Female Empowerment, self-care, Uncategorized

Yoga

“Allow that personal time to connect with yourself, to give some love to yourself, to apprectiate yourself, to give some space, time and energy to yourself. So that once you’ve given to yourself and you know what gentle loving care feels like, then you can share it with the others.” – Simon Borg-Oliver

Yoga and meditation are practices which have been interwoven with the threads of my life since I was a teenager. I would in no way describe myself as an advanced practicioner of either of the two, despite the many years they have been with me. For most of my adult life, I considered myself too busy to truly pay attention to a regular yoga & meditation practice. Despite this, the (yoga) mat and (mediation) cushion have been my reminders to come back to myself and take care of my mind and body in those moments, when I was ready to listen.

Twice in my life thus far I have come very close to what is these days known as a “burn-out”. Both times, it was through my old friends of yoga and meditation that I slowly began to heal the wounds that stress and anxiety had left in my body and mind. To this day, I still struggle with establishing a regular practice, often opting to skip my date with the mat in favor of staying an hour longer at work or lounging on the couch at home.

Especially since yoga has become this global trend which is increasingly shaped by notions of competitiveness (The world record for holding a plank pose was just set! Can you believe it?) and normative beauty standards (having the newest, “sexy” yoga bra… and goodness forbid you show up at a class with unshaven legs!), I’m struggling to stay on this path of mindful movement.

In those moments, however, when I am sitting on my mat, concentrated on nothing but my breath and the sensation of my breath in my body, I am happy to know such a tool for mindful body work. When my uterus is cramping the days before I bleed, I am grateful for the muscle memory in the interstitial muscles of my ribcage and lower abdomen, expanding as I inhale and taking some of the pain away as I exhale.

Yes, there are those who are choosing yoga as a tool for self-optimization and competition and even body shaming. But ultimately, that remains a choice. You can also choose, to look more deeply at all of the eight limbs of yoga – only one of which is asana (postures), and perhaps through this perspective find a connection to yourself. In this regard, I am thankful to the amazing Simon Borg Oliver, for his beautiful words on the yamas and niyamas.

 

If you’d like more information on yoga for self-empowerment, I recommend this article.

Advertisements
Uncategorized

On Anonymity and Authenticity

I’ve been having some interesting discussions recently on the concept that making oneself vulnerable is (equal to?) making oneself authentic.

While I believe that there is more to authenticity than being vulnerable, I do tend to agree that by shedding the walls and the masks that we put on to fit other peoples’ (as well as our own!) expectations, we come closer to being authentically US. Beyond this, I believe that a large part of our personal expression is shaped by the norms and customs of the society in which we are socialized (i.e. the culture we grew up in and the one we are exposed to on a daily basis).

That being said, menstruation is a topic seen as taboo in many cultural traditions. The physiology and physicality of bleeding is considered “unfit” to talk about, much less reveal, publicly. The slowly growing artistic movement of menstrual empowerment have shown this in an impressive way. In March of 2015, for example, Rupi Kaur’s photo depicting a woman* on her period was deleted twice from Instagram, claiming its content was inappropriate. Perhaps most famously, artist Casey Jenkins’ 28 day long performance piece “Casting Off My Womb“, in which she knitted from a cast of wool placed in her vaginal tunnel for a full menstrual period, was met with outrage and disgust by millions of viewers around the globe.

While I do believe that there is such a thing as oversharing, when it comes to menstruation, I think that bringing the daily trivialities people with periods into the light is a necessity for as long as cycle positivity has not reached the status “normal”.

It is for this reason that I have decided to step out of anonymity and add personal details to these pages. This does make me vulnerable. Yes. But it also is authentically me. And as far as I am concerned, the old feminist principle is just as valid today as it was the day it was coined:

The personal is political!

[Carol Hanisch, member of New York Radical Women and a prominent figure in the Women’s Liberation Movement]

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Queering Femininity

Red tent movements and menstruation empowerment activism often call upon a concept of (divine) femininity to reason for period positivity. This undifferentiated concept of femininity used in the attempt to empower women* who throughout much of history have been degraded and stripped of power by hetero-patriarchical structures, unfortunately carries with it a moment of exclusion. By conjuring the feminine imagery when speaking about menstruation, people who menstruate but do not consider themselves as feminine or do not identify as ‘Female/Woman’ are made invisible.

While I do believe that there is space for particular identity-politics and a need to recognize unique issues within (especially marginalized) sub-groups, I think there is a great chance in attempting to make our speech and our efforts as activists as inclusionary as possible. ‘The feminine’ and ‘the masculine’ have been recognized as aspects of human identity, regardless of gender or sex assigned at birth, by cultures and traditions ranging from Hinduism to greek mythology.

In addition to the silencing and degredation of non cis-male people, hetero-patriarchy has historically also led to the condemnation of being in touch with the inner feminine for those identifying and/or read as male. Beyond this binary, people who identify as trans*, intersex, or genderqueer similarly might experience menstruation but feel excluded by from a dialogue using this particular style of language, aimed (at least seemingly) towards cis-women. After all, there are plenty of people with a uterus that builds up and sheds its lining. A uterus, which is utterly oblivious and uncaring to the gender its ‘owner’ might be read as belonging to.

I guess this therefore is meant as a plea to foster alliances and cultivate awareness of whom we might (inadvertently) be excluding in our own efforts to fight against taboos, opression and marginalization.