The world celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD) next Friday, March 8.
It’s an opportunity to reflect on how far the women’s movement has come, while also acknowledging the work women continue to do in the fight for equality.
As a woman living in Canada, I have a lot to celebrate — from the right to vote and own land, to the ability to leave the house on my own whenever I want, to the freedom to decide if I will have children.
And I can own a business, built around local makers, supporting other women-owned-and-operated businesses and celebrating female creatives and the progressive, feminist and body-positive art they create.
Creative expression is a catalyst in moving women’s rights forward, from expression in what we wear, to what we think, say and how we act, to what we choose to create.
More women are free to express themselves now than in any other time in history, unchecked by men and out from the cover of the male pseudonyms many female creatives had to adopt in the past.
The result is an influx in art celebrating the female form — and not in the ways we are accustomed to seeing: as sex to sell a product, as sex to sell sex, as something degrading to be consumed by the male gaze, contorted into unrealistic and unachievable forms that fill women with self doubt and even more self loathing.
Instead, and possibly for the first time, the female anatomy is a tasteful and acceptable design trend in 2019.
Spurred by independent female artists and creatives, fed up with the status quo, female imagery is evolving to reflect women in a realistic and less idealized way.
From curvy bodies, to full representations of sexuality, gender and ethnicity, to tattooed forms unashamed by their pubic hair, women artists are taking inspiration from what they know, and female consumers are responding in kind.
One local artist working to increase the acceptance and de-sexualization of the female body through her artwork is Niki Mahon.
Working with clay, Mahon’s “titty mugs” embrace female nudity, in particular the nipple, to celebrate the beauty and variety of the female form while challenging the sexual objectification of the female breast and nipple.
“My [artistic] practice allows me to embrace my body without shame,” Mahon said. “I hope to encourage other women to do so as well.”
Mahon isn’t alone in working to normalize female nudity. An international campaign to #freethenipple began in 2012 as a way to highlight the general acceptance for men to be topless in public (and in advertisements and on social media) while considering it indecent for women to do the same.
Many celebrities have supported the campaign, however it’s the work of small, often unknown graphic designers and artists that have helped to make female breasts trendy. Minimalistic illustrations of boobs are the “it” design for 2019, replacing pineapple designs and the owl trend that came before them.
Breast patterns and designs will soon be available on everything from flower pots to t-shirts to bath mats and wall art.
In the 90 years since women officially became persons under Canadian Law, we’ve made some monumental strides towards equality, yet it can be difficult to remain positive sometimes.
Within the course of one week in 2017, nearly every woman I know shared an account of sexual harassment or assault as part of the #MeToo movement.
Even when it feels like we may be standing still or slipping backwards, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to look forward, hopefully to a future where everyone is free to express themselves openly, without shame or judgement.
Calli Duncan is co-owner of Makeshift Kamloops and Far and Wide. For more, go online to farandwidekamloops.com.