My body is precious.
If I close my eyes and listen, I can feel my breath move up and down. My heart beats in a way that keeps me alive. My body is a limited edition that works 24 hours a day, so that I can experience all the tastes, smells, sounds and sights, this world has to offer.
It will break down. It will need some repairs.
It will eventually peter out, but for now, it is the most extraordinary piece of art and science that I’ve ever known.
Our bodies are precious and as women in our culture, there can be extraordinary sensitivity and sometimes shame around these bodies. As a teacher of Yoga and Women’s Self Defense, I consistently hear common themes from female students of self-consciousness, comparison, self-hatred and intrinsic “not-enoughness.”
I am no stranger to this type of thought. I have felt it all. I am grateful to have always been an athlete, most currently a Martial Artist. I need my body to work for me in the most practical sense.
In the words of Rhonda Rousey, “Every muscle has a purpose and function.”
I am and will always be an advocate of women, our bodies, our rights. From a young age we are exposed to media, advertising and mating rituals that suggest our bodies are objects to be adored, rejected, used, thrown out, battered and glorified.
I share these sentiments as a recovering man-hater. I have often blamed “men” for these thoughts of shame and self-hatred. I have proudly stood and shouted from my soap box, “If you guys were not such a**holes who just want sex, the world would be a much better place.”
My “angry man-hater” still pops her head out from time to time—but in reality, this black and white mentality serves noone and acts as a deterrent to change.
Who wants to listen to the angry lady on a soap box screaming rage-filled obscenities? I am more powerful than that tactic.
We as women are more powerful than that.
My dad has been preaching this for years. We’ve had our share of heated debates on Women’s Justice and his advice goes something like this:
No one can hear you through your blanket statements and generalizations. To create real change, we need to think like Martin Luther King. We cannot isolate the “other” and expect to be heard, because the “other” is hurting too. Our rage clouds the things that we need to say. To be heard, we need to rise above that.
Although it’s taken me almost 38 years to accept his advice, I finally see, In order to create real change, we must seek the nuance, the complexity of all situations and not jump on a bandwagon to nowhere.
In the past year, I have witnessed two of my male Martial Arts Teachers be accused of sexual violence towards a woman. These incidences have stirred deep questioning in me around the contemporary “Women’s Movement” and how we as women are fighting.
My curiosity and passion around these situations is much bigger than taking sides and is a much larger issue than the stories themselves. I am the first defender of women and understand the traumatic nature of sexual violence. I also understand that it is extremely difficult to prosecute, leaving hoards of women feeling helpless and ashamed to speak up. I too, am in the ranks of women who have experienced unwanted sexual encounters.
That said, I have been shocked by the guerrilla tactic of using social media and other public forums to make accusations, without a proper justice system to give both parties the benefit of the doubt. Eerily similar to a mob mentality or “witch-hunt.” Are we creating vilified monsters through these social mediums, without ever questioning, is the story true?
Are we, in the name of women’s empowerment, succumbing to the same black and white mentality that automatically creates “us” and “them” without using our brains, voices and mindful questioning of each individual situation?
This article from the Bloombergview speaks about our culture of unease when dealing with accusations of sexual violence.
The author suggests the following about reporting:
“What we know is that we don’t know. We should not presume that every rape victim is telling the truth because it would make it easier for victims to come forward. Nor should we presume that every rape accusation has a 50 percent chance of being false. We should look at the facts in each case and judge them with the knowledge that some women do lie about rape—for revenge, to cover up some problem in their own lives, to get attention and sympathy from others. And also with the knowledge that men lie, too, violating their victims a second time in order to cover up their crimes. And that while men have gone to jail for rapes they did not commit, many other men have avoided the jail time they deserved for terrible crimes against women.”
Are we disempowering ourselves by not using the justice system to voice our concerns about sexual violence and instead plastering our stories all over social media and other public forums that lack a jury and fair trial?
Does this make us, as women, seem powerful or vindictive?
How do we muddle through this culturally taboo minefield?
I don’t think we can by jumping to concrete conclusions. I would never want to use my platform as a feminist to override reason. This tactic not only disempowers myself, but also other women whose lives have been turned upside down by sexual trauma, men whose characters have been destroyed by false accusations, our relationship together as men, women, a human race, working to create justice for all.
I don’t claim to know the answers to these questions, but as a strong woman capable of critical thought, I think we can do better. I think we as women, are capable of finding the courage to mobilize, to organize, to educate, to speak out against sexual violence in a way that rises above the social chatter and serves to change the very structures of our society that would allow for these atrocities to ever happen.
“We all fight over what the label ‘feminism’ means but for me it’s about empowerment. It’s not about being more powerful than men—it’s about having equal rights with protection, support, justice. It’s about very basic things. It’s not a badge like a fashion item.” ~ Annie Lennox
Author: Angela Meyer
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Wiki Commons