​The editorial - The symbolic power of women’s bodies

2017-12-01 L’Osservatore Romano

We want to end the year, a year full of suffering especially for women, with a hope. These images, in which a woman, alone and defenceless, succeeds with her weakness in facing the violence of a group of armed men, seem to unfold new prospects for the future, prospects of peace and respect for the weak, in the name of something that we all share: being born of a woman and being alive because a woman accepted us in her womb and cared for us when we were little until we were able to look after ourselves.

This common characteristic of the human race is not only a biological fact but also a complex experience which includes devotion freely given and self-sacrifice for another without any prospects of compensation. Indeed, we women do this knowing that the person we have helped will necessarily leave to follow his or her own path.

If in the Christian tradition we are all considered equal because we are all children of God, we may add that at the origin of the experience of all human beings, whatever their race or religion, there is a maternal body, there is the freely given devotion of a woman. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution is the title of a famous book by Adrienne Rich which reminds all human beings of this common origin.

As a potential mother, every woman thus represents the possibility, the memory and the symbol of this freely-given devotion – almost always the only one of this kind that we experience in life – and for this very reason her frail and unarmed presence is so strong that it can halt armies.

Silvia Vegetti Finzi, a psychoanalyst and writer, Luisa Muraro, a feminist philosopher, an important thinker in Italian feminism, and Lucia Annunziata, a great journalist, comment on these images and lead us to interpret them in their profound reality. All that remains for us is to read them, opening our hearts to hope and remembering that in Christianity salvation depends on the “yes” of a very young girl who was incredibly brave. (lucetta scaraffia)