Monday, December 13, 2010

The Femininity Experiment

Since I value honesty and openness, especially in the pro blog and yoga worlds where we are under a constant barrage of pressure to be exceptional, I have a confession to make: Often, I don't feel comfortable in my biologically female body and recently I've been feeling less and less connected to the feminine divine and even more resentful of this somewhat broken vessel than usual. To not be totally accepting of myself in all my fertility goddess glory makes me feel like a fraud. What am I doing with this blog? Wasn't my original goal to try to inspire other women to accept their curves and fight the sinewy yoga body ideal? Yoga and acceptance for all, right?

Somewhere I lost my way.

Every day over the past few months, I've looked in the mirror hating what I see, not seeing my soft fullness, cellulite and scars for what they've brought me through, but only sending bile back at myself for not being a feather-weight yoga guru. Let me tell you, self-hate is no way to inspire yourself to go to the gym or have a daily yoga practice. No. If you're anything like me, you'll just carbo-load your emotions, go back to bed and completely neglect all the little rituals that make you feel better. I didn't even realize my self-image had gotten so bad, since most American women share this angst to some degree, until I befriended two women who don't buy in to that bullshit. They actual dig their bodies. I can honestly say that they might be the first American women I've ever met who don't in some way hate their corporeal forms. They are not super models. They are just normal women who don't waste time with self-hate.

Meeting them put a rather harsh mirror up to my face.

But not the way you (I) might expect. For the first time it dawned on me how much of my life is spent on comparing myself to other women and constantly tearing myself down. It's a thought-pattern that's hard to avoid. Women in our culture are trained from a young age to hate each other and view each other as competition, in dating, fitness, employment and even among female family members. It's passed from mother to daughter, both in warnings of other women and cruel, damaging behavior to each other. But when every woman you meet is playing that same game, it becomes a matter of course, of survival. The rules of The Game require harsh self-judgment to ensure you'll be better than all other women in this twisted beauty pageant of life.

But what happens when you meet a lady who doesn't play The Game?

At the first, my own nastiness and pettiness was starkly highlighted for me, as was my lack of self-confidence. Without cause to turn the magnifying glass on them, I turned the magnifying glass on myself, trying to pick out exactly how I had become a nasty, petty, self-loathing creature, which, naturally, only leads to more self-loathing. Doesn't that sound like a party? When you're the only one in the room wasting all of that time and energy on a ridiculous game of Mean Girls, the utter futility of it all becomes really clear with the resounding question:

Why the fuck would anyone do this to herself or others?

Is it fun? Does it help anyone? Does it make the world a kinder place? Does it line up with yoga or Buddhism, the soul of my soul? I think you know the answer. So, today I'm starting over.

I vow to be kind to myself.
I vow to stand up for myself.
I vow to extend grace to myself and others in order to cause no harm.
I vow to stop consuming media that tells women we are worthless.
I vow to be vocal against the casual misogyny that fuels The Game.
I vow to never engage in The Game ever again.
I vow to spend time on myself and stop being a people-pleaser.
I vow to not be afraid of being hyper-aware of my body through Asana.
I vow to honor the Feminine Divine daily.
I vow to start giving myself twice-monthly pedicures, again.

No matter your gender identity, will you join me in these vows?
(Okay, maybe not the pedicures, but [insert your own ritual that makes you feel radiant here].)



  1. Awesome post. Raw and true. Not going to lie, I have some friends that are (were) having trouble finding themselves and balance with their friends. Perhaps they were not selfish enough? ..or, selfish in the wrong way?

    Take care,

  2. Torbjorn, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I think that "selfish" has become a dirty word, but there is a certain amount of self-regard necessary to be fully baked human, and that isn't giving enough credence. I hope you and your friends all get to the point of self-love and self-acceptance.

    All the best,

  3. I read this shortly after reading an essay by a MTF transgender woman talking about the advertising industry. When she was a man, whether she identified that way or not, there were ads and social messages everywhere boosting her ego. When she became a woman, the ads all started telling her she was ugly and just not good enough.

    I have also been vegitating lately. You are right, self hate is not the motivator it seems like it would be.

  4. Uh, a bit from a male perspective. If you look, really look, at ads and such aimed at men they rarely are ego boosters. Just like ads aimed at women, men are shown that they have to be solid blocks of muscles (or be the scrawny, girl pants wearing rocker dude), have to have nice cars, and have to have a lot of extra cash or girls won't like them. And most men are raised by their fathers and their peer group to value promiscuity with women above all things. If you're not having sex at least half the nights out of every week then you're a loser/fag/pussy/whatever. And women enforce these values willingly. Today I had a girl straight up say to me 'I'm not ugly, so a guy who wants to be with me should take care of me (financially speaking) and buy me things.'
    This isn't directed at you Grace or your blog, I'm just so tired of being told over and over that because I'm a white male I have no idea what it feels like to be persecuted or made to feel negatively about myself because of media and this shit culture we live in, or that I'm actually made to feel better about myself through the media and popular culture, because I'm not. Everyone is told they have to be a single generic archetype of the perfect man or woman, it isn't as lopsided as women seem to believe.
    It is a shot in the dark whether we're born male or female, white or black, tall or short, fat or thin, American or European. And to assume that any of that means anything at all, holds any significance to who we are as individuals or as a collected people is bullshit. None of it means anything, it's just the start of the unique path that every one of us has to walk. I'm sick of the feminist argument. Instead of fighting for the rights of a specific group of people we should be fighting for our rights AS people.
    I've wondered for years as to why I so vehemently hate the world around me, everyone and everything I see I hate instinctively, but I've figured it out. I have such a great hope and love for humanity inside of me, we should be doing such great things and that we instead occupy our time with worthlessness and killing in the name of words on paper and lines in the sand, crushes that hope and love. Every single second of every single day the world collectively spits in my face and I will more than likely never live a normal, even remotely happy, life because though I recognize and bask in the beauty of life, I cannot take my eyes off it's ugliness.
    I'm so tired of watching people snatch at anything they can use to divide themselves from everyone else. All differences are superfluous.
    Sorry this got dropped without warning on your blog. It has been a long day, and I've always been a bit off.

  5. Joe,

    So let's start from somewhere we agree on: Everybody got problems. Regardless of this, there are good places and bad places to talk about specific problems. Largely, this is because different people have different problems.

    What I'm driving at here is that complaining that a post about a particular difficulty being female and how to work around it isn't inclusive enough is inappropriate. To draw metaphor, you've wandered into an autoshop, and thrown a fit because they don't seem to have anything there relating to the microphone you want fixed.

    You've heard the phrase "perfect is the enemy of good", I assume. Apply it here. You see, when you complain that a solution to a problem isn't the solution to *all* problems, you delegitimize that problem. That's unfair, because the problem for people still exists, and should be worked on.

    If you can manage to stop that, I promise I won't go to your blog and complain that "Woe, as a male hetero WASP my life is soooooo haaaarrrd, the travails of others aren't that bad, why aren't you worried about meeeeeee", isn't inclusive enough, asinine as it may be.

  6. The most important vow above is "to cause no harm".

  7. Anon, I absolutely agree with that and feel like the other vows are really just an extension of that most precious of precepts.

  8. Wow I read this today and I needed it today. I have been feeling very very down (for reasons I know I have talked with you about before) and this really made me think more positively about things. I'm not a size 4 anymore but I'm not that way because I have awesome little guys that are amazing and talented. Seriously I needed this thank you soo very much!


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