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As Roe falls, a 1789 painting of grieving women brings unlikely solace



By: Ruiti He


The overturning of Roe v. Wade will have many effects. The consequences that have been caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision will be frighteningly physical.


After hearing the news, many have begun experiencing ghost period cramps, nausea, and headaches. The intense emotion made its way into people’s bodies. And with the news, naysayers gathered quickly and derided these strong responses as hysterical or overreactions. As women’s emotions are typically taken in a negative way, this does not help their situation, either.


What seems to have helped some, though, was turning to a representation of women who have been overcome by emotion. Jacques-Louis Davids’s painting, “The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons” (1789) might come off as a work that bolsters sexist stereotypes. The piece shows grieving women who embody the perils of letting your feelings or emotions take over you.


Women are usually the ones doing the protecting. They protect by carrying emotional baggage for others.


The painting gives validation to the women’s warrior-like approach to their emotions. It shows that the body giving into emotions is not something weak, but something brave.


Jacques-Louis Davids’s piece tells a story about the body through the body. The servant’s muscular biceps suggest the grief that she has lifted before. On the other hand, one figure’s tense brows and bunched-up toes suggest he's struggling to be able to maintain numbness.

Despite living in a society that values vulnerability and “self-care,” emotion is still feared.


Rather than seeing emotions with suspicion or shame, they should be embraced with pride. Those ferocious emotions serve as a reminder that your body, which feels so fully alive, is yours.

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