As I prepared to write this article on the first International Women’s Day of this new decade, I mulled over how much has changed in the past few years, and how far we’ve yet to go—both in my personal life and in society as a whole. I must admit that in my present physical state, I’ve confined myself to my bed with the blinds drawn in an attempt to combat some nasty side effects of the Kyleena IUD. While this tiny little device is a game changer for contraception in terms of ease of use and efficacy, it doesn’t change the fact that one of the best commercially available options for birth control still places the burden of reproductive health on those who can get pregnant.
Beside my bed lies a box filled with clothes that no longer fit me. Due to a series of health-related issues and drastic changes in medication, my weight has fluctuated by about forty pounds throughout my twenties. I’ve been six different clothing sizes in the past six years alone, and while I know my body still errs on the side of “acceptable” in a thin-centric world, I’ve lived in a constant state of trying to accept and love my body for what it looks like in the present—a seemingly never-ending process I have to revisit each time the scale tilts one way or another. Certainly, the current cultural conversation around body image seems to be moving in a positive direction, but these notions of attractiveness and their ties to an idealized female form still persist, and it isn’t uncommon to overhear folks (or myself for that matter) speaking about a “goal weight” or to “compliment” a friend when they lose a socially acceptable number of pounds.
I realize that these gripes are trifling matters compared to much more pressing issues facing women, both domestic and global, but fundamentally, all of these oppressions seek to exert control over women and their bodies. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but these structures in the political, social, and cultural spheres are connected, and if we can’t even fix the small stuff like doing away with the phrase “goal weight” altogether, how can we even begin to tackle matters such as economic inequality and femicide?
In my wildest dreams, the Barbara Kruger work featured above ceases to hold relevance, for someone has found a silver bullet to topple the patriarchy. For now, that’s only a fantasy, but read on for some recommendations to commemorate this day that offer healing, solutions, and most importantly, hope.
Read. A friend recommended adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism to me during a time when I felt particularly defeated in my activism, and I can concisely describe consuming the book as “nourishing.” Black feminist tradition guides this collection of essays from brown, alongside conversations and writings from other radical feminist thinkers such as Audre Lorde, Cara Page, and Sonya Renee Taylor. The book examines the concept of pleasure as an essential, yet inequitably distributed resource and explores how we can both “make social justice the most pleasurable human experience” and “awaken within ourselves desires that make it impossible to settle for anything less than a fulfilling life.”
Watch. In honor of International Women’s Day, 39 female dancers from The Ailey School performed an interpretive dance routine around Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, breathing new life into the groundbreaking feminist work, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. And if you’re looking for something a bit longer, Dinner Party managing editor Polly Gregory recommends checking out For Sama, a documentary by filmmaker Waad al-Kateab. Presented as a love letter from mother to daughter, “the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her.”
Listen. Marlanna Evans—better known by her stage name Rapsody—released an album last year titled Eve. Each track is named after an influential black woman from history, including Hatshepsut, Sojourner Truth, Michelle Obama, and Aaliyah. In an interview last year with Billboard, Evans said, “This is my love letter to not only myself, but all black women.”
Participate. Yumi Sakugawa and Janet Lo offer a number of online wellness webinars for womxn, non-binary, and femmes of Asian American and Pacific Islander American descent through their AZN Glow Collective. Sakugawa and Lo started offering these workshops in response to the lack of wellness spaces that address “the specific and unique experiences and challenges [faced by] APIA womxn / femmes.” Recent topics have included “healing the psychic wound of assimilation” and “how to set boundaries and stop people-pleasing.” And if you’re lucky enough to live in the Los Angeles area, the duo also offers in-person workshops at various spaces around the city.
Support. Donate to nonprofits and other organizations fighting on the front lines. I encourage you to do your own research on where to give, but here are a few ideas from Dinner Party contributor E.A.