Sunday, October 17, 2010

Love Your Body Day is 10/20/10: How Are You Going to Celebrate?

I know, my last post was about Adoption Awareness Month. And I promise, not every post from now on is going to be about a particular month or day. But I couldn't let Love Your Body Day go without notice. It was launched by the National Organization for Women in 1997. And I would love to tell you that things have changed since then. That women of all different shapes, sizes, colors, and ages now grace the covers of our magazines and find roles in theater and film. That breast implants and labiaplasties were no longer being done. That eating disorders were a thing of the past. That dark women were no longer using dangerous chemicals to lighten their skin. That women with "bad" hair were not straightening it. That baby girls born with big clitorises were not having them surgically "corrected." That women were not shaving, waxing, and otherwise depilating their vulvas so that they more resemble prepubescent girls than adult women. That advertising did not use women's bodies to sell anything and everything, often in demeaning and objectifying ways. That younger and younger girls were not being sexualized in the entertainment and fashion industries. And that media was not constantly presenting completely fake and unattainable images of thinness and beauty with a zeal reminiscent of China's (past) fondness for tiny feet.

Well, maybe next year. In the meantime, are you going to celebrate on Wednesday? How? Here are some ideas to get you started:

-NOW's Love Your Body Day website has some info and ideas, including ways to use social media to spread the word. There is a downloadable slide show there which is perfect for teens. And there's a wonderful selection of posters which you can send as e-cards.

-Have you seen the section of my website entitled "Loving Your Body?" Now might be a good time to check it out!

-Watch a movie, preferably with a friend or two. Here are some good ones:
America The Beautiful 
Beauty Mark
Naked on the Inside

-Practice social media activism. Some sex educators in New Mexico made a good video called "You Don't Need Labiaplasty.*" They posted it to their webpage on Facebook. The video contains photos of actual women's vulvas (courtesy of Betty Dodson), to illustrate the beautiful, natural variety of women's genitalia. Facebook decided that it wasn't appropriate, and took their page down. Go ahead - try to post the video to your FB page. Or create a new profile, and post it there, if you don't want to risk your own page. Or link to it. Or link to the article about the censorship of this page. Or create a group on Facebook called,  I don't know, how about "Normal healthy genitalia is not porn"or "The real outrage is labiaplasty." Make some noise!

-Send a kid a positive message. I don't envy parents these days, who have to combat a non-stop barrage of twisted media messaging. Here's a great blog post about the difficulty of that conversation, and the importance of having it, again and again.

-Turn someone on to Fertility Awareness. One place to start might be a radio interview I did with Barbara Glickstein a week before Love Your Body Day back in 2008, on Healthstyles (WBAI). This is an hour long interview/discussion that would be a good intro for anyone not familiar with Fertility Awareness. And at the top of the show is a list of 10 ways to celebrate Love Your Body Day.

Now make your own list. And please share it here. I'd love to hear your ideas for how we can love our own bodies, teach our children to love theirs, and fight the incessant stream of hatred & lies that comes from the media.

*I love everything about this video except that all the vulvas shown are in some way denuded of hair, either entirely or partially. Kind of undercuts the message, don'tcha think?

A Dove ad that I love
2008 Love Your Body Poster by Shanti Rittgers

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Adoption and Identity

November is Adoption Awareness Month, and although we're barely into October, I want to draw your attention to some wonderful films, that you can watch online, for free, for a limited time. (Of course you can also perform the radical, art-supporting act of actually buying them, on the website where they are now streaming.)

POV (Point of View) is an amazing documentary series that airs every year on PBS. Their online presence has grown increasingly strong in recent years, and now they offer many of the documentaries they've aired on TV, in their entirety, as well as lots of supplemental material such as background info on the issues and extra video footage. Currently they are featuring what they call "Adoption Stories." The centerpiece consists of three films. All the films feature trans-racial adoptions, i.e. adoptions in which the race/ethnic background of the child differs from that of the parent(s). Thus the question of identity is central to each of these films.

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee will be available until 10/15. It tells the story of a woman who was adopted as an 8 year old child from Korea, by American parents, and whose identity was switched, at the time of her adoption, with that of another girl.

Wo An Ni (I Love You) Mommy will be available until 11/30. Its subjects are Fang Sui Yong, an 8 year old from China, and the Sadowskys, her Jewish American adoptive family.

Off and Running will be available until 12/7. It concerns a black teenage girl named Avery, who has grown up in a family with two Jewish lesbian moms, an older black/Puerto Rican brother, and a younger, Korean brother. She is coming of age and struggling with her identity. The film captures a particularly poignant and difficult phase in her life, and briefly but succinctly captures the perspectives of her adoptive family members.

In addition to the films themselves, there is a wealth of material on the POV website, which can be found on the left side of the page that each film is on, under "Explore." Poke around the website a bit more and you will find additional features such as the "Tell Us About Your Family" video contest, Facts About Adoption, and the blog section where you can read some (moderated) viewer responses to the films.

I also want to tell you about a couple of adoption-related blogs I've run across recently, both of which seem to emanate from the same person, a gifted, thoughtful writer. One is called "This Woman's Work," and encompasses a number of topics, including open, transracial adoption. (Click on categories on right side of the blog to find posts re adoption, parenting, infertility, etc.) The other is "Open Adoption Support" which is actually a community blog with membership (any one can read, but you must be a member to post).

I hope you'll be able to find some time to watch at least one of these interesting films. Feel free to post your thoughts here. I watched "Off and Running" recently and I thought it was fascinating, and moving, and raised all kinds of interesting questions about identity and race. At one point Avery tells her birth mother that she's not sure who she is. And her birth mother responds, "You are the person your (adoptive) parents raised you to be." The questions that Avery, and perhaps every adopted child seeks to answer, are along these lines: "Am I more than that? Is there some part of my identity that is intrinsic to me, that I have inherited, that is distinct from this family in which I now live?" If the child has been cross-culturally/trans-racially adopted, those questions loom even larger.
Avery and her family