Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I want my body back.

It's been awhile since I've processed in this space. I have a list of blog-worthy topics, but little time for the labor and delivery necessary to produce an actual post. But after taking some time to read a bit of Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women's Experience by Ellyn Kaschak this morning, I couldn't defuse the urge to write something on the topic.

"From the masculine perspective, women are defined by their bodies. Everything about a woman is both grounded in and defined by her female body and, in particular, its sexuality, defined in masculinist society as the ability to arouse, rather than to experience, desire. The measure of woman's sexuality is man's tumescence. What about her is arousing, and even whether she intends to arouse, is also designated by the male. It may be her legs for a 'leg man,' her breasts for a 'breast man,' her resistance or her nonresistance for a rapist. His feelings become hers, his desire her desirability, his admiration her measure of worth, his disdain her degradation, his ridicule her humiliation." ~Ellyn Kashcak in Engendered Lives

I recently conducted a workshop with the CCU women's soccer team where we discussed why it's essential that women reclaim their bodies for themselves. We live in a culture that perpetuates the pervasive myth that women's bodies are primarily for men. Statistically, 1 in 3 women are sexually abused by the age of 16. For these girls, it is not just culture that strips them of a sense of ownership over their own bodies.

A few weeks ago I read a news article reflecting upon the stigma of breastfeeding babies in French culture. The article highlighted the possibility that the low rates of breastfeeding are connected to the mentality that a woman's breasts are for her husband and not for her baby. What would happen if we declared that a woman's breasts are really for HER. What if HER breasts are for her and can be a part of her own experience of pleasure and intimacy in relationship to her lover. What if we viewed breastfeeding as a source of mutual gratification - for a woman to share her own sustenance with the child she brought into this world. Breastfeeding can exemplify the beauty of attachment and the power of being able to freely offer nourishment to another human being.

Just last night I heard the story of Eman Al-Obeidy, the East Libyan woman who reported being kidnapped and gang raped by Libyan soldiers just a few weeks ago. She has since indicated that the rape was a tactic by these soldiers to convey a message to the rebels about what they will continue to do to "their" women. Currently, CNN is reporting on the 9 or 10 women whose remains have been discovered in Long Island. It seems that no country is free and clear of the continued oppression directed specifically towards women and their bodies.

I have this new theory that all women are in some way indirectly traumatized by this cultural reality. Maybe someday I'll be able to conduct research and explore this hypothesis more academically. But for now, my own pondering is all that I can leave you with. Perhaps the trauma has resulted in a numbness or the dissociation of our own desire. Maybe the trauma has been so severe that we have nearly lost the ability to imagine an Edenic experience where men and women are free to feel grounded in their own bodies, their own ability to be aroused and compelled to use their bodies to create an experience of mutually honoring pleasure.

I'm left wondering what it is about female desire, feminine beauty, that is so threatening to this world. Why has it been so violently attacked for as far back as history allows us to explore?


laurie said...

I couldn't agree more with your thoughts, questions, and general angst. It's interesting that you mentioned the breastfeeding part, because I just wrote a post on my doula blog on a similar topic: http://www.calmdoulaservices.com/home/?p=391.

The Tigerts said...

thanks. for everything. your heart, your defiance, your soulfulness, your courage.

love you. just visiting you tonight since it is too late to call you again.