Hey babydolls! Glad to see you again through my computer screened words.
First things first: my life has been pretty taken over by the Occupy movement in my city, and it STILL feels that way, even with the intentional 3 day break I took. I’m dealing with some emotional issues there. So I’m doing things like taking care of myself a bit more.
Second things second: I’m feeling a little jaded about relationships lately. Like, eff romance and blah blah blah, everyone sucks, no one is good enough, I’m too picky, etc. etc. Feelings I abhor. My superFabulous therapist says I need to chill out on myself and examine the roots of these feelings I’m having that I don’t like. Yay, self-exploration! I’m gonna get on that because I enjoy being my usually positive, bubbly self, and people are starting to notice that I’m a little down-swung emotionally lately. Chin up! I know life is good, and there are good people in mine!
Third things third: We gonna talk about nakie bodies today! I LOVE NAKED BODIES. But my my my how our lovely society doesn’t, and my my my how I haven’t always.
That means I should probably tell you there will be some pictures n stuffs that are (stupidly) NSFW. Boo censorship. :-(
What, you ask, has brought this up? Well firstly (aw shit, here I go with lists again), I am part of a brand-spankin-new burlesque troupe! AH! We’re called the Thunder Kittens! I have wanted to do burlesque for a while now. It’s bawdy, it’s risque, it’s classy… and in MY troupe, it’s geeky, extra-sexy, strange, fetish-inspired, funny, gothic, nerdy, and/or grungy. Cuz that’s how we roll. We’re an “alternative” burlesque troupe, especially if ya put us side-by-side with classic burlesque.
OH! You want to know my stage name? Of course: I am Ginger Bangalore! *ow ow* Say it out loud. Mmm… don’t you love how it sounds?? Wow I love language. Beautiful prose and poetry begins with sounds, folks! READ OUT LOUD!
Okay so: I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but has it wanted to do ME? Har har… I know, but what I mean is– it takes some guts to get on stage and be sexy and dance and take your clothes off in a coordinated way. Let’s break that down– getting on stage (when I have not a ton of experience, and when I turn red [as in, my face, my entire body, blood-red, anytime I experience pain, laughter, or emotion OF ANY KIND]), being sexy (what the fuck is sexy? who defines sexy? oh also: I have until um… very recently, NEVER felt sexy, felt like I could be sexy, or felt like I even know what that is) and take your clothes off (um… well hello there, fairly conservative, sex-negative upbringing and internalized social beliefs!)…
Secondly, (to get back to why I’m gonna talk about naked bodies and such) I have felt for a long while that part of my Mission In Life is to encourage self-love. And a crucial part of self-love is learning to love your body, quite literally your skin and face and hair and shape and color and weight and so forth.
So yeah. On that note, let’s explore…
Let me introduce you to this idea visually:
I love this picture so much. Beyond-words love.
Plus, you NEED NEED MUTHERFUCKEN NEED to go and spend way too much time at the site Fuck Yeah Body Positive! Go. No really, go ahead, and I’ll wait til you get back. Actually, no, stay here, finish reading, then go. One thing at a time, right… you probably don’t wanna be as spastic as I am.
The first time I really fully consciously grappled with this concept was when I picked up this book from a book sale at my college:
It was, I believe, around the time that I finished being the Resident Assistant for a floor of thirty-two freshman women. And Holy Mother, did that year of being the friend/mentor/resource/policy enforcer push my ability to articulate my “love yourself” message. The short version goes:
You’re beautiful. You don’t need a boyfriend or girlfriend to be beautiful. You don’t need to hate yourself into thinness or fatness. You don’t need to live inside a mask of make-up. We’re all a little fucked up, we can work through that, or I’ll help you find a cool therapist, and in the meantime don’t forget what I said about YOU being beautiful.
“I wanna know what you see when you look in the mirror on a day you’re feeling good. I wanna know what you see in the mirror on a day a day you’re feeling bad. I wanna know the first person who ever taught you your beauty could ever be reflected on a lousy piece of glass.”
But then I picked up that book and I realized that I didn’t really think of fat people as beautiful. As even capable of being beautiful. Which is an honest statement that is really painful for me to type out. But I didn’t. Society had taught me…had BEATEN INTO ME…that fat is ugly/bad/unacceptable. My mom had always lamented her weight. While I never struggled with any eating disorders (except for one panic-ridden semester & summer during college when I got some ill-placed solace in how I could “control” my life by controlling the food I ate), what I did struggle with monumentally was with my image of myself.
Every. Woman. Does. It is rammed down our throats at every turn, what we are supposed to look like, in order to be considered beautiful. And so while I’ve always been really healthy, my curvy body was where I placed my absolute hatred after puberty struck. I developed a pretty distorted sense of being “fat” which was NOT okay. Oh my fuck what was wrong with me! But here’s the thing: I was surrounded by the message, it came at me from all sides, and especially from the mouths of my peers who were obsessed with their weight & size. So I of course started to attach my worth to my perceived level of attractiveness as compared to those around me, my friends, etcetera.
So. Much. Awfulness. Cuz I never “measured up” in the way I thought I was supposed to. I turned to diversive tactics, like wearing really low-cut & revealing shirts (cuz everyone said my breasts were great, they were/are big and round), and then I took it even further and got my nipples pierced at the ripe age of 16, so as to show off my ta-tas for, of course, aesthetic reasons. Good grief. I remember how I loved to throw that reasoning around as I flashed anyone with eyes.
Boobs are, for the record, amazing, always. See below. (And ya know what? ALSO for the record? Because I know these things are being…erm…recorded? I prefer smaller breasts. I wonder if it’s cuz of the whole “the grass is always greener” thang…or if it’s just one of those personal-preferences-thangs…)
Anyway, yay boobs!
But back to the story: I was constantly doing the comparison game, which is in NO WAY a healthy practice for any woman or girl. I see how it plays out in the life of my 16 year old sister who is drop-dead gorgeous…seriously….but has IMMENSE self-esteem issues. Constantly I ranked myself as either better or worse, in terms of EVERYTHING: hair, calves, hip shape, arm muscles, eyebrows, belly shape, on and on…
Sigh. And then in college I thought I got over my ridiculousness because I surrounded myself with really awesome people, who were just fucking awesome, and looked all kinds of ways!
Then I had to be a stand-in mom and best friend for lots of young women.
Then I got that book. And thought “Fuck. I’m not really cured.” Even though I knew that one’s worth was not hinged on their looks, even though I spouted words about cultivating inner-beauty and developing one’s self. So I spent hours with that book. Hours examining those fat naked bodies with my eyes, hours taking in every dimple, curve, bump, and roll, hours imagining those bodies doing things like masturbating, giving birth, cuddling, having sex, going shopping, dancing, taking showers, and on and on. I burned the idea into my brain; it was the only way I knew to eradicate every anti-fat message I had heard/seen/believed in my life.
I remember being so angry with myself, that I had the gall to consider myself better than such-and-such person because my BODY IS SMALLER. How insanely fucking ridiculous that is, it is absolutely horrifying that this is what takes up VAST amounts of head-space in the world: the fashion industry, the dieting industry, in the celebrity world, in eating disorders (have you ever SEEN a “thinsperation” video on youtube???) And it is STILL something I have to be intentionally conscious of: not comparing, seeing all as beautiful, but the mind can be re-structured away from the body-negative lies we’re fed most our lives.
That was step one in my recovery. To actively work on getting rid of the lies I’ve been told my entire life about what external beauty is. For a fun article on an article who mocks the absurd body poses models use, check this out: Absurd Model Poses
Step two was loving my body and getting a lot more intimate with it.
Yeah, I mean masturbation! Or at the very least, get the ol mirror out. I highly recommend it. I remember the first time I ever said to myself in my head, “My pussy is beautiful.” It was not all that long ago really, and it was SUCH a powerful moment. I’m just layin’ on my back, holding this huge mirror above me, legs spread, and there it was. In all its awesomeness, just existing there, this bastion of sexuality and simplicity and life.
Do you know how cool cunts are? You should learn to know that. They’re fabulously diverse and amazing and mysterious and beautiful.
But we’re told they’re gross and dirty and smelly. False. We’re told they’re nasty when they bleed. False. We’re even told they look weird and ugly! False! We’re told lots of lies. Here is some truth:
Cunts smell good. They also taste good, most of the time, infections-not-included. They self-regulate. They give life. They’re pretty. They’re diverse. They connect us with other women and with the universe: hello, my fellow moon-women. We, and our cunts, are amazing.
Go read Cunt, by Inga Muscio. I’ve actually decided I’m gifting it to all the awesome women in my life who I know won’t have read it for Christmas this year, which is a big deal, because I on PRINCIPLE do NOT buy Christmas gifts, EVER.
I mean, do you know about “Vaginal Rejuvenation”? In short, they chop off your labia to make them smaller. This is obviously in Western countries. They call it Female Genital Mutilation in developing nations. And then let’s talk about, just briefly, what the porn industry has done to the vagina. AND TO PUBIC HAIR! AHHH! Actually, I’ll let this FUCKING BRILLIANT article talk for me. Disappearance!
Ohhh… so, you don’t wanna read that article, eh? FINE. In short, it’s about how the changing landscape of pubic hair in our society “tells us something about womanhood, the state of love, the human and the relation of body and soul.” It’s a truly brilliant analysis of history, art, porn, the feminist movement and how it connects to the mainstream disappearance of pubic hair.
HAHA YES! OCEAN OF SEX! I LOVE that.
That brings me to my last topic for this ramble on Body Positivity. BODY HAIR. This is one of the MOST sensitive, finicky issues under the whole gamut of all things body-related. I mean holy smokes, go read that ARTICLE! Because we’re talking about waxing, shaving, depilation, tweezing, bleaching, laser removal, threading, sugaring, and so forth. Wow. I didn’t even know I knew of all those hair removal methods. And we do it to our legs, upper lips, vulva, chins, bums, eyebrows, legs, arms, bellies, toes, and so forth.
In short, lack of body hair has been strangely tied to femininity for ages. Lots of people know this is ridiculous, like hippies and feminists and queer girls. Not all. Even amongst those people groups, there is lotsa division. What to DO???
For me, it comes down to a few things: understanding the forces at play (society, culture, etc) in your decision to keep/remove your body hair; being comfortable with making others uncomfortable (and this goes both ways: there have been moments where I felt like I should explain why I shave my legs to a couple of my queer friends, and there have been moments I have felt like I had to explain why I had unshaven pits to my shiny-skinned friends).
This is a tough issue for me, personally. I remember hiding the fact that I started shaving my legs from my mom in around the 7th grade; I remember thinking her hairy legs were gross. Now? I wish I’d never started. I HATE shaving my legs; I hate even worse the re-growth. I also have the evil, very prickly kind of leg hair, and I simply cannot stand waiting to let it grow out. I hate shaving my armpits, so I quit doing it, and my extremely sensitive skin LOVED me for it. And then, just a few days ago, when I made my “burlesque” debut (not performing yet, just getting some stage time with my costume on)… I shaved my armpits. And they STILL feel naked. And I’m wondering if I can, in the arena of an “alternative” troupe, bring underarm hair into the realm of “sexy” for the public. I’d LOVE to. Am I brave enough? We’ll see.
And then there’s my blond upper lip hair, and my not so blond rogue hair on the sides of my face & chin (which has been exacerbated in recent months by the evil birth control I’m on–FAKE FUCKING HORMONES; don’t worry, I’m getting rid of it). All to say: I spend $24 getting my face threaded for special events. And I spend lots of TIME every coupla days, pluckin and tweezin. Why do I do it? WHY??
Well, to be honest, it’s mostly cuz I feel like I have to. Sometimes it’s cuz I want a smooth face. I definitely wish my hormones (thanks, parentals!) didn’t suck…they are to blame for a lot of my issues with body hair. But then I think about my friends who are of Middle Eastern and Italian backgrounds, whose facial/body hair is super dark, and it’s absolutely a cultural must for them to get it removed.
I don’t think there are easy answers. I do think I am still working to decide what my level of comfort is with the amount of time I put into grooming myself into a hairless lady, and which body hair I’m not touching. (I resolutely refuse to shave my pubic hair off, for much the same reason as my underarm hair, but even more so, it has to do with my sexuality and femininity in such a base, essential way for me).
I love this. Truth! (see below)
Here are two of my favorite sites. I encourage you to explore the world of body-positivity. It’s an amazing thing to learn to love you, all of you, ALL OF YOU!
BTW: Something massive that I haven’t even talked about, is how transgender/transexual folks deal with body positivity. Ohhh… post for later!
Both these sites have lots of nakie pictures and they’re both VERY body positive. The second is very sex positive AND body positive. Yay!
And here is an awesome article from one of my city’s sex-positive blog contributors: Do All Real Women Have Curves?
I’ll leave you with the words of Mary Schmich, from her column “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young” that appeared in the Chicago Tribune, which later rose to fame as “The Sunscreen Song.” Youtube. I know you’ve heard it.
“Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”
COMING SOON: a post on the boys and some gendered musings
Over & Out