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The Women’s March on Washington: An Attack on Beauty

6:00:00 AMCatherine Beigel

I did not attend the women's march held in Washington DC. However, I along with millions of others throughout the world was bombarded with the resulting media firestorm. The ideals that were displayed in our nation’s capital served to ignite voices, both positive and negative, in what has proved to be an emotionally charged topic. The organizers of the march heralded the message  that, "The Women's March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office and to the world that women's rights are human rights. (2)" 

I don’t want to talk about everything that happened that day. I do however want to address the last five words of the quotation above. “women's rights are human rights.” If this was indeed their goal, I do not believe they were successful. From what was communicated through social media the Women's march served not to establish that women's rights are human rights, but to reduce the woman to here sexuality and her human rights to her sexual rights. In this reduction, along with other points, human beauty suffered an attack. Perhaps you don’t agree with me. It’s hard to argue otherwise when you see the signage which was paraded around and the hats that were proudly donned .


Am I a puritanical Conservative? 

Am I just a catholic who hates sex? 

Do I not believe in women's rights? 


The body of the human person should never be exploited in such a way as was done that day. It is for this reason that I speak out in defense of beauty. 

For point of contrast I want to draw your attention to the nudes of ancient art work.[a][b] What is it that differentiates, Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” or “Venus de Milo” from the woman wearing genitalia? How is it possible to condemn one and label the other “beautiful”? 

In the opening line of his Aesthetics, Dietrich von Hildebrand says of beauty, “Some things can be approached only with great reverence, for it is only then that they disclose themselves to us as they truly are. One of these is beauty.(4)"

My criticism of the Woman's March lies in the reduction of the female to her parts. Composite of body and soul the woman cannot be reduced to her sexual organs, nor can men for that matter.  The human body reveals the mysterious individuality and personhood of the person.  I can talk about myself in a compartmentalized fashion, for instance my hand is “Catherine’s hand”. But the hand is belonging to myself as person. You wouldn’t point to my hand and call it “Catherine”, because I am not reducible to my hand. At the same time you couldn’t say my hand is not mine, because it is a part of me. If I’m beginning to lose you in this hypothetical line of thought.. let me clarify and save those of you that may be drowning. I am more than a part of my body. I am Catherine. I am a human person.  

The human person does not refer merely to the body, but to the union of body with soul. The human body reveals the mysterious nature of the person. Others encounter us through our bodies and make judgments about who we are as persons based upon that knowledge. Because our body is a part of our personhood, portrayal of the body demands respect for the mysterious nature of our personhood. 

The beauty of the human body cannot be sensuousness. It must be seen as intimately bound up in the person. The physical can lead us to the incomprehensible value and inherent beauty of the person. It’s beauty then becomes personal. Unfortunately, the Women’s March exploited the beauty of the female body. Dietrich von Hildebrand commented  upon the same type of actions saying, 

“The beauty which a body can possess is as such completely independent of every kind of sensual charm, and that every attempt to reduce beauty to this charm is utterly absurd. (5)”

In the examples of “Venus de Milo” and “The Birth of Venus”, the female body is rendered with respect revealing not just the bodies of woman, but woman as person. There is a subject to the art , not an object. Both are wholistic, that is to say not merely highlighting one part of the body.

There is nothing inherently wrong with portrayal of the body in art. However, what cannot be lost in the process is the person. The human body is beautiful and should be delighted in. Classical artwork was not aimed at reducing the human body to merely a body. Rather, it captures the human person in such as way that it raises the mind upward, beyond the material to the spiritual. 

If we truly believe that women's rights should be human rights then we should reject all attempts to reduce women to their sexual organs. The female body deserves the respect and reverence due to all human persons. The beauty of the whole person ought to be promoted. Genitalia paraded through the streets of Washington DC in the name of women's rights is an defilement of the person. Each of us, male and female, should stand up in protest for authentic human rights and for authentic beauty.  

1. Image One. The Birth of Venus

2. Women’s March National Facebook Page

3. Image 2

4. Aesthetics, Dietrich von Hildebrand, pg. 1

5. Aesthetics, Dietrich von Hildebrand, pg. 147

6. Image 3. Venus de Milo

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  1. I agree, and would add in addition that reverence due to the human body should be extended to all other facets of life. Hence we should be against all pornography. I must also add that the human person also demonstrates other realities, most especially spiritual reality, and so that must protected and nourished in society. Hence we must avoid mere materialism.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Pornography was definately a facet of this argument that I had in mind when writing although I didn't have the space in this post to specifically address it. Thank you for highlighting it and seeing the depth of the issue.
      I would also agree with you about man's spiritual demension, and perhaps I could have better emphasized it.


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