It’s been stated several times on this blog that our identity should be recognized as being more than just our physical characteristics. Yet so much of the discrimination and oppression women experience today is targeted at their bodies. Images of “perfect” bodies, usually the result of digital alteration, are portrayed as normal, leading young women and girls to resort to eating disorders to fulfill impossible standards of beauty; the lack of available medical care for women during childbirth leads to devastating and entirely preventable complications and even death; and the use of rape as a weapon of war are just a few examples. As a result, in seeking to fight for justice we often underscore narrow characteristics about our identity because at times it is impossible to separate our identity from the way we look or the way we are treated by others (whose treatment of us is often based on our physical appearance).
Yet, as the document explains, “a mature humanity must needs go further and recognize the broader identity shared by all in order to overcome the injustices facing so many.” How do we ensure that raising consciousness and addressing the conditions of injustice that affect a particular group do not result in a narrowing of identity and in the reinforcement of divisive distinctions? Also, as we seek to recognize conditions of injustice, how do we do so without engendering fear, suspicion and hatred towards others?