Sunday, July 24, 2011

Killing Us Softly

"Jean Kilbourne takes a fresh look at how advertising traffics in distorted and destructive ideals of femininity. The film marshals a range of new print and television advertisements to lay bare a stunning pattern of damaging gender stereotypes -- images and messages that too often reinforce unrealistic, and unhealthy, perceptions of beauty, perfection, and sexuality."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Goddesses Don't Stress???

Demeter Mourning Persephone by
 Evelyn De Morgan

Around 10:30 in an otherwise awesome yoga video Katherine Budig encourages a yogini in Utkata Konasana to "Channel your inner goddess while you're there….And then again goddess pose. Goddesses don't get stressed out. They just look good all the time. Ok. So open it up. Smile. Find that space."

I’m all for grinning and finding space in my yoga practice, but the idea that goddesses don’t get stressed out is ridiculous. Not just ridiculous. Offensive. Katherine Budig is an awesome yoga teacher. I thank both her and Yoga Journal for offering free videos and podcasts. Free yoga rocks! Trivializing goddesses does not.

Millions of men and women across the planet worship and revere goddesses. From Quan Yin to the Virgin Mary, from Shakti to Persephone, goddesses continue to inspire and empower people in very real, meaningful ways. Even outside the realm of worship, storytellers, psychologists, artists, businesswomen, and parents “channel their inner goddess” to tap into the strength and creativity that goddesses embody. And while art traditionally portrays goddesses as “looking good,” these ancient archetypes aren’t meaningful because they’re beautiful or perfect. On the contrary, goddesses inspire because their stories teach us to rise above adversity, both in smiling serenity and teeth-gnashing fury.

A statue of Sekhemet
at the Brooklyn Museum
Was Demeter stressed when her daughter disappeared into the Underworld? Most likely. Was Sekhemet worried about looking good as she rampaged across ancient Egypt punishing heretics? Hell no! Goddess stories are full of heartache and triumph. They reflect the daily struggles of women on a superhuman level. When women work with these legends, they “find that space” to feel and to act uninhibited beyond the limitations that argue femininity means being perpetually polite and polished.

Without the space to stress and sweat, goddess become archaic fashion models. They look pretty and keep their cool, but fail to inspire. They exchange their stories for lipstick smiles. Fuck that.

So next time you’re dropping beads of sweat onto the mat or sobbing in savasana, embrace your inner goddess in all her furious, luminous, tragically transcendental, bi-polar glory….and keep breathing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

I Sing The Body Eccentric

Last weekend at festival I overheard a woman discussing her struggle with body image. Her complaint is a common one: feeling fat in a world that values only thinness. However, her solution struck me as brilliant. She explained that every time she walks past a mirror, she jiggles her belly. She pulls up her shirt, grabs two luscious handfuls of fat, and gives them a shake. She went on to explain that it makes her laugh, which makes her feel good, and that acknowledging her non-industry-standard body in a positive way makes her more comfortable in her skin.

Now I consider myself a curvy gal. True, I’m thinner now than I was in my immediate post-baby years. But I still have floppy tits, stretch marks, and jiggling arms. I’m making peace with that. My tits and belly both sustained my children. My arms carry heavy grocery bags and bust out some bad-ass hoop moves. So while my body may not reflect the conventional beauty standard, it’s functional. I like it. More than I have in a long time.

Like the woman at festival, I’ve found small ways to make myself comfortable with the sensual, fleshy vessel that carries me through life. I practice yoga, which makes my body stronger and more flexible. I dance. I find transcended moments in motion where mind and body are united in gestures of strength and grace. I wear revealing clothes.

There are, of course, heated debates about the politics of women’s clothing. I won’t touch on those here. However, I do hope to make a case for occasional exposing the valleys and mountains of the body to a little sunlight. In my opinion there is nothing more lovely than stripping down to short shorts and a sports bra to sprawl in the sun while my kids play in the yard. There’s nothing more sensual than hooping topless in my living room or in a swimsuit at the creek. There’s nothing more comforting than child’s pose in the nude.

Showing some skin, especially in the hot, humid Missouri summer, isn’t about sex appeal. It’s about making contact with the body as-it-is when there’s no one to impress or criticize. It’s feeling the sun, grass, breezes, and cool sheets on skin that usually hides behind clothing. The mass media bombards me with polarized body images every day. If I’m not careful to reaffirm my body and notice the beauty of women around me, it’s too easy to believe those images are both real and ideal. When I strip back my clothes and inhibitions, I strip back the layers of media-inspired misconceptions. In their absence, I find a body worthy of love.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011