Poetry

The Concert

I am here.

Like everyone else, I assume I am here to listen to music.

Suddenly – a shove.

You push in front of me. You and your two gangsta friends. You push yourself in front of me,                                        as if I wasn’t there.

And I don’t react.

Not outwardly. Inside – I am raging.

Time passes and with each minute, the frequency of the hompphobic and misogynist shit that leaves your mouth increases. I’m getting sick from these verbal excretions of yours. I’m gettin sick. From keeping all of this inside.

The music starts and as the rhythm enters my body, my feet begin to move as if they had a life of their own. Slowly… slowly… Slowly, I let myself drift away..with the intelligent, poetic words.

Then

Suddenly, I am shoved again. New Person. Same gender.

– Male –

He stands in front of me in blatant disregard of the space I am occupying. I just occupied. Past tense.

The space was stolen from me. And still. I am silent.

A living, breathing, feeling, dancing being.

Yet somehow made invisible. By you. But what’s much worse.

Also by me.

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Female Empowerment

Bare Necessities

I recently read an article about breast health (via Occupy Menstruation) and what influence wearing a bra has on a woman*’s breast tissue/muscles/all of that lovely physical substrate that makes up this body part.

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As a scientist, I am curious to read more scientific papers on the topic. Beyond this inquisitiveness, though, my feminist urge for equality and awareness joins the picture. Let’s face it — most of the time, a woman*’s breasts are seen as objects. To be lusted after.. desired..riddiculed..sneered at.. judged… [this list can be expanded with a plethora of experience you may have made]. So I was curious what my experience would be like if I, as a young woman with fairly large breasts, would go without wearing a bra.

{I grew up with some — very few! — hardcore feminist women around me, who never confined their breasts to a bra. Thinking back now, I remember judging them as being quite strange, when I was a little girl… it’s sad, really.}

I was interested both to discover my own experiences – how would my body feel, walking..running..riding a bicycle… As well as the reactions (if there would be any) from others. Very quickly, this self-experiment turned into almost a sociological study:

Before I delve into the details, let me just say that I, of course, had a heightened sense of awareness during this “experiment”. It would be silly to assume that this didn’t influence my perception of other people’s reactions, or that my perception was anything but subjective. Of course it was! Keeping this in mind…

I have never gotten more looks at my chest, as I did on that day.

The eyes of people, regardless of whether I read them as men* or women* kept on wandering to my chest, as if I had a nasty ketchup stain on my shirt that I was unaware of but that was provoking them to look. Not a single person said a word to me about this. But by the end of the day, I was intensely uncomfortable. And angry.

Interestingly enough, I had forgotten that I had a job interview that day. By the time I realized this, it was too late to go home and change. So I went to my job interview, acutely aware of my bra-less state. The woman who interviewed me was such a pleasant person that I completely forgot my discomfort for the duration of our conversation. This was the first time, all day, that I didn’t feel reduced to this one area of my body and actually felt like I was being treated as an sentient being.

This experience has made me wonder… why is it, that it seems outrageous for women to not wear a bra (at least in western societies)? What does it say about us, that we want a part of our body to conform to a certain shape (and location!) that often times is quite far removed from reality?

Don’t get me wrong — I love beautiful underwear! But I would also love to wear it because I feel like it and not because I feel like I don’t have a choice. Plus: my chest was not made for bras! To this day, I have not found one model that works for my anatomy. And I’m not the only one … Some studies say that up to 88% of women may have differently sized breasts – a fact that next to no bra-maker has ever bothered to pay any attention to. So we’re supposed to spend tons of money to subsequently keep pushing and squeezing us awkwardly into the place and shape designers see fit for our breasts?? On so many levels, that just seems plain wrong.

This is why I have reached a decision: I will go bra-less at least once a week; more, if I feel like it or feel courageous enough to do so. And yes, I do need courage for that. I hope that someday I won’t anymore and I realize that for some people it might come easily. For me, this is a learning process. But it is one that I am excited for. And the next time I catch someone staring at my “untamed” breasts, I hope to have the courage to confront them about it!

Menstrual Cycle

Written in Blood

It’s interesting.

The topics surrounding [feminism/femininity/menstrual cycles/women’s empowerment] have not released their hold of me since I started deeply looking into my own views and sharing in the knowledge of others. If anything, I have become more proactive in seeking knowledge and wanting to create or join a network of women who uphold and share this wisdom.
Simultaneously, my own path has begun to spiral in ways I never anticipated.
Firstly, my period stopped. I – the one who was so excited to try out sea sponges for the first time and promoting dialogue about menstruation and menstrual health amongst the women at Sadhana Forest (a beautiful, holistic reforestation community in Auroville, India) – was unable to connect with my own body because my body was behaving in ways I did not understand. How is that for strange?
I have an inkling of why this might have happened and this is connected to my own story of abuse, but that is a separate topic for another day.Needless to say, though, this was disconcerting.
I decided to use the knowledge I have been gathering to start on a path of healing myself, rather than passively mourning the loss of my period. I focused on my womb in my morning meditations. I modified my yoga routine to be all about relaxing, rather than building strength. I took long baths and generally slowed down my daily routine to listen to the signals my body was giving me.
And I masturbated (I pondered for a long time whether I should put this in my list, seeing as it would be published. But then I thought: if I censor myself, how I can I expect anybody to be honest and true when sharing with me? And how I can truthfully say that I’m seeking to be part of a movement to create a world in which our womenhood (and that includes our sexuality!) is honored and cherished rather than being belittled and beaten and shunned as taboo [need examples for the latter? How about female genital mutilation. Or implants to stop the ‘dirty and disgusting’ process of menstruation.
After a while, my period finally returned.
And now I, again, find myself facing issues that are almost ironic considering the dedication I have given to the topic of menstruation in my life.
I did finally get to try out sea sponges — and I love them!! I would recommend any women to try them at least once. To me, it’s a miraculous feeling to be so physically connected to my period every time I wash out a sponge and I was honestly giddy the first time I re-inserted it; for realizing that instead of creating a mountain of waste I had found a natural resource to connect with my body as well as the environment.
They do, however, come with a set of questions every woman has to answer for herself.
So there I was, proudly wearing my sponge for the first time. And I went to a café to write. I hadn’t thought to bring a second sponge (which is one option) and at some point, I felt like it was time to rinse the sponge I had inserted. But this would mean going into a toilet stall, removing the sponge, coming out with the bloody sponge in hand, washing it out publicly, and then re-enterning the stall to insert the sponge again. Sound terrifying, anyone? To me the thought definitely was! Although I do want to share with you a story the beautiful Ashley told me, when she first introduced me to sea sponges. …
But back to my own experience. So what did I, the wanna-be strong, empowered, fighter against menstrual taboos and all decide to do? … Nothing.
That’s right. Nothing. The thought seemed so scary to me, that in the end I stayed seated uncomfortably, denying myself the right to take care of my own needs. And after some point, I went home.
Now while this wasn’t one of my prouder moments, I share this story with you for a reason. In my own socialization, menstruation and everything that comes with it was always an elephant in the room — a topic known, but not talked about openly, much less proudly displayed, as with a bloody sponge. I am sure there are others out there, who have had the same experiences.
I want to be an active part in changing this culture of silence, because I believe it to be unhealthy and harmful in many ways. So while I may not have been able to act the way I would have liked to the last time, I hope that realizing this for myself and sharing it with you will enable me to move closer to act the way I desire the next time around. If hearing my story helps to do the same for you, that would be wonderful. In this way, my ‘failure’ holds a seed for change.
I wonder, how do all of you beautiful women out there deal with these questions? Do you openly talk about your period, and if so, is that restricted to a particular group (friends?family?partners?peers?)? Have you been in a similar situation as the one I described above? What did you do? How do you deal with washing out your sponges/ luna cups/ eco pads in shared flats or similar communal spaces?
I would love to hear from you.
Until then.
All my love.