest trend is for 50-year-olds to shop at Forever 21 for the same midriff tops, skinny jeans and age-appropriate fashion styles their 20-year old daughters wear.  At 51 I want to look as young as everyone else, but I’m sorry–I can not see the value of trying to be something I’m not.

Susanna Schrobsdorff’s excellent column at not only draws attention to the hypocrisy behind some of the outrage, it also illustrates the impacts of how our constant focus on beauty “fuels a culture of perpetual preening and insecurity among both young girls and older women” that lasts almost “from cradle to grave.”

Read more:

The Link Between Trafficking and Prostitution

August 9th, 2011 . by Cathy Standiford

I frequently find myself explaining to others why I don’t see a difference between trafficking and prostitution.  For most women and girls, prostitution is not a choice.  It’s where they end up after being lured, coerced or tricked.   An outstanding op-editorial in yesterday’s Boston Globe explains why the demand for paid sex is driving both trafficking and prostitution, and how holding men accountable for purchasing sex is an important factor in addressing both by reducing demand.

Special thanks to SIA Board Member Joan Merritt for passing this article along!

Another Woman Rises to the Top of Her Country

August 5th, 2011 . by Cathy Standiford

Congratulations to 44-year old Yingluck Shinawatra, who has just been elected to serve as Thailand’s first woman prime minister.  It doesn’t become official until the King endorses her (hopefully just a ceremonial thing), and Ms. Shinawatra will have many challenges bringing her deeply divided country together.  But a new kind of leadership is something Thailand desperately needs–and it’s nice to see a woman getting the chance to provide it.   Read more about this remarkable young woman and the challenges she will face here:$SmB8coOtPd

When It Comes to “Art,” How Much Equality Do We Really Want?

August 2nd, 2011 . by Cathy Standiford

There’s a measure of irony in two articles that appeared in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. The first questions whether this summer’s crop of films featuring belching, potty-mouthed female characters (Bridesmaids, Bad Teacher, Horrible Bosses) represent “signs of societal progress” or  a new “low point” for the image of women.  The second article focuses on Chicago’s new, 26-foot tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe in her famous Seven-Year Itch pose (the one where her white skirt flies up over a subway grate).  The sculpture is provoking many comments and interesting behavior, including lots of “people hugging her legs and voyeurs young and old unabashedly shooting  up-skirt photos with their cellphones.”

Both of these articles are about women’s equality.  In the first, actresses speak about how freeing it is to create characters with the same “imperfections” and foibles as men.   But is that really the kind of “equal” image we want for women and girls, in a society that already devalues and objectifies us?

In the second article, Loyola University associate professor Bren Ortega Murphy points out that, while the public is fascinated by Marilyn’s larger-than-life image, it’s hard to imagine anyone putting up a provocative male statue. “Tom Cruise when he comes out [in] his underwear (in Risky Business, also filmed in Chicago), that’s an iconic figure too.  But would someone erect a statue like that?  I don’t think so.”

I don’t think so either.  What constitutes art is subjective–and in some cases art is intended to be provocative.  But I wonder about the unintended consequences of creating artistic opportunities to shoot photos up a woman’s skirt and  watch women model the raunchy behavior of immature men.,0,7621832.story,0,6744588.story