I will put out there my 40 years in the making Personal observation that 90% of women are Oppressors. I’m not talking about Race. I ‘m talking about bodies…of all shapes and colours. I was an oppressor and I was not alone…in fact when I stopped being one I was a bit of an anomaly.
The oppression I am discussing here are not others…but are closer to home. Our own bodies. This oppression is enacted in the guise of “getting healthy” “becoming more normal (read the 1-5% that are represented in the mainstream media)” “Becoming worthy to get a man” It is a bizarre tightrope dance that is done between the shores of the virtuous good woman wife and whore/slut. It is unwinnable because the longer you dance on the tight rope well darlin the slacker that rope becomes. The deeper the wrinkles the more society pushes you to become invisible because you no longer dance on the rope quite so well for others amusement.
At least that is what I said to myself. I turned it off. I “let myself go”…well free. I let my grey hair come in. I turned off commercial TV and stopped buying magazines that only seemed to show one sort of woman. I stopped telling my body that it was wrong for being itself. I stopped punishing it by starving it intermittently. I started seeing it for the brilliant creature that it was…lumps and all. Most of all I stopped shaming it. And when I did that and came up for air. Sucked in a long sweet deep breath of freedom…here is what I noticed.
(Nipples were blurred because apparently they cause blindness in some when seen through some social media sites, I suppose similar to looking at an eclipse for a long time as we all know nipples are quite brilliant creations. As I am not certain if you are reading this with cool little paper glasses on, I thought it best to take precaution. )
It seems to me that we often treat our bodies like a hated “other” The way some cultures have oppressed those that are “different from themselves visually. Women in my observation seem to be doing this to their own bodies because they appear different from what society is saying they should look like. ”You are lazy” “You never get it right” “You will never be enough” “Why should I bother to feed you.” “Here have this crappy little meal but no more because you haven’t “earned it” “I’m going to whip you into shape” “You are ugly, fat, pathetic, unlovable, diseased, saggy, useless…(insert your own particular mind worm here)” These words as cruel as they are . But nope the images above are real words chosen by the women they are written on. This is a small sample.
Most women are sucking on noxious fumes of a corporate cloud of advertising that profits from our body’s rejection but have very little idea that is what is happening because that is all they have ever known. It is a cloud of “wrongness” that gets in our eyes and makes us see our bodies through a fun-house like fog. It gets into our skin and sucks our energy…the energy we need to do our real work in the world. Because darlin worrying about a lumpy butt or a thigh gap is not going to fix the wage gap or heal the current destruction of mother earth.
I see it every day in my photography studio. Body oppression becomes intensely visible when someone has a camera aimed at them. It becomes a magnifying glass and each micro expression of pain and self judgment is witnessed as the woman is seen. I also saw it every day when I worked as an obstetrical nurse helping women to learn to use their bodies as they were designed.
In defense of our bodies
Now here is my take. We come to this earth with a mind, a body, and a spirit. A holy trinity of awesomesauce uniquely designed to bring our unique super powers to gift to the planet. The mind can be kind and loving or an egotic land mind field, most are a bit of both in my experience. Our spirit, as I feel it, is our infinite energy that carries on after our mind and our body die. It is the battery that powers our body.
Then there’s our body.
The one thing that accompanies us on this worldly adventure. It is like a sensual robot suit that carries the mind and spirit and allows us to FEEL this world in all of its pleasure and pain. It takes the hits, stores the pains, feels the joy, floods you with happy chills, gets you where you need to get, heals you when you are weak, fights huge fights on your behalf that you are not even aware that it is doing, it does so silently and asks for nothing in return. You only really hear from it when it is in pain. Often mind inflicted through feeding it poorly, over exercising it to “whip it into shape”, or from putting it in dangerous situations like abusive environments, or from ignoring it for so long that it has to get sick to wake you up to something really important that you are missing. It is our companion that joined us even before birth and will be there until the adventure ends. But so often we treat it horribly. We negatively fixate on its uniqueness and often ignore its brilliant gifts. It is the vehicle to allow us to bring our gifts to the world but we treat it like it is a hated “other”. To what end? How is that helping us to do any good on this planet? I think that fixation just keeps us dumb. Slowed down and hampered from getting on and creating.
So here are my thoughts. Your body is not an other to be disrespected. If you are in anyway treating it like that then stop. Learn to treat it like your very best of friends. Your most cherished guard, confidant, keeper of your most brilliant gifts and your secrets. Feed it the best food you can afford to give it. Move it gently and lovingly to become its strongest self.
When you hate on your body or someone else’s (read well meaning relatives who are just trying “help” all the way to vicious trolls) you are dumbing yourself down. Losing your power. Creating weakness where there is no reason to. Stop. For the love of all that is wonderful please stop
#Everybodyisatreasure paradigm shift
Less than a year ago I started on what became an Artivism Project (read Art and Activism had a baby) called #Everybodyisatreasure. After getting sick of only seeing one body type in the media, I decided to create a database that celebrated the 95% of women not showcased in the mainstream media. I think I must have subconsciously taken inspiration from the Venus of Willendorf because I started a project where we painted women with a golden clay but kept their anonymity. It is a project open to anyone who identifies as female that looks at the body shapes and sizes of 18 – 80+ year olds. It is a celebration of our sisters. And an attempt to help more women stop and think for a moment about where they stand on the body oppression to the body freedom spectrum. The best clue for where you stand on that spectrum is to take an honest look at your reactions when you see the art. Are you triggered? How so?
Do your eyes perceive beauty or ugliness? This quite clearly I think reflects where you are on your own journey to freedom. We are trained to look only skin deep. But what about the miracle that is that body? That provides the vehicle that enables that spirit to bring it’s gifts to the world.
The project I have been working on with the ever growing collective of the Luscious Order of Golden Shield Maidens tried something different when we rocked up to San Franscico from New Zealand.
At the Berkeley, The Body Positive Leadership Summit event we went directly for the mind worms, the words most often used against our bodies.
We asked the women who came for the golden photoshoot to identify three words that their mind uses against them as weapons. They were given a eyeliner pencil and asked to write them on themselves. We took a photo. And then we gave them a cloth to wipe them off and new golden eyeliner to write the new words that they wished to have as their dominant thoughts.
We then baked it in by covering them with a golden clay…some golden shimmer glitter for good measure and bucket fulls of love and community. Will this exercise completely eradicate 20-60 years of mind worm accumulation…no probably not. But it was an unforgettable experience of body treasuring that will have planted the seeds in the soil so dutifully turned and fertilized by those worms. It will hopefully be a way of grabbing the minds hand as it raises its whip to have yet another go on the body. It will ideally give the spirit the power to say…”No more. From here on out…only love please.” Then we can get on with doing really important shizza like stopping global warming or making beautiful things or following our curiosity into our next great adventure…glitter tits and all.
P.s. I know I am a white cis female…like really white…probably Viking descent. I have grown up with white privilege in the deep South of America and yes I am daring to talk about oppresion. Do I think it is wrong to do so. Possibly. But I also think that it is the best way for me to make my point on behalf of our bodies so I will stand by it. It is done in the spirit of love and if for any reason it has offended you I apologize that is in no way my intent and I hope that you can accept the spirit it is intended. Aroha nui
P.s.s…If you are saying darn it I want to have golden glitter tits and be part of that project. Then cool sign up here and I will send you a link to our New Zealand Professional Photography Awards gold winning image ( Incredibly appropriate award right) that you can print out for yourself. I will also send you updates on the project and where it is travelling to.
However if you are at all like me and your ability to wait for change is non existent…you want it now!… Then you could could try this DIY version at home.
DIY Freedom Session
If you came to one of these sessions what three mind word worms would be sitting under the surface for you? You know the words that keep circling your brain about your body. “Fat” “unlovable” “wobbly” “too skinny” Often the words that highlight how we think we are different from the celebrated 1-5% of women photoshopped and polished within an inch of their lives in mainstream media. Write them down. Thank them for their attempts to keep you safe (they are messages from your fear mind, your lizard brain, the one whose only job is to keep you safe and in the middle of the herd). If you ignore the words they bury themselves deeper. If you pull them out and look at them and ask yourself honestly if you would say these words to the 10 year old version of yourself? If not then why is it appropriate to use them against yourself now? Can I suggest that you take those words that no longer serve you and you write them on individual pieces of paper and toss them into a fire. Or burn them on a candle. Or like the women in the treasures shoot you can take an eyeliner pencil and write them on your body and then draw yourself a beautiful loving bath and with love wipe them off your body.
But here is the most important part. This is what gives you the most power. Choose new words. Words have more power than we know. Choose words that power you up. I have personally replaced “Fat” with “Luscious” as I know how incredibly luscious and sensual my body is. Am I still classified as “Overweight” or even “Obese” yep…but those are words that have been designed to hurt and maime and power us down. I choose words that honour and support me instead. It is all about point of view. And again I am all about viewing my body as a treasure so how about a luscious treasure? So pick words to replace the ones that you have removed. Paint them on your body. Heck sprinkle them with glitter. Sit with them. Photograph them. Put them on a vision board or just print them and stick them on your mirror. The most important thing is to replace the trash with treasures. And then just simply become curious. What does your body want and need to feel vibrant and energetic? What sucks energy from you…what fills you up? Do more of those energy filling things. Get your power back. Then you will eventually reach a point where you are overflowing and you can give freely to others. See…everyone wins. It starts with gettting free. So here is the big question…How free are you now from your own oppression? What mind worms need to be set free?