The hardest thing is to be yourself. To just be as really hurt and vulnerable and small and helpless as you really truly are — while at the same time knowing that you did your best — that every mistake you’ve made — every failure, disappointment — every heart you’ve broken — every time you let yourself down again and again and again — is all part of some amazingly delicate and intricate and unique mosaic that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the entire universe other than where you stand. It’s almost impossibly hard to be that person — to manage the exquisite pain and radiance of all that — to contain all that in one human body. It’s almost unbearable.
— Denise Yanez
“Women lose their lives not knowing they can do something different…I claimed myself and remade my life. Only when I knew I belonged to myself completely did I become capable of giving myself to another, of finding joy in desire, pleasure in our love, power in this body no one else owns.”
― Dorothy Allison
“By writing her self, woman will return to the body…Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time.
Write your self. Your body must be heard. Only then will the immense resources of the unconscious spring forth.”
— Hélène Cixous (The Laugh of the Medusa)
Our civilization has put us at odds with our bodies and therefore with the earth itself. We have anesthetized ourselves. We are slumbering through our lives because we can’t live at peace with the world of instincts and emotions. We close the doors of perception. We lose touch with our bodies. That’s how we lose the relationship with the earth, since our bodies are a living, breathing part of the planet.
I’ve spent a lot of time painting from the body, which I was surprised to learn was feeling condemned to a life of punishing restraints and claustrophobic controls. Free physical movement was a release from strictures I didn’t know I had. It took practice to organize a painting into something readable but there is joy to be found in letting the body speak its native language. It enjoys communication through movement.
Our culture has few outlets for kinetic joy. Our sports are strategic, martial, focused on winning, not joy. It is left to the arts, dance especially, to present the possibilities for beauty and pleasure that live in physical movement. That dancing spirit came into painting via abstract expressionism in the 1950’s. Yes, it’s most definitely therapeutic, but it’s also a visual language with soul in it. I developed a loving respect for that kind of art, although I never lost interest in other styles and modes of artistic expression.
Our culture looks askance at cultures that don’t have a Christianity influenced body shame. The Puritans pushed fear of the body into a full blown cultural neurosis. It has become impossible to escape it even if you rebel against it, if you were born into it. Going to the opposite extreme isn’t freedom, by the way, because it’s more rebellion than joy. We can’t so easily remove our fetters. Our culture is deeply implanted in us through fear and condemnation of joy in our bodies and the physical world, and it’s mostly invisible.
We’re shocked by cultures that don’t have the same repression of the physical that we have. I want to point out that having a culture of suppression of bodily intelligence has put us in the same kind of relationship with the earth itself. We attack the earth in the same spirit we attack our own bodies. We have desacralized the planet we live on, starting with our own bodies.
I doubt this system was invented by feminine consciousness, and further, I would imagine that it’s very hard for women to live within such a system. It contradicts their natural connection to themselves and how they function. The only way this culture can assure compliance is through fear and repression.
Convincing a woman that something basic is wrong with her instills the paternalistic control function in her mind. Once that is done, all you have to do is remind her how inferior and defective she is once a day and she’s your slave. She has lost her power because she no longer affirms her natural wisdom.
Correcting this travesty won’t be quick and easy, but it has started. Let it continue. The fate of the world is involved.