Proud To Be Vaginamerican.

Via on Jul 7, 2012

Image source.

Yes, I’m proud, and simply glad to be myself: a female-bodied person, true to my perceptions and sensibilities as I continue to discover what is right for me.

Just being myself creates space for what I believe in to survive.

I am a vaginamerican!

I don’t want to suggest that all Americans with vaginas (or appearing female) are the same. In fact, I believe that all individuals, including people with all unique features and characteristics of body, have a birthright to discover and define themselves for themselves.

This might be where some of the good news and potential for positive momentum exists in what appears to me at this time to be a rather challenging time to be alive while female-bodied.

Sometimes I want to hide in what seems good, and then I realize that if I am doing this at the expense of embracing a wider view then I am kidding myself, or essentially lying to myself.

No one person can solve the world’s problems, but I do think that we need to educate ourselves about what is going on in the world in an attempt to be able to make informed choices.

We need to communicate in ways that are helpful. So I don’t believe I have an answer, however, I have been shocked and saddened by some of the things that are known about our world right now.

It is useful to know the truth. I’ve been steeped in a yoga community that often practices “you make your own reality” type of thinking. While there is some truth in this, it is often oversimplified to excuse lack of awareness of hard things to know.

It is better to know difficult things that make up our world than to be fabricating our sense of reality from a small worldview that only takes into account things we like or things that feel good. This kind of denial leads to nihilism and depression in my experience.

In a long view, it doesn’t feel so good to focus only on what feels good in the present moment. Lack of regard for unpleasantness can simply allow problems to grow unchecked.

Some of what I’m going to share doesn’t feel good to know (or review if you have already heard), but I do think it’s good to know and think about. And this is just a short and partial listing of recent happenings that indicate a strong unkindness, in some cases brutality, toward beings in recognizably female bodies.

I have included news stories, statistics, and cultural happenings because all of these help us to define who we are.

Two teenage girls were shot in Texas, and found in a park on June 23 with gunshot wounds to the head. Mollie June Olgin, 19, died. Mary Kristine Chapa, 18, remains hospitalized.

Police have released a sketch of the single suspect in the shooting. This story bothers me so much. I want to say this kind of hunting and killing doesn’t happen in my world, but it has happened. That they were known by their friends to be lovers is prominently in the reporting, yet news sources are not calling it a hate crime.

When the character, Merida from the popular movie Brave doesn’t choose the quick path to marriage, reporters ponder and question her heteronormativity. And the movie is just not about her sexuality, but she is the first animated princess to not be defined by her romance with a man. Should I cut them some slack here?

I just think that we should allow Brave to be its own story. Why must we shoehorn everything into what we already think we know? And why can’t we enjoy a princess who is choosing her own path? Why must she be sexual in this movie?

Weightlifter, Sara Robles out-lifted every male and female American at the world championships last year and qualified for the U.S. Olympics team.

She is financially strapped because she cannot get the endorsement deals that help world-class athletes meet their expenses.

It appears that commercial sponsors aren’t interested because she challenges our notions about gender, and that females are or should be “the weaker sex.”

The wage gap still exists for women:

Overall they earn 77 cents for each dollar made annually by men and in some professions such as financial managers the number drops to 66 cents.

The downside of the wage gap applies to people appearing female, but people presenting as male including transgender men make more money according to a study.

“Transgender individuals also face significant wage disparities on the job. This is especially true for transgender women. One study found that the earnings of female transgender workers fell by nearly one-third following their gender transitions. Interestingly, that same study found that the earnings of male transgender workers slightly increased following their transition. As such, transgender men may actually experience a wage advantage rather than a wage penalty.”

YouTube Preview Image

The Invisible War, a new documentary that won an award at the Sundance Film Festival, highlights the institutional acceptance (through failure to pursue justice for victims) of sexual violence in the US military. According to the film’s website:

The Department of Defense estimates there were a staggering 19,000 violent sex crimes in the military in 2010.

I can’t help but wonder if some of this mentality of condoning rape went into shaping the latest Tomb Raider video game. Executive Producer Ron Rosenberg has explained:

“In the new Tomb Raider, Lara Croft will suffer. Her best friend will be kidnapped. She’ll get taken prisoner by island scavengers. And then, Rosenberg says, those scavengers will try to rape her.
‘She is literally turned into a cornered animal,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a huge step in her evolution: she’s forced to either fight back or die.;”

There has been backlash against the sexual assault theme, and an apology of sorts has been issued.

According to The New York Times, sex trafficking has grown and:

About 4,000 minors are trafficked through New York City each year…

And information was brought forth because progress has been made in breaking up a crime ring that worked from Pennsylvania to Manhattan.

“And in April, prosecutors broke up what they said was one of the first sex trafficking rings run largely by livery drivers, six of whom were indicted on charges of helping a father-son team traffic prostitutes between Pennsylvania and Manhattan. The drivers were accused of ferrying the women to upscale hotels and clubs to solicit clients, telling the women about clients’ sexual preferences, and taking a cut of the profits. The women, whom the operation’s leaders tattooed with their street names and a bar code, were allowed to keep a few dollars each night to buy food and other necessities, according to prosecutors.”

What I’ve shared here includes a light sampling of some of the stories that illustrate my concern about the freedom of American women to determine their own expression in the world.

Whether the stories are of women oppressed, shot down, underpaid, cultural forms that use sexual assault for entertainment like the video game, or even the wave of response that the heroine in Brave is lesbian, all of this comes together and paints a picture of how this society sees women. We don’t seem to respect what I see as a person’s birthright to define their self.

It gives me hope to understand what I value:

I value bodies, including female bodies, male bodies, and unique bodies.

I value the birthright for people to define themselves. People of all genders and body-types will tell us who they are and what they’re about. We would let the story in Brave stand for itself if we believed in the right for people to determine themselves. We would be supportive of all expressions of love, too. And those two sweet teenagers lives would be continuing happily in a world that valued this.

I value consent. All parties must agree for an activity that affects their bodies. I even love it when someone asks me if they may hug me. I can enjoy the hug more when I’ve agreed to it. And I like asking someone if I can hug them. This kind of thing is valuable to me.

I know these values are not held across the structures in power at this time, or even considered important by all people. But I am still hopeful and proud because I exist. It might seem small, but it claims some amount of territory for what I believe in. I also know some others who believe as I do. It helps.
Image source.

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.

1,225 views

32 Responses to “Proud To Be Vaginamerican.”

  1. yogasamurai says:

    "V" also stands for "Victimhood."

    And I have news for you: behind every great woman stands lots of great men and women – and the same is true for men.

    NO MAN – OR WOMAN – IS AN ISLAND.

    Maybe it's time to drop the disguised Female "Supremacist" ideology – and join the ranks of those who really believe in True Gender Equality.

    Sexual abuse by men in the military – a lot of it on other men – or by female teachers on young boys in the public schools is horrible – don't you think? I do.

    A little reflection by a woman on Even Ensler's Vagina Monologues – written by a woman — http://thefbomb.org/2011/02/more-than-a-vagina-a-

    Excerpt:

    "Yes, the vagina is a body part possessed by most women, and it is a body part with a lot of connotation surrounding it, but that doesn’t mean that women should be reduced to it. The Vagina Monologues come off as internalized misogyny, women reducing themselves to their sex organs. How different is this to advertisements that reduce women to certain body parts, just a pair of breasts, a thigh, a nice ass. Isn’t it worse that women are willingly reducing themselves to their sex organs?

    The women I know are more than vaginas. They are the sum of all their parts, their brains, their breasts, their muscles, their hearts, their emotions, their education, their life experiences, and yes their vaginas too. It’s unfair to reduce over 50% of the world’s population to a body part. It’s unfair that we are reducing ourselves to a sex organ. Women are more than sex. I am more than my vagina."

    THANK GOD FOR MEN AND WOMEN – THEIR PENISES AND THEIR VAGINAS.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

      Thanks for sharing something here.
      You betray yourself with the first line of the comment when you say “V” also stands for “Victimhood”
      How can I take anything you say seriously after that? If you are saying I am a victim, or if you are saying that women are victims, or if you are saying anything you might be saying I am weak or women are fragile, and that would show you to be on a side of the issue that contradicts some of the other parts of the comment.

    • What exactly was "supremacist" in this article? Perhaps you read it more closely than I did (though, admittedly, I doubt you read very much of it, at all) but I missed any reference to or implication of female superiority. And, by the way, I, the person who disagrees with your valiant stand for the rights of suffering males, have a dick, too, Is that as impressive as your woman who didn't like the vagina monologues?

      • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

        YogaforCynics, I value your input here!

      • yogasamurai says:

        Depends, does it work? :o) Yes, I can read. You obviously cannot.

        • Really? Apparently, you didn't even read my comment very closely, in which I said that I doubted you'd read the article; there was nothing in that about your ability to read (though, now, I certainly have my doubts. And, anyway, the "does it work?" comment pretty much says it all about the insecurities informing your comments, here. Keep wagging that samurai sword of yours in virtual forums if it gives you what you need, bud).

  2. yogasamurai says:

    Oh shit, I almost forgot —

    PROUD TO BE A PENISITIZEN !!!!!

    Yee haw!!!

  3. Hi Brooks:

    Just wondering. What is the point of this piece, am truly curious?

    Are we talking equal rights? Or are you raging against the right of everyone to have their own stance, whether it's mindful or not? Really, does it matter that some people are not happy with the princess in a cartoon who chooses to not marry? Can we allow the full spectrum of expression and reaction? How does a Tomb Raider scene of a warrior woman fighting against rape, somehow become "condoning rape?"

    I am struck by some kind of stridency in your writing. What is the bottom line of this piece?

    Oh, wait, here it is: "my concern about the freedom of American women to determine their own expression in the world. Whether the stories are of women oppressed, shot down, underpaid, cultural forms that use sexual assault for entertainment like the video game, or even the wave of response that the heroine in Brave is lesbian, all of this comes together and paints a picture of how this society sees women. We don’t seem to respect what I see as a person’s birthright to define their self."

    Seems you are cherry picking examples to support your view of woman-as-victim? That there is no recogntion of a balanced journalistic view that hey, women in America are far from shot down, oppressed (unless you are in middle east burkah territory or african genital mutilaton land) and in fact woman are in the US are in positions of political power, and monetary power. Have you not been reading the latest statistics–we wester women are catching up and surpassing men in wages.

    "While the average earnings for women still lag behind those of men, they're turning the tables in the most exclusive corporate club of all. A new report from Bloomberg News, the leading provider of business news worldwide, shows that women who head the nation's largest companies are earning substantially more than their male counterparts. Their average annual pay over the last few years? Just over $14 million dollars.That means women earned 40 percent more than men in 2009," says Alexis Leondis of Bloomberg." (http://abcnews.go.com/WN/women-ceos-salaries-caught-men/story?id=10630664#.T_kjL46hClI)

    And the rape thing is over the top–we are talking a cartoon that if I understand correctly, is not about rape, but about a woman powerful enough to avoid it….

    You seem to have a chip on your shoulder. Just say'in

    Lori ANn

    • fluttershy says:

      i read that article, and you either don't understand statistics, or just want to believe whatever. just because in 2009 there were 16 of 500 (3.2%) CEOs who made more on average (i got lost in this so see below for a more chippy comment) yes as a culture we are improving, but we are far from compensating equally, and not just by gender. whats wrong with listing the continuing inequities? your own writing reads like rambling weird lists, and that's what the blogging experience is all about, an abundance of wonderness. chips for all! also cartoons and video games, action movies, romances, any story is an expression of identity, and especially with video games, the messages and identity constructs sink in; archetypes are multidimensional in ways linear expression isn't.

      • fluttershy says:

        so anyways, 16 of 500 (3.2%) CEOs who made more on average (largely swayed by one high earner, without whom average drops ~$2.5m). in the bloomberg article the abc article was based on, "In the broader workforce, women working at least 35 hours a week in the first quarter of 2010 received 79 percent of the wages earned by men, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Female heads of companies of all sizes made about 75 percent of what men did in a 2009 department survey of 1.1 million CEOs. About 24 percent were women. " http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-05-12/ceo-pay-
        anyways, three years later and Carol Bartz isn't in the picture, and of the top paid 500 CEOs according to forbes http://www.forbes.com/lists/2012/12/ceo-compensat… there are 17 women, averaging $8.4m vs $10.3m for men, with 5 year pay average at $22.6m f/ $38.2m m (with 5 guys taking $1 for salary), so whatever gains the Bush administration had for women CEO pay advantage, it has vanished hahaha, how's it in Canada? Of the fortune 500 companies, 18 women are CEOs but 4 women didn't make the list of the highest compensated. 1 in 10 boards have zero women on their boards http://www.catalyst.org/press-release/199/no-news… there is a lot to enjoy regarding women advancing into places of power, 3 supreme court justices and 2 consecutive secretary of states, http://www.forbes.com/wealth/power-women/list is a list of 100 women, some of whom are celebrities. but there is a very long way to go.
        ok, i promise to enjoy some (seaweed) chips today, happiness

      • Yes, I know the score is not even between men and women on wages etc. But sometimes when we strike out with a list of what is wrong, instead of a proposal for what could be right, it generates a myth of woman-underdog when the fact is, we can focus on how we have "come a long way baby." I don't think it's for nada that the dalai lama pegged the western woman as world saviours…

        thanks for the chips!

        • oh, and I don't take life or my views serioulsy–it's just about strring the pot, to create friction and fusion, debate and growth, and through the tension of opposites, ignite something beautiful. In that vein, I don't take anything personally, even myself.

          • fluttershy says:

            not sure what you mean by tension of opposites, as what you presented was a misleading partial truth at best.
            why stir the pot without a serious intent, when that is your aim? to put a thin line between disingenuous assholiery and making beauty, would invite conflict every time, or is it conflict, not beauty that you're after?

        • yogasamurai says:

          Dream on, Lori. The Dalai Lama knows where his biggest political and fiundraising base is. And he's a very wise animal! Cheers

    • Brooks Hall Brooks_Hall says:

      Thanks for taking time to offer words of response here. I'm all for equality. …just don't see that we are there at this point.

      • Kim says:

        I agree! women have come a long way and still have a long way to go.

        • yogasamurai says:

          Don't we all? Have a long way to go? As a species and as people?

          On the other hand, not really. On an individual level, we are who we are, and everyone has powerful personal human struggles that turn out to be as valid as anyone else's

          In the end, putting people into social boxes and making every individual own that box as his or her own is not a very spiritual perspective on life, which deals with the care and prosperity of the individual soul.

          It's gotten to the point where some women are so addicted to their inequality ideology, they wouldn't know equality if they saw it. Truly.

          Of course women have come a long way. Duh. And right now women are pushing way ahead of men in terms of university education, for example. It's not even close. And it's also becoming easier — there is far more more money available to women to finance their education also.

          But this is a larger issue of perspective.

    • yogasamurai says:

      Lori – You must be a self-hating female misogynist. God, I hate them! Don't you realize as a woman on EJ, you must endorse what every woman says on here – without fail. Thanks for sharing honestly, YS

  4. __MikeG__ says:

    Good post, raises some interesting questions.

    Especially liked the short analysis of some of the critical reaction to the movie Brave. Never thought about the reviews in that light before.

    About Sara Robles. She could live/train for free in the US Olympic village but she chooses not to because she does not want to change coaches. Also, the overwhelming majority of US Olympic athletes do not get rich or receive huge endorsement deals. Most train at their own expense for the love of their chosen sport. And then they get jobs like everyone else when their Olympic careers are over.

    On the plus side the US military has recently begun to take the issue of sexual assaults more seriously. All claims of sexual assault will now be handled at a higher level in the chain of command than before.

  5. Yogateacher says:

    Good for you Brooks…. And how not shocking that you get feedback from the he-man woman haters club and new agey women who like to cuddle up sides of the poor widdle menz who are so misunderstood.

    At least nice to see mike gave a reasonable reply.

    Fight the good fight sister!!!

  6. darcyoh says:

    Don't be discouraged by the negative comments on here. Apparently, acknowledging something as simple as the truth that women are in fewer positions of power than men, paid less than men, and are at a high risk of sexual assault is controversial.

    Those aren't arguable points—they're facts.

    Yes, sexism hurts both men and women. Does that mean Brooks_Hall isn't allowed to talk about the ways that sexism and prejudice targets women?

    And yes, we have come a long way—at least people try to to deny they pay women less now instead of embracing it, right? But Congress is still only 16.8% women—there's some great representation for you. I fail to see why our country should be happy with that waste of potential just because a pitiful 16.8% is an improvement from 0%. I don't see the equality there. Someone mentioned 'african genital mutilation land'—well, for your information, the first country in the world with a fully gender equal, 50/50 Congress was Rwanda.

    And the U.S. can't get close to that?

  7. darcyoh says:

    (Also, thank you for including our transgender sisters and brothers in your article. Maybe "female-appearing" was not the best choice of words though? A transgender woman is not someone who looks like a woman, she is a woman).

    • Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

      Thank you for the comments and encouragement!! I’d like to address one thing from the comment:
      “Maybe “female-appearing” was not the best choice of words though? A transgender woman is not someone who looks like a woman, she is a woman.”

      Yes, a transgender woman is a woman. But some female-bodied (or appearing) people may identify as men. So I used “female-appearing” (perhaps not the best word choice) because, anyone male or female-bodied will often be presented with certain assumptions based on a perception of femaleness (or maleness).

      * And I welcome more thoughts on this. *

  8. fluttershy says:

    I just read this http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/10/when-a-fem… and was reminded again that we are far from being honest, or able to be honest, about gender, sex and violence.

  9. [...] he thinks you’re a man, so what? I like gender non-conformity, and I enjoy transgressing lines of heteronormativity and resisting cultural hegemony, so in some ways it was an amusing idea, but as I thought about it [...]

Leave a Reply