Body and Care
The reality of blood and periods has called on women’s hidden ingenuity and necessitated discreet rules of cleanliness and hygiene. Sanitary towels were sewn, crocheted and knitted, to be used and washed over and over again - until factories and the advertising industry got together to 'make off days become on days’.
A woman's right to make decisions about her own body and thus also the right to decide whether or not to have children was a pivotal point in a sometimes heated sexual political debate in Denmark from the mid 1920s through the 1930s.
Arguments were heard for voluntary motherhood ensured by birth control on one side - among others the author Thit Jensen was an adamant patron; and the right to induced abortion as a consequence of the large number of illegal abortions on the other side.
In the 1950s there was a campaign to increase knowledge of the use of contraceptives. The law concerning pregnancy hygiene in 1955 gave all women who had given birth or miscarried the right to free guidance about contraception.
Progress was slow. Only in the early 1970s was sex education introduced in schools. By this time young women had long since embraced the Pill, which came to Denmark in the mid 1960s.
Young women saw the Pill as an important development compared to the diaphragm, which had been known in Denmark since the 1880s.
But critical voices spoke against the side effects of the Pill. In Denmark and abroad litigation was brought against pharmaceutical firms by women who had suffered blood clots after using the Pill. Other side effects were dizziness, weight increase, swollen legs, headaches and maybe cancer.
The Women’s Rights Movement and many female doctors demanded a contraceptive, which was safe to use, both with regards to effectiveness and health.
Safe methods of birth control and the passing of a law legalising abortion gave women the right to make decisions about their own bodies. This right can be difficult to use for the individual woman, but is even more difficult to do without.
The ideal of beauty is always changing. The body was shaped by the corset to fit the ideas of the time. The corset showed that the woman belonged to the privileged class and did not have to work. The corset was also a means to maintain control of the body, and it became a symbol of the oppression of women, not without reason.
The corset disappeared when the women’s revolt towards the end of the 19th century demanded more freedom of movement in all respects. Through the 20th century women became increasingly visible, and at the same time, women's bodies themselves were more and more exposed: the body moved into the public space and became the object of an increasing sexualisation. The ideal of the perfect body is shown in magazines and commercials. The individual woman remains behind with her own body, which must be kept slim and attractive.