“The bee has always represented an ancient feminine mystery, sacred sexuality. And in the religions, they do not talk about women unifying these into wholeness and that sexuality can become sacred. You’re either the mistress or you’re the mother. You can’t be the mother and the hot mistress all within the same being, if you look at these different archetypes. And it’s essential that women feel that they can do this.”
~ Tori Amos
In my work as an advocate for authenticity and self-love (which all started quite “accidentally” because of my hair going gray at a young age), I have the opportunity to constantly ask myself what “authentic” and “natural” means to me, and am always surprised by how radically shifting and even self-contradictory these concepts can be.
Particularly during the last couple years of my own lightspeed transformation, my notion of selfhood has not infrequently collided head-on with the way that others, particularly women, have wanted and “needed” to see me, or that I have perceived them as perceiving me, in order to feel “safe” with them.
“Good,” “light,” “happy,” “nice,” “down-to-Earth,” “reliable,” and “humble,” are all words that come to mind that most women implicitly look for as “appropriate” behavior in another woman. And all these words can mean wonderful things. They are also words that, if we are not mindful of their role, can be as confining—and even lethal—as they are empowering. Like many, if not all women, I contain multitudes and am not just the clean half of a conveniently packaged polarity. Like many if not all women, I am in turns sweet, loving, fierce, sexual, primal, intellectual, maternal, solitary, and ultimately, a giant f*cking mystery.
I frankly love that I embody contradiction many times over, and to me it’s a core part—perhaps the very essence—of femininity. But how many of us truly honor all that is within us? How many of us feel safe to be our full selves, in totality, despite what others might expect of us—and given that if we don’t fulfill “those” expectations, other women might brutally decide not to “love” us but rather to punish us for who we are?
At a certain point in playing the “good” girl and tiptoeing through the tulips to the very best of my limited ability, it became clear something was hurting in me, something still hidden away in a dark shadow for safety. She felt sensual and daring and racy, and she wanted to be seen. And she was also extremely raw, scared and in abject pain.
And it had to do with the feminine wound: all the ways that so many women close to me had hurt me, shamed me, thrown me under the bus, and tried to keep me small—whether consciously or unconsciously.
This particular wound runs very deeply in me, having been shamed and disdained—whether subtly or overtly—by so many of the “maternal” and “sister” figures in my life since childhood. As I have grown and deepened into myself, I have felt the increased strain created in my relationships with women who simply and adamantly do not want me to go there. The disapproval is palpable, as I find myself often ostracized and treated strangely simply for expressing my full self in a way that just happened to look different than they thought it “should”—for being too outspoken, too sexual, too independent, altogether too much. This was almost certainly because these women in my life felt embarrassed about themselves and had not yet addressed the split in their own psyches and the parts of themselves still in shame.
While I understood that—it still hurt. A lot.
A mack truck sized load of pain running through my heart, to be exact.
And it was high time to face it.
Now, when these wounds run so deep, and are so core, going far back into our childhoods (and I believe, even spanning many lifetimes), it means that the wound lives in our very bodies, as well as the collective body of womankind that is the Goddess. This wound of women hurting women, in my humble opinion, is the internalization of the forced oppression against the feminine that began several millennia ago. Now, with the ultimate spiritual Stockholm Syndrome, women do the dirty work against each other while something diabolical sits back and laughs, its work being done for it.
For that particular reason alone, I wasn’t going to let that sh*t live in my body anymore. The moment had arrived for me to invoke and witness and feel and heal and release it. To suck out the poison from the wound, swallow the medicine, and spit out the rest, like a boss, sans shame.
And so, that is exactly what I did.
That day, I asked my awesome husband to take some nude photos of me. This part of me that wanted to be seen was the wild woman: a glamour girl with a wholly untamed, raw and free sexuality. The result was sexy pictures with scarlet lipstick and a tanned, naked back. I realized that wearing scarlet lips and nothing else was, for me on that particular day, the most “authentic” and even “natural” me I could ever be—and vulnerable to the extreme as I let this part of myself formerly hidden deep in shadow and shame be seen in her own light and power.
I understood though, that these images flew in the face of the idea that many would have about what the words “authenticity” and “natural” mean, and would violate the precepts of “goodness” described earlier.
I posted one such photo publicly on my professional Facebook page, which is devoted in large part to “natural beauty,” and called the question. I was in fact waiting with boxing gloves on, for the response that I knew would come when “certain” women saw me in my absolutely, unapologetically wild state, counter to their expectations of what a “good” women is and does.
Now, first allow me to state that I am blessed with many true sisters and women—particularly in the online community—who treat me with kindness, love and respect and I am more than happy to hold for them a space of unconditional love, as well. This comes easily to me; I genuinely love women and I was born to share and express and hopefully, inspire and uplift. That is just easy peasy, groovy gravy.
But what was in fact a very modest experiment in exposing my vulnerability and sexuality taught me a great deal, as I purposefully invoked and elucidated the wound in myself, and made explicit the insidious, invisible ways that women punish other women.
Specifically, I learned that, according to the wounded feminine snark-and-shame-fest—which is just an internalization of the ways that women have been turned against one another—a woman is an invisible rule-breaking “narcissist” and deserves to be insulted, shamed and/or “put in her place” if she:
—Publicly calls herself beautiful and/or celebrates her own beauty.
—Stakes a public claim for her own free sexuality as compatible and continuous with her feminine (maternal) compassion.
—Publicly refers to herself as a priestess, Goddess, or embodiment of the feminine divine, even if she clearly also states that all women are thusly, if they choose.
—Is “too” openly wild, outspoken and/or beautiful (according to some unknown, internalized criteria or scale that is totally subjective and impossible to discern).
And for all of this, if a woman is found in violation of the invisible, implicit codes of feminine “goodness,” you will and shall be punished and diminished, either by being ignored, gossiped about behind your back and/or called names—and the women doling out this punishment will be surely and without exception acting out of their own festering sense of invisibility and lack of validation while likely being totally unwilling to take responsibility for the same.
Indeed the expected response came to my site that day, and I was called a “narcissist,” and all the other usual names. I was also told that, “If you truly believed you were beautiful, you wouldn’t need to post pictures to prove it.” And, “If you were really a priestess you wouldn’t need to say it out loud.” And, so on.
Only this time, it was different. This time I broke the repetition, by calmly saying:
“No, I won’t go back into the box for you. I am sovereign and free, and I will express myself as I, and I alone, choose. And I invite you to do the same.”
I called these women forward to their own freedom, and offered them love—thereby scaring the hell out of them.
(And…never heard from them again.)
As it happens, I needed to have this “negative,” apparently conflict-oriented conversation in order to reclaim my own voice in it, clearing an age-old wound in me that never has to return. I also recognized that this was not about “these women” (whether they are/were my sisters, a mother figure, or an internet “friend”). While I hold a steadfast space of love for all women, this was not really about challenging, nor healing, anyone else.
It was about my own responsibility and agency to myself, to heal and to no longer be “owned,” or in any way controlled, by that particular game of women heaping pain upon women. I refused to be any longer either on the receiving nor the dishing-out end of this war against myself and my sisters.
I was thus intentionally invoking the wound and division that was yet present within my own psyche and that was keeping myself from fully integrating and rising into my/our highest divine purpose. I evoked the “controversy” (mind you, simply by being seen as myself), so that I could, with very deft precision, lance the limiting beliefs about what a woman “should” be—those judgments we have all heard all our lives in every place from the pulpit to the workplace to the fashion magazine—clearing internal space and reclaiming agency for me to simply be, as well as staking a claim for true love and sisterhood between women.
And in staking this claim for myself I realized: If someone had offered that part of me love and acceptance earlier rather than shunning and shaming it time and again—say a mother or big sister perhaps—I might have had the opportunity to understand myself in totality from the start. I might not have had part of myself locked away in shame for years; the very part that fell into predators’ hands and otherwise allowed me to give myself away time and again.
Might that part of me have spent less time locked painfully away in a box at the bottom of that vast sea otherwise known as my unconscious, if someone had simply been willing to see and love and accept me exactly as I am?
Well, I am not a girl anymore; nor a young woman per se. But there are innumerable other women out there just like me, hiding a core piece of themselves out of fear and shame inflicted by the very same archetypal wounding: powerful and vulnerable, highly misunderstood girls and women in need of a meaningful reflection of who they are in totality.
Thus, it has become part of my own divine purpose to speak to this, and speak clearly; holding a truly loving, safe space through which we all might explore ourselves and find a way to live in our true purpose, and to remember the infinite love that we are.
And, so I have devoted myself to embodying the whole woman, contradictions and all, and holding the space of the unconditionally loving sister, that part of me I always wished that I had, for every single girl and woman alive.
Author: Sara Sophia Eisenman
Editor: Travis May
Image: Author’s Own