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Where Did the Circles Go?

"Eating By the Light of the Moon" is a book by Dr Anita Johnston in which an analogy of a circle and a line is used to describe the state of women in today's Western society. First of all, the circle is the symbol of the "spirit of the feminine", revered and honored as "the creative life force of the earth". Dr Johnston describes how, a long time ago, it was this symbol, one with "no beginning and no end", that was considered beautiful: the shape of the earth; an egg; "the naturally rounded, curved shap of a woman's body". She also states that "that which moved in cycles was respected and honored as a source of wisdom", going on to offer the seasons, the moon phases, the tides, and a woman's menstrual cycle as examples. But time changed things. Dr Johnston uses the line to represent our current day society. The line has "a top and a bottom", "a superior position and an inferior position", and, therefore, all things are given a value based on their position on this line; "those on top [have] more power than those on the bottom". All respect was lost for the Earth and the powerful magesty of its natural cycles. It was no longer seen as "the sacred source of all creation" but as a thing to be divided into "many square pieces" and owned by those with power. Women's intuition and emotions became ridiculed, and those who were taught in the way of the circle, taught to heal using their connection to the Earth and taught to celebrate the "feminine spirit", were imprisoned, killed, and burned at the stake as witches.

Today, in a society that claims us women are gaining our rights, we are, in reality, entering another phase of our oppression. With our patriarical history, how can it be any other way? How can we truly be free from oppression if the terms of our freedom are written by men, beings who can never be expected to understand what it means to be a woman? Think of the state of women today. Look at the media and how it portrays the ideal image of femininity: beautiful, flawless, and thin. Look at the media and how it tells women that their menstrual cycle, once revered as a natural wonder, is something to be hidden with tampons and vaginal deoderants. Look at women in business and how they have to exhibit masculine qualities to be successful. Dr Johnston describes studies conducted in the United States that show "women value being thin over being successful or loved". The characteristics of a woman's body that grant her the unique powers of being a female, "the capacity of her belly, hips, and thighs to carry and sustain life", are today viewed with contempt as women strive to achieve the image of that of a "prepubescent boy" with breasts. Women obsessively diet and exercize, practices that "have become so widespread . . . that they are now considered normal behaviour". Eating disorders and plastic surguries are on the rise. Women are taught from a very young age that they are valued by their looks. Is this freedom? Is this giving us our rights? Nicholas D. Kristof, an American journalist, quotes a group of female Saudi doctors and nurses from Riyadh in his book "Half the Sky". One of them says, "You think we're victims because we cover our hair and wear modest clothing. But we think it's Western women who are repressed, because they have to show their bodies-even go through surgery to change their bodies-to please men". She has a point. Is there really a difference between Afghan women and the women of Western society then?

We will never be free until we accept ourselves as who and what we are, embracing our unique power as females and stopping our conformity to the image crafted to please the males in our society. Until we embrace the spirit of the feminine, until we once again accept the way of the circle, our so called strides in woman's rights will merely be steps into a different kind of oppression.

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