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How Women in Many Places Have No Control Over Their Bodies

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Attaining equality between women and men and eliminating all forms of discrimination against women are fundamental human rights and United Nations values. Women around the world nevertheless regularly suffer violations of their human rights throughout their lives, and realizing women’s human rights has not always been a priority. Achieving equality between women and men requires a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which women experience discrimination and are denied equality so as to develop appropriate strategies to eliminate such discrimination.

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The stereotypical gender roles given by the society are female being feminine and male being masculine. The social expectations of male masculinity and female femininity are described by Mc Cubbin and Blum Dahl, former professors at the University of Minnesota, as “Men should be brave, strong, ambitious and aggressive, while keeping their feelings under control; Women should be gentle, nurturant, passive, dependent, and expressive of their feelings”. The term femininity involves a social process in which a female sex is recognized with certain traits and characteristics. These traits are marked by the society the moment she is born hence, creating a sexual difference of being a woman

The construction of gender identity by our surroundings if further described by Bornstein as, “Then there’s gender attribution, whereby we look at somebody and say, ‘that’s a man,’ or ‘that’s a woman.’ And this is important because the way we perceive another’s gender affects the way we relate to that person. A woman meant to be feminine and the degree of femininity she possesses is evaluated by the way she dresses up, the way she speaks, the way she walks, her body language and most importantly her beauty. Paintings, fashion photographs, news photographs, pornographic images, magazines differ in the way they are utilized but, they all interconnect in the representation of femininity and the female sexuality. The photograph by a renowned photographer Horst P. Horst will be analysed to discuss the feminist issue of measuring a females value through her appearance and the feminism, the feminist theories against it and also representing women as surreal objects.

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An important concept in this book and in others on the cultural history of the body is that of representation, rooted in literary studies and art history (Mauss, Marcel, 1974). Representation is not a reflection of something or an ideological inversion, but a historical and cultural creation of reality, language, and the text of reality. For Showalter, the historical interpretation of culture and body cannot limit itself to medical texts; after all, a representation can even originate in medical discourse, but this is not enough to ensure its cultural consolidation and dissemination; ergo the importance of understanding networks of meaning and significance, exchanges, and the means of circulation of the representation

Showalter relies on various sources to access representations of the madwoman, from medical sources to legal texts and literary sources, but also such images as paintings, photographs, and film. She endeavors to weave medical knowledge with culture and understand the development of a gender language on madness, within an intriguing analysis of language and interactions between medical-scientific texts, fictional texts, and images (Leavitt, Judith Walzer, 1999).

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On balance, over the next two years, countries have an opportunity to focus on the root causes of gender inequality by insisting that reproductive rights, the need to ensure equal access to health care services and opportunities for women are embedded throughout the post-2015 agenda, including under the likely goals related to gender equality, health, education and accountability/governance, which will be adopted by the end of 2015

Women’s reproductive rights lie at the heart of their basic human rights. The UN and governments must adopt and enforce laws and policies that allow all women to control their fertility, their health and their lives.

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Leavitt, Judith Walzer (Org.). Women and health in America. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press. 1999.

Mauss, Marcel. As técnicas corporais. In: Mauss, Marcel. Sociologia e antropologia. v.2. São Paulo: EPU; EDUSP. 1974.

Mcgowen, Randall. Identifying themes in the social history of Medicine. The Journal of Modern History, v.63, n.1, p.81-90. 1991.

Mechling, Jay E. Advice to historians on advice to mothers. Journal of Social History, v.9, n.1, p.44-63. 1976.

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