Power to the Pubis! Accepting the fullness of feminity along with our strength!

Via on Aug 22, 2010

On Kathryn Budig, Toesox, Lululemon…and the Powerful Female Pelvis.

The recent letter written by Judith Hanson Lasater that was published in Yoga Journal has received a lot of attention. For me, it reawakened a deep dream.

It was as if a deep well containing my dream (that had been plugged up by years of not knowing how to do it) had become unplugged and emotions and passion began to fill the ocean of my being with energy for something important.

When I was a photography student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago I remember saying (without even knowing the words yet, I think…) that I wanted to make images of physically strong and powerful women. Now I find myself in a world filled with strong and beautiful women and men practicing yoga. Look at her:

Kathryn Budig

Kathryn Budig is a beautiful and strong yogi who was, on many blogs and by many people, referenced in the aftermath of Ms. Lasater’s letter. The Toesox ads are a clear example of nudity in yoga advertising. In the above picture, she looks beautiful, feminine and powerful: absolutely gorgeous. She is a successful modern yogi.

What I am about to say is not about this woman, it is about the treatment of an image and how it affected me.

Toesox human spike

It’s almost Robert Mapplethorpe-ian in its de-feminization of the female nude, to my eyes. If this picture was in a contemporary art context I might be inclined to interpret the above image as expressing how our mechanized society has robbed this female form of her femininity. It also shows some seriously impressive strength…But she almost looks like a metal spike shaped like a nude person. I am bothered by the lack of any indication of a pubis, or second leg. This clever angle, probably assisted by retouching, has “cleaned” some humanity out of the image. The earlier picture is more about a beautiful, strong woman; the one in the ad comes off more like a tool.

The more recent ad of Kathryn Budig and her dog gets it so much better for an ad for specialized socks. It is emotionally warm and even sensuous as the doggie is licking her toes—probably very ticklish!

Lululemon did an ad campaign that also made a splash on the Internet: “Say no to Camel Toe” (I enjoyed YogaDork’s coverage.)

Say no to camel toe

I was a freshman in college when I first heard the term “camel toe”. My overweight roommate was getting dressed and she asked me if I thought she had a “camel toe” in the jeans she was wearing. I didn’t know what she meant until she told me that it was when pants ride up like a wedgie in the front, and a camel has two toes—thus the name. I thought that was such a strange question to ask your new roommate in college and a mean-spirited concept. I felt bad for her in her worrying about how her crotch looked in her jeans. She was suffering because she had been teased about her “camel toes”.

I think that the “camel toe” ads draw our attention to the wrong place, possibly encouraging us to judge other women for their “camel toes” in yoga class, also selling through a fear of our pants riding up in class.

The Toesox “metal spike” nude ad and the Lululemon “camel toe” ad together seem to send the message that we women should idolize the dollies of our childhood for their perfectly smooth and hairless pubic mound.

doll's crotch and roses

But, for those of us who are not satisfied with this idealization of a manufactured doll body, there can be great empowerment to be had through acknowledging, accepting and activating pelvic power in our lives.

The pubic mound is the gateway to the “down there” regions of the female body. And when we feel shamed about the look of that area, it can really become a deep and lonely self-abandonment and loss of beautiful feminine power as well as physical steadiness and strength, not to mention the health of the low back, hips and internal organs…

If anyone wants to take this from a cultural critique into a valuable practice point: the work of Leslie Howard is so helpful in this regard. Her “Yoga and the Female Pelvic Floor” workshop changed my sense of my body completely. My yoga practice changed, and my students learned a lot as I was processing what I had discovered. And I have more to learn, too! Can’t wait to practice with Leslie again!

Power to the Pelvis!

* article lovingly provided by Yogic Muse *

About Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall is a Yogic Muse from Chicago, Illinois. In this capacity she teaches Yoga, writes about Yoga, and generally enjoys it. You can find her at: brookshall.blogspot.com.

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38 Responses to “Power to the Pubis! Accepting the fullness of feminity along with our strength!”

  1. David Lincecum says:

    The camel toe ad is simply saying "our pants will not ride up and you will not have to worry." They have identified this as a concern of women buying yoga pants and the ad delivers a message addressing the benefit of the product including the technical details of how it works. That is classic advertising. The image also includes appropriate pubis and a well executed asana. Bravo!

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Hi David. Thanks for your comment on the Lululemon ad. I wish the ad campaign could have addressed this more delicately (perhaps not at all), rather than using a visual pun with "camel pose" and the language of an immature taunt. This concern could be better addressed in-store; if a woman has that question a sales associate might offer help individually: one on one–like when my college roommate came to me.

      • jan tranen says:

        Camel toe….something new (to me) to feel ashamed about! Thanks, lululemon, for reminding me of another reason to buy my yoga clothes at Target.

    • yogiClaudette says:

      The camel toe ad was crass, and it was in poor taste for YJ to run it. Period.

  2. bindifry says:

    all of my lululemon pants definitely give me camel toe, so i have no idea why they are in denial.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      It's true: I notice Lululemon pants and shorts riding up more than I used to… So the ad only made me pay attention to that aspect of their pants more (I'm embarrassed to say).

      • Linda-Sama says:

        I want to know why anyone is looking at my crotch in the first place. mind your own damn business!

        • Jon says:

          Uhhh, because it just might be sexy. Just like hair, eyes, a smile, legs, feet, buttocks, backs, arms, hands, breasts, ears, noses, toes, a laugh, a wink, a voice….

          • Linda-Sama says:

            uh, if someone is checking out my crotch or anything else on my body before, during or after a yoga class, then maybe they need to be a bit more involved in their own practice, i.e., practicing indriya pratyahara.

            however, my tattoos are usually distracting enough to most people in yoga classes…..;)

  3. Linda-Sama says:

    "The self-hatred so many women have for themselves is awful, " — which in many cases is generated by media images.

    I have a friend who has 3 young girls. the oldest is not yet 10 and she already thinks she is ugly, too fat, her hair is not right, she has the wrong clothes, and worse, that she does not have large breasts. at 10! my friend is a yoga teacher and is trying to raise her to feel good about herself, to be a strong young woman. but the media images are too overwhelming nowadays.

    "The image also includes appropriate pubis" — I hope that's a joke. WTF is an "appropriate pubis"?

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Thanks, Linda! Your comment just brought to mind when my nine year old cousin (this was in the 80's) said that she needed to "go on a diet." Our culture does that to little girls, who grow up to become women. Is it a surprise that we might be insecure about our bodies at times? Not to me.

  4. Amanda says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful posts on this subject – I have to agree. I do believe the human form is beautiful, and there's no question that all of these photos are striking and beautiful in different ways. However, the issue is one of equality. If we cannot also enjoy photos of beautiful older women, or beautiful men, and individuals of different shapes, sizes and colors, then it becomes clear that we are objectifying and idolizing a specific female form. These photos are not "aspirational" to everyone -even though that is what YJ claims they are. One cannot aspire to be younger. And our countries aspiration towards an unattainable physical perfection is giving way to greater obesity rates and eating disorders. When I go to a yoga class I am MOST inspired by the graceful older women who can do way more than I can and the stocky middle aged guy who is there day after day even though it looks absolutely excruciating for him. There are several lovely women who fit into these above images, but they are merely part of the scenery, of a collective whole of bodies that are all there for different reasons. Reducing us all to this common denominator is demeaning, and silly.

    All of that said – I would never look to advertising for enlightenment.

  5. Aron says:

    For myself it’s easy to blame something external for my self image. Good or bad. As such I try to avoid it. Maybe it’s not the ads and message that is the problem but out persception of them. We grow up with a plethora of messages. “good and bad”. That won’t change only our persceptions will.

  6. Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

    Medea! After reading your comment I think I might stuff something extra into my yoga pants and then really hike them up for an extra-pronounced "toe".

  7. Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

    Hi Carron! From your comment:
    " I just wish advertising would move in that celebratory direction too."
    Yes, me too!! How can we do it??

    Thanks for your thoughts!!

  8. Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

    Okay, from a perspective we are a group of bodies in a room when we are in a yoga class, and this provides obvious stimulation–and information. Another approach includes observing what is happening inside: what are my physical sensations in this pose. How am I reacting to this? Are my muscles opening, or am I resisting this? How about my own feet, legs, arms, back neck, etc.? Does the pose feel right? Where is my awareness faltering? Am I strong or weak in this aspect? Can I feel what I am feeling without needing to escape into something more entertaining or distracting? And so on…

    Be well in yoga!

  9. YogiOne says:

    Brooks,

    Thanks for your insightful reply. I do try the soft gaze, but it is particularly difficult because my primary teacher always has half the class line up facing the other half. We most often have someone directly across from us about 10 feet away. I never have this issue with classmates who line up side by side with me. Part of my issue is I'm just very distractible with any visual stimulus. I can focus more on what is happening in my own body with my eyes closed.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Yes, that can be a challenging setup, with students facing one another, but I do like it. We address our humanity a little bit more that way. And when everybody is facing the same way it is a little more neutralizing in terms of that kind of distraction. So I see what you mean, but I think it's sweet to face one another too.

      Thanks, again!!

  10. aquinn says:

    To me, the top 2 versions of Budig's body are BOTH beautiful! No two eyes see the same thing the same way, and they never will. That's why we celebrate not only Renoir…. but Botticelli, Degas and yes, Mapplethorpe. They all have their own views on what beauty is, and what art is.
    And that is what makes both of these photos beautiful ~ They are 2 different perspectives on the music of the female form!!

  11. [...] * Are you fed up with ads that de-feminize the female form? You’re not alone: yogi and writer Brooks Hall urges women everywhere to stand up against the masculine-focused media by embracing their strength in both body and mind. [...]

  12. [...] hit me kinda’ like the “camel toe” thing from a while [...]

  13. Arthur Sharp says:

    I take it to the next level in that I have a hard time with women that shave in the first place and have for thirty years. A full grown adult has hair. A child dose not. So to me the fact that a woman has to shave to be accepted into society is a whole lot closer to the issue that you are trying to pin down. This picture is a work of art even if your assessment of it is correct. Woman having to ritualistically accost at least a third of their body daily with harsh chemicals and razors to fit in is a crime. At least we as men can choose to not shave and we are accepted.

  14. [...] through to the performance, and while I’ve written at least as far back as the article ‘Power to the Pubis‘ on celebrating real female bodies, it just felt so good, right and even appropriate for me [...]

  15. judi bola says:

    but the purity of women pubis must be protected

  16. Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

    Hi Jon. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I see it more personally, and think that the journey towards lovingly embracing ones own beauty and sexual power is very personal for women. Each woman explores her own unfolding in a way that works for her. It doesn't matter if the people around her don't get it. Every person has every right to consciously or unconsciously explore their insecurities and freedom in life.

  17. Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

    Jon: What women are doing in yoga class is not a show for you. I always think that it’s a blessing to come together to practice yoga. Perhaps I don’t understand what your experience is all about, and maybe I don’t need to. Teachers will continue teaching, and students will continue practicing. Hopefully we all find our way to more refined practices, better relationships, and a healthy respectful regard for people we are attracted to, as well as those we find less compelling.

  18. Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

    Aron: I hear in your recent comment about your orientation to the advertising industry, and I see that your “messenger” is about your choices and doesn’t threaten me because I make choices, too. The advertising industry is much bigger than either one of us as individuals, but as individuals we can choose how to use personal energies. Thanks.

  19. Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

    So true, Jeffrey! Thank you. Of course I, too, can be distracted by a gorgeous man practicing next to me in a yoga class, but you have it exactly right for my sensibilities when you say, "the practice is to just notice" whatever the distraction is "and come back to the breath, back to your practice, back to your mat."

  20. Linda-Sama says:

    "distracted by a gorgeous man practicing next to me"

    gorgeous men? really? in a yoga class?

    hmmmm….I need to come to chicago more, brooks, because men RARELY come to yoga out where I live!

  21. Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

    Yes, Men (!) are doing yoga! Yoga is so good for both men and women alike.

  22. I should mention also that men are really essential for bringing in the low end on "Aum."

  23. Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

    Yes, the men offer a beautiful, resonant "Aum"…

  24. Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

    Yes, our thoughts and feelings are "perfectly natural". What we do can become conscious and intentional when we choose what to do in light of those thoughts and feelings. Someone might choose to get lost there (it can happen…), or they might choose to bring the attention back to their own practice, like you describe here. Also yoga instruction can help remind students where to put their attention.

    Thanks YogaforCynics! I thought your earlier comment about "see(ing) nothing but the bright shining essence of the people around me" was FUNNY!

  25. YogiOne says:

    Hooray for the power of the pubis! :-)

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