In this article I reframe my understanding of feminism through the lens of Mona Chollet’s In Defence of Witches, and reflect on how my psyche as a woman today is still deeply influenced by the effects of the witch hunts in mediaeval times.Continue reading “Life Still Shaped by the Witch Hunts? by Eline Kieft”
Tag: body image
Prehistoric Feminine Icons
In this blog post I’d like to take you with me on a recent visit to the special exhibition “Arts and Prehistory”* in the Museum of Mankind (Musée de l’Homme) in Paris.**
Like the Feminine Power in London exhibition I wrote about last year, this is another ode to human imagination and creativity in connection to the mystery of life.
The exhibition features women figurines and cave paintings from dating between 26.000-34.000 years old, and I wonder how these prehistoric icons can inspire us to look at female bodies today…Continue reading “Prehistoric Feminine Icons”
Re-Anointing the Body by Eline Kieft
How ‘at one’ are you with your body, and what reasons might there be if your body-sense got separate(d) from your soul-sense?
This piece starts with the difference between feminine and masculine spirituality, and introduces a few reasons why living in a physical body isn’t always easy.
It then invites a shift to the beloved body and how we can start to re-instate our body as a sacred place and love it from within.Continue reading “Re-Anointing the Body by Eline Kieft”
Scars Of The Body by Mary Gelfand
Despite the distances involved, throughout my adulthood, I regularly visited my parents. As their home was small, I often found myself seated at the kitchen table with my mother while my father watched TV in the adjacent living room. During those visits, it was not unusual for my mother to come and stand behind me and begin working her fingers into my thick dark hair.
I knew why she did this—she was looking for my scars, hidden under the abundance of my hair but still visible to those with patience. Two scars are hidden by my hair. When I was three, I received a glancing blow from a horse’s hoof which cut my scalp causing it to bleed profusely. When I was six, I fell out of a tree in our back yard and cut my scalp again. Maternal fingers remembered where those scars should be, and Mom would weave her fingers through my hair until she found each scar. Then she would lovingly stroke each spot several times and return to her seat. Even at the time it seemed like she was offering a blessings to my wounds.Continue reading “Scars Of The Body by Mary Gelfand”
Help, My Daughter Got a Bunch of Princess Stuff for Christmas! by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir
Every year, I see multiple pleas from concerned mothers (rarely fathers, because (straight) fathers rarely take on emotional labor of child rearing) wondering what to do about the pile of pink plastic that just came into their home. It’s such a scary pile. It whispers, “come here, little girl… let go of your individuality, your power, your freedom. Join me in the glamour and popularity of gendered subordinate dehumanized servitude… everybody’s doing it… first one’s free….” Mothers (well, the ones who pay attention) look at that pile and see a desolate road ahead of princess girls who grow into teens that think they need to look like pornified sex kittens, who grow into young adults that think it’s ok for men to treat them like sex objects, and on into a bleak dystopian future of internalized misogyny.
I can’t promise that I’ve come up with a magic formula to prevent all that. After all, our girls are met with a barrage, a deluge, of toxic messages luring them down that path in every movie, TV show, magazine, billboard, and media around them. Even female meteorologists can’t just wear suits or have short hair or look plump. And none of my strategies will work if family members are modeling that females should try to please the “male gaze.” So I am not offering a magic bullet. All the same, here is how I handled the Pink Plastic Menace – as usual, a joint effort with my sister Tallessyn Grenfell-Lee.
Continue reading “Help, My Daughter Got a Bunch of Princess Stuff for Christmas! by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”
In Memoriam: Katelyn Nicole Davis by Stephanie Arel
On December 30, 2016, Katelyn Nicole Davis, a 12-year-old girl from Cedartown, Georgia filmed her suicide by hanging from a tree in her front yard. Recorded live, the video has gone viral. Alarmingly, a young girl’s succumbing to death logged on the Internet clamors recognition of an existence she felt helpless to bear alone. Reported in her blog, abuse and sexual assault tainted her young existence. As a result, her perception of her own isolation, her articulated sense of worthlessness, and her shame motivated a trajectory toward death, demonstrating what is at stake when these crimes go unrecognized.
Much effort has been made to remove Katelyn’s suicide video from on-line circulation, but the electronic footprint she left on cyber-world proves nearly impossible to erase. The recording corroborates experiences detailed in her hauntingly designated blog “Diary of a Broken Doll.” Suggesting the core of how she understood her place in the world, the chilling description of her self as a broken body employed as a toy echoes a life framed by abuse and sexual assault.
Hoping for connection and healing, Katelyn reached out for and found witnesses, but they failed to attend to her wounds. The platform on which she chose to make human bonds established an inviolable boundary where Katelyn became an identifiable sufferer who could not be saved. The result was a plunge into shame that left a child unable to find value in her life or in herself. The shame, initiated by abuse, perpetuated itself and led to her death. Continue reading “In Memoriam: Katelyn Nicole Davis by Stephanie Arel”
“You Look Trim” and Resisting the Tyranny of Thinness by Xochitl Alvizo
I caught myself reinforcing the norm. The ever present default of focusing on women’s body size and prioritizing their weight gain and loss. I did this with a colleague/friend of mine. After not seeing one another for most of the summer, my first comment to her was about her thinning waistline.
We greeted each other excitedly as we discovered the unexpected surprise that we were both attending the same pre-semester training. But following our warm greeting, and just as we went to sit down with our lunch, I commented to her that she looked more trim. She responded, “That’s the best compliment anyone could have given me – thank you!”
My heart sank a little as I realized what I had done. The first time I see her in months, of all that she is and all the amazing qualities she has, my attention and commentary went to her waistline – to paying attention to the size of her body. I felt such disappointment in myself. And in that moment it also hit me that I wasn’t only doing this with her, I had recently been doing this with myself as well. Continue reading ““You Look Trim” and Resisting the Tyranny of Thinness by Xochitl Alvizo”
Body Sovereignty: Tracing the Relationship Between Feminism & Fat by Sydney Bell
Acknowledging and responding to feminine divine energy is an inherently radical, feminist act. With age my feminism and spiritual path have become inexorably intertwined and I have become more comfortable and confident in my identity as a daughter of the goddess, a priestess, and as a feminist. My feminism is continually being shaped by a call to serve the goddess in a variety of ways, particularly in response to an activating third element in my feminist goddess path (no surprise for fellow triad lovers who practice a Celtic spiritual path). This third activating element is my relationship with my body and my work to reclaim Body Sovereignty.
As with many readers of this site, mine is not an uncommon journey. I’ve heard the stories of women whose feminism and/or goddess path has either sparked or been sparked by their desire to have a positive relationship with their body and break free from oppressive cultural body norms. I believe many feminists realize societal expectations of beauty are restrictive and contain a harmful element of required thinness. Yet even among feminists there seems to be a reluctance to engage in a collective response to weight stigma and the oppression and injustice faced by fat people. This is perplexing considering the available data demonstrating inequities in areas like educational attainment, employment, income, and access to healthcare due to body size (see list of data sources below).
When trying to understand this strained relationship between feminism and weight stigma I’ve found it helpful to look at the historical relationship between the two. A great resource is Amy Farrell’s book Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture. Farrell takes us to the early years of the feminist movement and suggests that the politics of fatness or body size was not explored by the first feminists. Interestingly, as the fight for women’s right to vote raged in the early 19th century, Farrell points out that the attack used by both the suffragettes and those working against women’s right to vote was to publish political cartoons with unflattering ‘fat’ images representing their respective opponents. It wasn’t until the second wave of feminism in the 60’s and 70’s when Susie Orbach’s ground-breaking work Fat is a Feminist Issue opened up the discussion of body size through a gendered lens and set the tone for early feminist thinking about body size. Continue reading “Body Sovereignty: Tracing the Relationship Between Feminism & Fat by Sydney Bell”
Cleaning My “House” by Sara Frykenberg
Prompted by a dear friend of mine during the new moon, last month I set an intention to “clean my house.” This intention does, to a degree, involve the actual “house,” aka, apartment in which I live. Great—fantastic even, and no problem at all! I actually love to clean, particularly cleaning out closets, garages, cupboard or really, any space where junk can be hidden away, brought into the open, sorted and organized. I’m really not joking. I tell people this, and they laugh and say, “oh, I should have you come clean at my house.” Seriously—do. I am still waiting for several invitations.
But meditatively speaking and in dreams, one’s “house,” is often one’s self and one’s physical body in particular. This work has been a bit more challenging to me. As I shared in my January post, I have been working this year to “create a healthier relationship to food in at least one way,” which also involves creating a healthier relationship with my body altogether, physical, spiritual, mental and emotional.
One reason I began to practice yoga and meditation was so that I could learn to better care for my body. Feminism teaches me to reclaim embodiment and value physical bodies more, and yoga teaches me to incorporate what I learn in a highly physical way. In yoga, I also found a safer place to access what I consider sacred and divine by approaching it primarily in my body while my mind and emotions unlearned an abusive relationship to God. I have even searched my “house” once before through active meditation and visualization. It was extremely powerful. I fixed broken locks. I gave people back items I didn’t even know I had been storing for them. I also realized that I was not ready to open some doors. The process was fun and very rewarding, involving almost two hours of seated meditation.
Yet, I have also struggled to maintain this practice. I felt very disconnected from myself before the new moon last month and hadn’t wanted to meditate. I wanted a vacation from embodiment and myself. Embodiment, after all, often demands that we actually hear what our bodies are trying to tell us. Honestly, I don’t always want to listen. When I have too much work to do, I don’t want to know that I am tired. When I am anxious, I would rather feel in control. I knew, however, cognitively, that “cleaning my house,” would be good for me so I made myself set the intention. I pushed myself to carve out moments in passing during the day to focus my mind and tell me what I wanted to do. I then proceeded to have four powerful dreams in the week following this intention-setting, all related to my “house.” In the final dream, I spoke to me, literally. I faced myself and said very assertively, “You need to work with what you have.” Continue reading “Cleaning My “House” by Sara Frykenberg”
Girls Gone Gray by Erin Lane
My hair started “going gray” at nineteen. Prophetic, you could say, for a college girl whose life was going the same way.
The gray hair began around my temples, curling around my ears like a vine before following my hairline to the forehead and down the spine of my scalp. I remember calling my mother and telling her between tales of new classes and new boys of my new whiskers. “Oh, and mom, you will not believe it. I found a gray hair. What is that?”
Her laugh vibrated though the phone. “That is normal. I went gray at 19. Your father went gray at 19. Your brother has it coming in, too, nowadays.” She added, “Sorry.” But she didn’t sound it. Continue reading “Girls Gone Gray by Erin Lane”
If I Had Breasts by Erin Lane
A friend recently sent me the following excerpt from the Los Angeles Times’ obituary for author and screenwriter Nora Ephron who died this week: In a 1972 essay called “A Few Words About Breasts,” Ephron wrote, “If I had them, I would have been a completely different person.”
I am quick to champion the underdogs of the beauty world: freckles (clumped together they make you look tan), thin hair (it takes half the time to dry), and small breasts included (you can wear deep v-necks without looking vulgar). My optimism no doubt comes from the fact that each of these attributes can be found on my own body. Make the best of what you’ve got, right? Continue reading “If I Had Breasts by Erin Lane”
My Body Tells A Story: Embracing my Scars and Imperfections By Michele Stopera Freyhauf
As we approach New Years Eve, there is an emphasis on losing weight, getting in shape, etc. in the coming Year. We make resolutions to better ourselves and reflect on the year that passed us by. With the impending New Year, there is also a realization that we become a year older, which for some means more grey hair, wrinkles, or other marks that appear on our body. It is safe to say that we live in a world that is obsessed with body image and the search to find the fountain of youth. In fact, TV is plagued with reality shows that perpetuate this obsession. Keeping up with the Kardashians displays such a problem. People who watch this show watch Kris Jenner’s facelift to her struggle with body image despite the fact that she gave birth to six healthy children and is 56 years young. There are also shows that show people obsessed, even addicted to plastic surgery – they are trying to attain perfection, attempting to reverse the aging process, and remove the scars of their lives. Continue reading “My Body Tells A Story: Embracing my Scars and Imperfections By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”
My Body Image: Between Perception and Incarnation By Cynthia Garrity-Bond
No matter what shape or size, the words “body image” conjure-up pictures of the self that are like looking into those funny mirrors which distort and expand the body. With few moments of relative slimness in my life, I have struggled with a poor self-image. It started when I was a child, who while deeply wanted, was not the hoped for frail and delicate daughter my parents had imagined. My mother, all 5’ 100 lbs was forever reminding me that I took after my father’s Swedish side of the family, more akin to “peasant stock,” you know, those larger boned women who could birth a baby one day and return to the fields the next—you get the picture. This is the image I came to accept of my own body, which was far from the wispy, delicate girl I longed to be.
And then my baptism into feminism, with all its corrections of the androcentric world to which I belonged. Of the many hopes within feminism, it was the release from my own body image that I longed for. I wanted to feel at home and at one with what I was, not what I hoped to be. Truth be known, it has never happened.
A few years back in my Medieval Theology course we were examining the Catholic doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body through such thinkers as Irenaeus, Aquinas and Bonaventure. In what my instructor thought was an affirmation of the body, she interpreted the doctrine to mean that after death we will take on our bodies as they were in life, meaning, we would look pretty much the same as we did while tromping around on earth. In contemplating her words I sought clarification. “So” I asked, “the body I have now will be the body I carry with me throughout eternity?” “Well, yes” my slight and thin professor responded. Letting her words sink in for a moment I finally responded with a resounding, WTF!” I don’t want this body to haunt me in the next life, I want Ashley Judd’s, or Jennifer Aniston’s, hell, I’ll even consider an anonymous model from the LL Bean catalog, but not THIS body!” Continue reading “My Body Image: Between Perception and Incarnation By Cynthia Garrity-Bond”