Visit to New York – Day Two

Here’s a blog from the second day of my visit to New York – on Body Confidence and how it links with violence against women:

It’s Day 2 of my visit to the UN for the Commission on the Status of Women, and I’ve just come from a Danish event, where we discussed the links between social controls – like bodily perfection – and violence.

In every society with a mass media, whether in developing or developed countries, women are subject to a daily bombardment of images and messages about what they should look like.

Of course, nothing is wrong with having ideals of beauty and admiring it! We’re only human.

What is different now, however, is the sheer volume of images, the impossibility of escaping them and the rise of a celebrity culture that mercilessly dissects how our idols look – pulling them down to size, while simultaneously telling us we can be like them too, if we just look the part.

But is body confidence a means of violence against women? Undoubtedly yes.

When gender stereotypes restrict and deny individual free will and self-expression, this is violence.

Put another way: If your body must be ‘perfect’ – whether ‘perfect’ means bleached, starved or put through Female Genital Mutilation – before you can expect equality and respect, this is violence.

I have worked on Body Confidence issues for years: inside and outside government, from the Home Office and now in DFID. From each of these perspectives it is clear that this is a universal issue for all women. It’s also clear that progress is possible, particularly when we work across local and national boundaries.

The Coalition Government wants to end violence against women and girls – in all its forms, at home and overseas. We want to value people for who they are and what they can contribute, not for what they look like.