Learning to Love Ourselves

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by ariela

I believe that loving your own body is one of the hardest things for a woman to do. Granted, it might be easier for some women and harder for others, but overall I get the feeling we women simply struggle with loving themselves and embracing their bodies.

Why?

There are many reasons, and depending on the culture you grew up in might affect how you view yourself. A conservative, nondenominational, homeschooling, and patriarch-supporting family like mine? I grew up being told that my body was a stumbling block for men and therefore I needed to cover it up. Skirts had to be below the knee and all shirts had to pass the “tummy test”. If you aren’t familiar with this degrading dressing room ritual, it’s where you do various things such as bending over to make sure the shirt doesn’t pull up to reveal your back/butt, and raising your hands as high as you can to make sure no stomach is revealed at all. Once I turned 11, shorts were pretty much a no-no, because puberty was coming. I’m in my early 20s and it’s been almost 11 years since I last wore a pair of shorts.

Because of all the shaming, I have believed for many, many years that my body was a lean, mean, seducing machine. Unless I covered up, men would stalk me, just waiting for a glimpse of sinful flesh that would instantly make them rape me.

It’s dangerous. And to top it off, I’ve always been slightly overweight, so there has been the added pressure of losing weight to have a “body that pleases the Lord”. Because, you know, Jesus ONLY loves women who wear size 0.

Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too curvy, too straight. Your boobs are too big, your boobs are too small. I’ve heard it all.

Is it any wonder we struggle with loving ourselves?

I almost feel like a parrot, because this subject has been written about so many times. But maybe if we keep talking about it, things will begin to change.

Things have already begun to change for me. A few days ago I had my hair cut into a bob, which I’ve always wanted. My grandma is completely ignoring it and my dad can’t bring himself to say he approves.

But I realized that I don’t care anymore. It’s my body, it’s my hair.

I tried on a new shirt a couple of weeks ago and looked in the mirror. The shirt really looked good on me so I told myself something; I spoke out loud and said “Damn, woman, you look sexy.”

Do you know what happened? No, men didn’t come leaping out of the crevices to attack me. The world did not explode. The Lord is still on His throne.

But I felt a surge of confidence come over me.

It’s my body. Why shouldn’t I love the curves that form me? It’s me, after all.

Do yourself a favor, dear. Look in the mirror and even if you don’t believe it, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself how sexy you look. I can’t see you but if I know I would agree with you.

Haven’t brushed your hair in two days and still in those ratty sweatpants? Love yourself anyway.

Just dropped a couple pounds and wearing a new dress? Love yourself anyway.

Overweight, with bags under your bloodshot eyes and a stained tee shirt? Love yourself anyway.

Get picked on at school for wearing that outfit because you have a tiny build and need to gain a couple of pounds? Love yourself anyway.

As I learn to love my own body more, I hope to keep writing on the subject. Meanwhile, keep telling yourself encouraging things. What do you want to hear someone say about you? Why don’t you say it to yourself?

“Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?”

— Maya Angelou

“The Period Poem” by Dominique Christina

“The Period Poem” by Dominique Christina

Transcript:

So let me be very clear. I wrote this poem with a very specific intent. I have a 13 year old daughter. It is important to me that I throw every part of my experience, whatever wisdom I’ve gleaned from that, every part of my backbone, toward her, to sustain her, to offer her language that lifts her up and keeps her up.

That said, there is for me, a necessary conversation that seeks to undermine the shaming that happens to some girls around menstruation. I had that experience of starting my period in 7th grade, boys, finding out that I had started my period. And then it was some shit, like I’ve been to class with the frantic, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom now,” waved and they’re like, “You’re on your period, aren’t you?” You know, that dumb shit.

And so then my daughter, like she starts her period and she’s stricken and walks out the bathroom looking like she’s died or something, and I wanted to undermine that. So I threw her a period party, my home is red up, dressed in red, and there was red food and red drinks. It was great.

[Applause]

It was great. So all red, everything. I loved it. So, that’s what it was and it was wonderful. And then, when I was in Austin, Texas for Women of the World this year, she sent me a screenshot of a tweet and in 140 characters, this dummy, damn their, undermined my legacy. This is my response to the aforementioned today. You’re welcome.

The dude on Twitter says: “I was having sex with my girlfriend when she started her period, I dumped that bitch immediately.”

Dear nameless dummy on Twitter: You’re the reason my daughter cried funeral tears when she started her period. The sudden grief all young girls feel after the matriculation from childhood, and the induction into a reality that they don’t have to negotiate, you and your disdain for what a woman’s body can do. Herein begins an anatomy lesson infused with feminist politics because I hate you.

There is a thing called the uterus. It sheds itself every 28 days or so, or in my case every 23 days, I’ve always been a rule breaker. That’s the anatomy part of it, I digress.

The feminist politic part, is that women know how to let things go, how to let a dying thing leave the body, how to become new, how to regenerate, how to wax and wane, not unlike the moon and tides, both of which influence how you behave, I digress. [laughter]

Women have vaginas that can speak to each other and by this I mean, when we’re with our friends, our sisters, our mothers, our menstrual cycles will actually sync the fuck up. My own cervix is mad influential, everybody I love knows how to bleed with me. Hold on to that, there’s a metaphor in it. [applause]

Hold on to that. But when your mother carried you, the ocean in her belly is what made you buoyant, made you possible. You had it under your tongue when you burst through her skin, wet and panting from the heat of her body, the body whose machinery you now mock on social media, that body, wrapped you in everything that was miraculous about, and then sung you lullabies laced in platelets, without which you wouldn’t have no Twitter account at all motherfucker. I digress.

See, it’s possible that we know the world better because of the blood that visits some of us. It interrupts our favorite white skirts, and shows up at dinner parties unannounced, blood will do that, period. It will come when you are not prepared for it; blood does that, period. Blood is the biggest siren, and we understand that blood misbehaves, it does not wait for a hand signal, or a welcome sign above the door. And when you deal in blood over and over again like we do, when it keeps returning to you, well, that makes you a warrior.

And while all good generals know not to discuss battle plans with the enemy, let me say this to you, dummy on Twitter, If there’s any balance in the universe at all, you’re going to be blessed with daughters. Blessed.

Etymologically, bless means to make bleed. See, now it’s a lesson in linguistics. In other words, blood speaks, that’s the message, stay with me. See, your daughters will teach you what all men must one day come to know, that women, made of moonlight magic and macabre, will make you know the blood. We’re going to get it all over the sheets and car seats, we’re going to do that. We’re going to introduce you to our insides, period and if you are as unprepared as we sometimes are, it will get all over you and leave a forever stain.

So to my daughter: Should any fool mishandle that wild geography of your body, how it rides a red running current like any good wolf or witch, well then just bleed, boo. Get that blood a biblical name, something of stone and mortar. Name it after Eve’s first rebellion in that garden, name it after the last little girl to have her genitals mutilated in Kinshasa, that was this morning. Give it as many syllables as there are unreported rape cases.

Name the blood something holy, something mighty, something unlanguageable, something in hieroglyphs, something that sounds like the end of the world. Name it for the war between your legs, and for the women who will not be nameless here. Just bleed anyhow, spill your impossible scripture all over the good furniture. Bleed, and bleed, and bleed on everything he loves, period.

Sky’s thoughts:

To be honest, I just got done watching this for the first time, and I’m a mess.

I never really realized how much shame I feel about my cycle, how I feel embarrassed when I ask for someone to grab me a pad or when I bleed on my favorite pair of shorts. But it’s real and it is there.

And it makes me angry.

How dare we be thought of as the inferior sex when we bleed every month for days at a time? I swear, that’s hardcore. Most times when people bleed for seven days straight, they die. We don’t.

There’s something in that, I think. We don’t die. We continue to live. Women know how to rise and rise again. We should be down, but we. are. not. We are resilient.

A while ago, after watching the first season of Teen Wolf, I commented to myself that women are like werewolves. Every month we turn into a monster and act in unnatural ways. I said it negatively, feeling shame over my cycle, but now this video has flipped that idea on its head. We do not turn into monsters. We turn into wolves. Wild, strong, and brave.

My favorite line of her video is this: “And when you deal in blood over and over again like we do, when it keeps returning to you, well, that makes you a warrior.” 

I’ve always wanted to be a warrior, brave and strong. But every month, now I can be reminded: I am. You are, too. Remember it. Claim it and drive your stake into the ground. Mark your territory and roar as loud as you can. Be a lioness. Make up your own battle cry.

And sometimes, bleeding means being vulnerable. Asking for help, appreciating feminine things, crying, and not being unbreakable 100% of the time is absolutely okay, as much as the world may tell us they are not. Doing these things does not make you less of a woman. Nothing should.

You are whole. You are not broken, you are not a screw-up, you are not a burden, you are not less: you are a woman, and I am proud of you, I am proud of us. The world can tell us there is something wrong in the way we were born, because of the fact that we don’t have a penis. Frankly, that is bullshit. You are enough, and there is NO SHAME in who you are. Accept and be proud of the fact that you have a vagina, you have curves, you have a period, you have hormones; you are a woman. Be proud of yourself. Don’t be afraid to bleed, whatever that looks like for you.

And if you are afraid to bleed, that’s okay. We’re here right alongside you.

(P.S. – As Ariela said, our periods are bloody beautiful. See what she did there?)

Breaking the Rules

by ariela

Growing up, I was never much of a rule-breaker. This is changing, and I am realizing that it can be a good thing. Because fundamentalism has a way of taking lies and power plays and turning them into rules. Rules that press into your soul and hold you back from finding who you really are.

I am breaking the rule that says I am “only” a woman. Breaking this rule felt like jumping off a cliff; it gives me new life and expands the possibilities of my world.

I am breaking the rule that says I must conform to my parent’s dreams for me. Breaking this rule feels like running through a heavy downpour of rain; I cannot be stopped despite the oppression pouring down around me.

I am breaking the rule that says my words must be perfect. Breaking this rule feels like a burst of energy in the middle of a marathon; my words do have power and meaning even if they aren’t exactly perfect.

I am breaking the rule that says my art must be like everyone else. Breaking this rule feels like dancing to a new beat; who cares where my paint goes as long as it expresses my soul?

I am breaking the rule that says I am worthless. Breaking this rule feels like stepping into the light; I don’t need to be afraid for people to compliment me and my work.

I am breaking the rule that says everyone must agree with my writing. Breaking this rule feels like a breath of fresh air; I can write what I want and don’t have to worry that everyone will approve or not.

Tell me, darlings. What rules have you broken or do you need to break? How can we help you break free?

This post was inspired in part by a writing prompt from the writing community Story Sessions, which Ariela is a member of. Please consider checking it out and joining the story?

Welcome to Radical Notion

Our first post wasn’t so much of an introduction as it was a post put up to have something on the blog. Now is when the actual introduction begins.

We’re Sky and Ariela, two friends who have known each other for many years. A couple of months ago, we discovered we were both feminists, and we’ve both been wanting to start a project for a very long time. Earlier this week, everything came to the point where we just decided to get it together and do something. And here you have this blog.

About Sky

I’m Sky, an aspiring writer and almost-high-school graduate who is currently living in the beautiful state of Colorado, which I adore. I grew up in a Christian home and now consider myself a Christian feminist, Jesus follower, and, if you want to combine the two, a Jesus Feminist. I’m 50% sarcastic, 45% sweet, and 5% evil. (…Jokingly evil, of course … I think.) I love life and daydreaming, but the frustration and anger I feel about social justice issues is often quietly brewing in the background. I used to think Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetI was an optimist, but my family could tell you otherwise. I’ve learned to embrace my grumpy, sarcastic side, but I also am a dreamer at heart.

I was an accidental feminist for most of my life before I even knew what it was. In my brief stint with patriocentric Christianity, feminism was considered a dirty word. Without the brief brush I had with legalism, where I wore skirts only for a period of time, I wouldn’t have seen the flaws in how women are treated today in culture, especially evangelicalism. Now, much like I embraced my grumpy side, I’ve learned to embrace the word feminist. I believe so much in women, and I don’t want us to feel inferior or pushed down anymore.

One of my greatest passions is fiction. I love to consume it, especially TV shows. I’m a Marvel fanatic, and I identify with Tony Stark and cry over Bucky Barnes daily. In addition, I also write fiction, and have quite a few novels in progress. I’m working on establishing myself in the writing world and would love to work in it full-time someday. The dream is to eventually get published.

When I’m not writing or working on blog stuff, I love to chat my friends and play the board game “Smart Ass.” Currently I’m also blazing through the TV show Lost on Netflix (season 4, my friends. It’s gettin’ real). I’m also a coffee addict and Nick Miller from the show New Girl is my spirit animal and pretty much soulmate. (Well, in addition to my one true love Bucky Barnes.)

About Ariela

I’m Ariela, which is Hebrew for “Lioness of God”. Absolutely fitting, if I do say so myself. I’m a 20-something writer, poet, and rebel. I’m also, obviously, a feminist. I prefer the specific term of Jesus Feminist. I grew up in a conservative Christian home under the constant pressure that radical notion possible headerbecause I was a girl, the best and really only place where I could belong was under my father’s authority as a stay at home daughter, and then eventually under my husbands authority as a stay at home wife and mother. I am refusing to believe that and in the process of removing myself from that damaging mindset. The fact that I am a woman does not make me a lesser being, and the sooner the world can come to grips with that fact, the better.

I write fiction, and poetry; both of which tend to have feminist themes that may or may not be obvious. I enjoy reading books that stretch my mind and force me to think, and so it is my goal to write books like that, while at the same time being enjoyable fiction or poems.

When not writing or fighting the urge to swear at conservatives, the patriarch, and fundamentalists, I drink copious amounts of tea and coffee, take walks and attempt yoga (the move where you lie on the floor and wish you were good at yoga is my favorite), read lots of books, bake cookies, travel, cry over Doctor Who, Sherlock, and Marvel movies, chat with my friends, and basically just be awesome.

Our Vision

The purpose of this blog is for women to share their stories and for their voices to be heard. We will address sexism in society and culture, as well as personal stories regarding sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. We want women to have a space where they can be recognized and validated, and we also hope that this can serve as an educational space to others, one blog post at a time.

We will be posting on Tuesdays and Fridays. We are also accepting submissions, so check out our guidelines. Please feel free to contact us with an idea for an article or a personal story you’d like to share. Join the discussion, as well, because we want to not just make a blog, but a community. This is our space, but it is also your space, and we want to stand here as women. Together.

Join the discussion on Facebook here and Twitter here. Our first guest post will go up on Friday. We can’t wait to meet you.