August 22, 2010

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

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 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.

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.)

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.

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 *

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