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4 Health Conscious Women Need To Be Revisited

health conscious reiki statue

Health conscious femme sculpture

pic of Wangari Maathi with tree

Front-runner health conscious women need to be revisited!

I’ve recovered from my International Women’s Day 3/8 (read yesterday’s post), and keeping it moving, I want to acknowledge female contributions to our collective sense of well-being.

It is Women’s History Month, and according to Mao, “women hold up half the sky.” In the 1970s, this was a popular activist chant. It was romantic yet forward-thinking, and many thought it an African concept akin to “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Growing up, my major health influencers were mother and grandma. I was proud, at first, of Uncle Ben on the rice box and Aunt Jemima on the pancake box. People swore by the products they represented, despite their being fictional and politically incorrect as a remnant of slavery.

Influencers of health consciousness deserve to be revisited, and I shall look at four of them that stand out.

Popular Media

Probably the best known proponent of good health in the U.S. today is Oprah Winfrey. In partial thanks to her, the best known proponent of family and emotional health is Iyanla Vanzant.

Their friendship bespeaks a good deal of work on both their parts. It is a triumph of female human spirit, social skills, and above-the-line health.

Oprah’s allowing the world to travel with her on her weight-loss ride, and Iyanla’s determination to fix people’s socio-emotional lives are the stuff of legend. These two cannot be denied as primary influencers on popular trends in health consciousness, at least in some communities.

Health Conscious of Genetic Disposition

Angelina Jolie is very conscious of physical health. Once she realized a certain rare form of breast cancer (BRCA gene) ran in her family, she had a double mastectomy.

She may not have seen “The Truth About Cancer” series. Her aunt passed away from ovarian cancer right after her first surgery. She had every reason to fear the indications and potentialities.

Later, when cancer cells were appearing and ovarian cancer seemed likely, she had her ovaries removed.

I don’t walk in her moccasins. Maybe her sixth house is heavily aspected (this post discusses health astrology). Radical surgeries did not affect her maternal instinct.  Of her six children, three are adopted and three she birthed.

“On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity,” says Jolie, quoted on Wikipedia.

Her example is evidence of the socialization of health choice.

“Dubbed ‘The Angelina Effect’ … Jolie’s [choices] led to a substantial increase in BRCA gene testing: the number of referrals tripled in Australia and doubled in the UK, parts of Canada, and India, as well as significantly increased in other European countries and the U.S.”

Adopting children is also a worthy social, health-giving contribution to humanity. It may even be more important than Jolie’s response to her genealogy. For this she should be congratulated.

Health Conscious of the Environment

The 2004 Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai made her mark on environmental health and justice in Kenya.

She struggled to remain close to the earth and her people, despite politics. Her own words speak to self-healing and being holistic-health conscious:

Although I was a highly educated woman, it did not seem odd to me to work with my hands, often with my knees on the ground, alongside rural woman. Some politicians and others in the 1980s and 1990s ridiculed me [but]… the rural women both accepted and appreciated that I was working with them to improve their lives and the environment.

After all, I was a child of the same soil. Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from land, but instill in them even more respect for it, … As I told the foresters, and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.

Wangari Muta Maathai – Unbowed, pp. 137-138

Nothing is more beautiful than cultivating the land at dusk… As you remove the weeds and press the earth around the crops you feel content, and wish the light would last longer so you could cultivate more.

Earth and water, air and waning fire of the sun combine to form the essential elements of life and reveal to me my kinship with the soil. When I was a child I sometimes became so absorbed working in the fields with my machete that I didn’t notice the end of the day until it got so dark that I could no longer differentiate between the weeds and crops. At that point I knew it was time to go home, on the narrow paths that criss crossed the fields and rivers and woodlots.

Wangari Muta Maathai – Unbowed, p. 47.

I also talk about Wangari Maathai as one of my role models here on this site. I cannot wait to read Unbowed for two reasons. One, because the excerpts inspire me; and two, the title equates to “health conscious.”

Unbowed is the thematic thread connecting all the women I’ve described here.

–Rev. Niamo Nancy Muid