Kate’s breasts, Pussy Riot, virginity tests and our attitude on women’s bodies – by Naomi Wolf

Over the past weeks there have been many ‘noteworthy’ events from the feminist point of view, but I just found them too mainstream to cover. You could read about them everywhere and anywhere, all media were full of them. (I just said to a friend recently, who is running an interior design blog that it would feel like as if she wrote about IKEA pieces.) So I did not write about Pussy Riot, I refrained from commenting on Kate Middleton’s breasts being exposed. However, I stumbled upon a great article by feminist writer Naomi Wolf, who makes a connection between these two and some other incidents, arguing that our society is still not ready to accept women trying to take ownership for their own bodies. Naomi Wolf is an acknowledged author, former political consultant and a very important figure of third wave feminism. In her first book, The Beauty Myth (published in 1991) she discussed how beauty is a socially constructed normative value in our society (and what’s more, patriarchy determines its content). She just published her 8th book recently, entitled Vagina: A New Biography which, interestingly, received mixed reviews, even from fellow feminists.

But going back to the article on Pussy Riot and the other recent affairs, I found her article very interesting. It was published on CNN, and here is an ironic ‘teaser’ excerpt:

“In a hypersexualized culture, in which porn is available 24-7, it is not female nudity — or discussion about vaginas or breasts or “pussy riots” — that is scandalous. Indeed, the female body has never been so commodified before, and female sexuality has never been so readily consumable in sanitized, corporatized formats such as pornography.

Rather, what is still scandalous to our culture is when women take ownership of their own bodies. Staging a strip performance is not disruptive to social order in Moscow, but three punk poets using their sexuality to make a satirical comment about Russian leader Vladimir Putin is destabilizing and must be punished.”

Roz Savage, ocean rower

You might ask what an ocean rower has to do with a feminist blog. Well, at first sight: not much. But if you look at her story as a source of inspiration, het motivation as something to think about and herself as a very empowering (female) figure, then you have an instant connection.

For me, being socially sensitive encompasses a lot of things: caring about people, but also about the environment, and about various causes. In my mind they are all inextricably linked. If you do something good for the environment, that affects the people in the long run. And (hopefully, but not in such a straightforward manner) vice versa.

I love spending time on TED, I find it one of the true justifications for the existence of the Internet: spreading knowledge. A few months ago I stumbled upon a presentation by Roz Savage. She is an ocean rower who gave up a high profile career to row across the Pacific, and ultimately to raise awareness along the way of plastic pollution and climate change. (It was because of her that I found out about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a high concentration of (mostly) plastic waste in the Pacific. I was stunned.)

I find Roz an exceptional woman who is leading an exceptional life: she is brave, strong, and was not afraid to turn her life upside down. Enjoy her story:

Living Dolls by Natasha Walter

I tend to read more from US writers, but I got interested in this book by a British feminist writer (and human rights activist) while surfing on Amazon. I bought it and I was proved right — this is an amazing book. It discusses certain phenomena in our hypersexual culture that affect women (and society) in a very bad way and reinforce old male/female stereotypes. It makes the reader think twice about things that we have already become accustomed to, things that we do not seem to question anymore: glamour modeling recently becoming a “dream job” for girls in today’s Western world, the Playboy bunny printed on pencils that are sold to young girls, the wide-spread belief that “girls like pink and boys like blue”, but even the (seemingly) more serious notions such as “women use the left side of their brain and men use the right side, hence the differences in language skills, spatial orientation, etc.” This latter, along with biological determinism (that is thought to account for differences in sexes as opposed to socialisation) is something that most people nowadays consider to be a fact. But Walter challenges this; and she does not just refute them with any argument, but she uses scientific studies and research to prove her point. And she does. (She even rips apart the famous “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus opus. Just watch.)

Let me quote something from the book, because whatever I write here will not stand as strong.

“The preference for research on the brain that seems to back up traditional sex differences over research that does not is not only seen in the media; some scientists have suggested that it occurs earlier on in the research food-chain, in the very decisions about which studies actually get published. Some have pointed out that, while  vast number of studies of brain activation are currently being carried out, those that show sex differences are much more likely to be published than those which fail to prove sex differences. This is a file-drawer problem; that the studies we have on record are a small proportion of the studies carried out, most of which show no publicity-friendly gender differences and are therefore languishing in academics’ file drawers.”